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3 Simple but Not Easy Keys to Less Conflict With Your Strong Willed Child

As a mom to a strong willed child I really WANT these to be 3 simple and easy keys to less conflict, but that would be dishonest. If you've parented a challenging child for any length of time, you've tried every "easy" trick out there to reduce conflict in your family. Sometimes we find things that make a difference, but more often than not we come back to the hard realization that this isn't about some "quick fix". It's possible to have more peace in your family, and it's simple, but it takes some core level shifts in how you relate to yourself and your child. My 5 Steps to Connect Framework is specifically geared toward helping families thrive with strong willed children.

Alissa Marquess Zorn, author of Bounceback Parenting, has been doing emotional work and healing in her own family and this year and she and I were lucky to meet at a 1440 Multiversity retreat about healing and preventing childhood emotional neglect. She and I are working together now to open an online community to support families and we spoke recently about the difficulty of having a child who is seemingly constantly trying to start fights and conflict.

What can we do in the face of a child who seems to always be angry or intense?

It's really hard to feel calm when your child is starting fights, using negative words, tones and actions. This was my daughter when she was younger and it would make my stomach ache and my jaw clench.

A few things supported me and guided me to develop the 5 Steps to Connect framework. It isn't easy, but it is clear and works. My older daughter is strong willed and what the Enneagram awareness system calls The Challenger. When I read Russ Hudson's book, it started me on the path to not take her behavior personally, and realize she was doing it FOR herself, not TO me or her sister. And that she needs structure and strong boundaries, but hates being told what to do (the not easy part!)

Here are 3 simple, but not easy keys to peace with your strong willed child:

Be Willing to Stop - The first step is to fill your tank and have your child fill theirs. When I am upset (notice my body tight/clenching) it is my signal that I too am out of alignment and it’s time to stop and take a break. I am much more resilient and able to flex with her intensity when my tank is full of self care. (Again, not easy during this shelter in place with everything closed!) When my daughter was intense, it told me her tank was low and she wouldn't be able to hear a word I said. I learned to stop and take a break myself, when possible, or it would just get worse.