Your 4R Response Plan:

Strong Willed Behavior

Follow the 4R Response Method to create your custom plan that will help you to effectively address strong-willed behavior.

How to Use This Page

Watch this video to learn how to make the most of this resource

Download Your 4R Response Plan

Click here or on the graphic below to download the 4R Response Plan template that you’ll complete for dealing with schoolwork issues in your home. 

Watch the videos below for ideas about what to consider at each step. You’ll also see a summary of my suggestions below the video. 

Questions? Come to the 4R Response Method Practice Sessions or fill out this form to ask questions! (I’ll answer forms in the live practice session and email the recording to you.)


REDUCE YOUR YUCK Around Strong-Willed Behavior

It’s especially important when addressing strong-willed behavior not to approach your child from a place of your Yuck, or they will only dig in deeper. (You’ve probably experienced this many times!) 

Here are some examples of how you can reduce your Yuck by reducing the threat.

The behavior is not a threat because

  • When children are being strong-willed, they are actually struggling! (Usually strong-willed children become dysregulated when they are frustrated or disappointed that things don’t go the way they imagine or want them to.)
  • It makes sense  for them to act this way when their Yuck is bigger than their coping skills. You CAN reduce their Yuck and increase their coping skills, but it requires you to stay regulated first.

You can handle it because

  • One action that is in your control is to recognize why their behavior sucks you in so much.
    Often your triggers are related to messages from your past, your fears of the future, or your feelings of overwhelm in the present. All of these issues will tell you there is a threat until you become aware of them. 

Instead of believing this behavior is bad and using willpower to address the situation, use your Avatar to think about how you want to handle it! 



Instead of thinking, “Oh I will NOT let her tell me that she won’t listen to me!”
Think instead, “She’s telling me that she won’t listen because she’s trying to get control back. It’s only her Yuck talking.” 

Instead of thinking, “He can’t negotiate with everyone! He needs to learn to accept a boundary!”
Think instead, “He will learn how to accept boundaries once we practice other coping skills. In the meantime, I can stop engaging and show him I can handle his feelings, even if he can’t.” 


RESPOND EFFECTIVELY To Strong-Willed Behavior

Now we’ll build your response when dealing with strong-willed behavior

Responding effectively is about managing Yuck. Recognizing that their strong-willed behavior is a symptom of their Yuck (even though it doesn’t look like it!) can help to reduce YOUR Yuck and theirs. 

First, you want to make sure you have a when-then statement to address your own Yuck. Obviously this statement is personal to you.

When creating a when-then statement for responding to your child, you might want to

  • see them by respecting how they wanted things to go. (This does NOT mean you’re agreeing with them… and this will NOT immediately snap them out of it!)
  • teach them how to think more flexibly. (But honestly, by the time they’re displaying strong-willed behavior, they’re likely too deep in Yuck to listen to you.)

If they’re too deep in Yuck, neither of these strategies will work… and you might need to get firm so that they travel the Yuck Curve and get back to a non-Yuck state. Note that they will get out of Yuck more quickly when YOU are regulated.

Once they have traveled the Yuck Curve and released all of the Yuck, they can access the “responsible” part of their brain again and do what they  need to do.



WHEN-THEN STATEMENTS for handling strong-willed behavior

SCRIPT: Child negotiates when you set a rule


Identify ROADBLOCKS for Children With Strong Willed Behavior

Let’s identify WHY your child isn’t able to have more flexible, positive responses.

Remember that roadblocks are usually related to your Expectations, their missing Skills, or their Yuck. In this case, I’m starting with Yuck- and skill-based roadblocks to demonstrate why our expectations may be unrealistic.

How their Yuck causes roadblocks

  • They feel out of control when things don’t go the way they imagined / wanted them to
  • They feel misunderstood as we tell them why their behavior is unacceptable

Some skills they are missing that become roadblocks:

  • The ability to think flexibly and be comfortable with the fact that things can go differently than they imagined
  • The ability to cope with their discomfort in a mature way. Instead, they cope by becoming bossy or stubborn… or by negotiating everything so they feel more in control. 

Our expectations are roadblocks:

  • We want them to be more flexible or thoughtful, but that is not realistic when they don’t have the skills to do that
  • We approach them from a place of Yuck and make the situation work

Remember to choose ONE roadblock that you have the desire and energy to tackle now. You can come back to the others later!

Build Your ROUTINES to Reduce Strong-Willed Behavior

Now we’ll identify proactive ROUTINE (that you can take action on!) that will start to reduce the strong-willed behavior to begin with

Consider these routines to address the roadblock you choose:

Expectations-based Routines

Skill-based Routines

Yuck-based Routines


Sample Completed 4R Response Plans for Strong Willed Behavior

Want some examples? Check out this completed plans:

When a child digs in deeper when we don’t do what they want

Extra Resources

If you’ve got your plan, but want to learn even more strategies for what causes this behavior, and how to deal with it, I’ve included videos and podcast episodes for you below:

Document: Yuck Release Strategies

Video:  Simple (Non Traditional) Ways To Respond to Strong-Willed Children

Video: Frustrated by Strong-Willed Behavior?

Podcast: Handling Behavior in the Moment (The Yuck Curve)

Podcast: How to Respond to Kids’ Negative Reactions When Things Don’t Go Their Way

Podcast: How to Be a Strong Leader So Kids Know You’re In Charge

Podcast: How to Respond Effectively to Strong-Willed Children



Past Questions from Other Parents

Want to see what other parents have already asked about raising strong willed children? I’ve linked to some past questions and answers below.

How to raise a child who listens but doesn’t lose her strong will

Talking to a child about their behavior when they won’t listen