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.
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.
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!
WHAT THIS SOUNDS LIKE
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.
“RESPOND EFFECTIVELY” EXAMPLES
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:
- ROADBLOCK: Setting unrealistic expectations that don’t lead to success and create Yuck
Routine: Create a realistic boundary.
- ROADBLOCK: They haven’t mastered flexible thinking or problem solving skills
ROUTINE: Practice flexible thinking and problem solving skills
- ROADBLOCK: They haven’t mastered learned to handle Yuck maturely
ROUTINE: Teach them to cope with Yuck more effectively. (This one takes a while for them to master!)
Sample Completed 4R Response Plans for Strong Willed Behavior
Want some examples? Check out this completed plans:
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
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.