Your baby babbles at six months and you know she will be a famous orator. Your son takes out a vase hurling his first football at 2, and you know he has a future as an NFL quarterback. Every parent sees signs of giftedness and greatness in both positive and negative traits. But before you sign up your strong-willed preschooler for college enrichment courses, take a few things into consideration.
Before jumping to conclusions, look at the characteristics that define the strong-willed child. This child has big feelings and strong opinions. Many parents equate this to being dramatic or stubborn. The strong-willed child often creates power struggles, sure that he is right. He may even ignore facts that show he is wrong. Most children go through stubborn phases -- parents of toddlers know this all too well -- but for the truly strong-willed child, this is a permanent state. The good news? Strong-willed children are difficult to sway. That means that they are less likely to follow peer-group ideas. They are likely to become leaders.
Most children go through phases where they are ahead of their peers in certain abilities. These may be academic abilities such as letter recognition or math. Your child may have incredible artistic skills or more coordination than anyone else in dance class or the soccer team. Every child grows at her own pace. The gifted child often shows more than just a transient talent. Instead, she will show a series of traits that include talent (academic or otherwise), focus, intensity, memory and perception.
Unfortunately, giftedness can be difficult to accurately diagnose. Some children that show focus and intensity are misdiagnosed as strong-willed. Like the typically strong-willed child, the gifted child can stubbornly cling to his conclusion until an adult shows him a better one. He may also have intense emotions and a very strong focus. These traits might indicate a strong will along with giftedness, but that doesn’t mean every strong-willed child is gifted.
Dealing With Strong Wills
Whether or not your child is gifted, learning to deal with a strong will helps prepare her to be a leader later on. Avoid power struggles by giving her choices whenever possible. For example, rather than plopping broccoli on her plate and expecting her to eat it, offer two vegetables at dinner. Ask, “Would you prefer broccoli or beans?” When the child shows frustration with her own or others' limits, empathize. Say, “I know, I hate it when the coach says practice is over. But you will get to practice again tomorrow, and maybe we can play a little at home.” By giving your child small, safe controls over her own judgment and time, you guide her to use her strength for good.
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