Determined vs. Stubborn – Reframing your child’s challenging traits

stubborn child

Photo Credit: Lynn Friedman CC License

Stubborn, Persistent, Determined, Leader?

Sometimes our children can be very persistent and locked in their ways.  If we are also highly persistent, this combination can create an intense power struggle.  Our thoughts affects our emotions which affect our behaviours, therefore how we choose to view our child, is the beginning of a big chain reaction.  Re-framing is the ability to change the conceptual or emotional viewpoint of how one is experiencing a situation.  A persistent child could be described through a negative lens as stubborn, or through a positive lens as committed and decisive.  A persistent child may find it extremely difficult to stop an activity, but this same child may be willing to go on a long, beautiful hike – remind yourself of the positives.

What Can We Do?

  • Look at our children’s intentions and remember that they are not purposefully trying to push our buttons
  • When we feel as though we’re up against a brick wall with our child, it’s important not to get “locked in” ourselves
  • Use positive self-talk and deep breaths, to remain calm and remind ourselves to find a solution that will work for both of us  (Learning to compromise is a life-long skill and a valuable lesson for persistent children.)
  • Validate our children – this will help them “unlock”
  • Stay calm – our children learn to self-regulate by watching us self-regulate
  • Reflect what it is that our child wants to do, state that we are listening, and ask our child to come up with a suggestion that will work for both of us  (This is not “giving in”, this is how we support and teach our children problem solving and communication skills.)

How Persistent Are You?  How Persistent Is Your Child?

Where does each person in your family fit on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s continuum for persistence?


(Easily Stops)                                                                                 (“Locks In”)

Can be re-directed quite easily                                           Very difficult to re-direct

Can stop an activity part-way through            Very difficult to stop an unfinished task

Will cry for a few minutes and then stop                       Cries and cries and can’t “let go”

Accepts “no” for an answer                                               Never takes “no” for an answer


If your child is on the high end for the temperament trait of persistence, remember that temperament is part of our genetic make-up.  Focus on the positive attributes associated with this trait, such as independent, capable, goal-oriented, assertive and determined.  These positive thoughts will generate positive feelings which will allow you to act in a more balanced way.

Choose Your Battles

  • Choose to be a flexible “backbone parent” vs. a “brick-wall parent” or a “jellyfish parent”
  • Look for a way to say “yes”, as long as it is safe and you are not compromising your values
  • Think “out of the box” as to how to create a win-win situation
  • Be consistent and clear about rules
  • If emotions are becoming highly aroused, take a break/have a hug/connect, calm down and then work on a solution
  • It’s important to be able to say “yes” as well as “no”
Interested to find out more about the other eight traits of temperament?  Read Temper, Temper, Temperament? with links to articles on the other traits.
Have a great week and remember to try re-framing!                                                                                                                                                 

Want to Connect?

Subscribe now to receive free weekly parenting tips and inspiration.

Powered by ConvertKit