5 June, 2024

The Early Learning Program for Toddlers: Dealing with Strong-Willed Children

Almost all child care services providers will fairly regularly encounter a particularly strong-willed child.

Any early learning program for toddlers will have strategies in place to deal with the opportunities and sometimes challenges that might bring with it!

The early learning program for toddlers – cooperation is required

What is a ‘strong-willed toddler’? Let’s be clear – this isn’t the same as saying ‘naughty’!

Most children are naturally predisposed to want to do things their way.

Generally, that’s a good thing, as it shows a degree of independent thinking. Of course, some sessions in an early learning centre require cooperative activities and group participation. For example, a group story reading session can’t read 3 stories simultaneously to cover all the children’s preferences.

All early learning programs will offer a high level of flexibility to cater for each child’s preferences at a given moment. Even so, collective sessions are essential in helping children develop a healthy and balanced view of individuality versus cooperative activity. They also help children to expand their interest base.

Most children work happily within this framework and willingly participate in activities that might not have been their first choice – albeit with the occasional and short-lived grumble! However, some may be inclined to disengage from any activity that doesn’t instantly represent their choice or preference. They are sometimes termed “strong-willed”.

How the Early Learning Centre responds
A key objective for all professional personnel in this area is to make their activities as attractive and interesting as possible for the children.

Where a child refuses to participate because they want to do something else, the best remedial technique is often to show again what the activity is and how much fun it will be. Some children initially won’t participate because they haven’t understood what is involved and once that’s made clear, they’ll join in rapidly.

Another consideration will be how common (or not) the behaviour is. One-offs do not indicate that a child is strong-willed, as perhaps the cause is a minor and temporary squabble with a friend they now don’t want to be near.

Where a child’s strong-willed behaviour and an unwillingness to compromise becomes a regular occurrence, the centre will apply various techniques to try and encourage the child to explain why they only want to do what they want and when. Often these friendly sessions highlight minor and easily remedied causes that are usually easily fixed.

The way sessions are presented may need to be adjusted slightly to capture a strong-willed child’s interest. Almost all such children will be eager to participate if the subject matter is presented in such a way that they’ll find it interesting.

Daycare centre personnel are also usually experts at gentle persuasion and such engagement!

Parental involvement
Sometimes a centre may find it difficult to establish the cause or persuade a child to engage fully in activities that don’t immediately appeal to them.

This is very rare.

Should that be the case, usually the parents will be notified and some discussions about how to help will be undertaken. For example, some children with older siblings may find at home that they need to be very strong-willed to ‘have a say’ when playing etc. That might be carried forward into their early learning centre approaches.

Please note though that is NOT a discipline issue. Many such children are very well-behaved. It is simply a case of parents and the centre working together to identify ways the child can be encouraged to better balance their immediate inclinations against the broader picture of what is happening in the wider class.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *