Strategies To Manage Your “Persistent” (Stubborn) Child

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07 Oct 2014

stubbornchildfiEver have a child who digs in his heels when he doesn’t want to do what you ask him to do? What about the child who does not give up? The child who is outside in the backyard day after day until he has perfected that curveball?

You might have what you call a “stubborn” child. However, as you know, we like to use positive labels. So we will call him, “persistent.”

As we mentioned in our last few posts, our goal in running this series on temperamental traits is to help us connect with our kids on a deeper level. We hope gain an understanding of how our children work, learn what triggers their bad behavior, and help them manage the feelings that overwhelm them. Knowing a child’s temperament can help us engage our children’s cooperation in a way that truly takes their personality, their strengths and weaknesses into account. Instead of finding their tough behavior frustrating we can view their actions in more positive ways.

We have already talked about the temperamental traits of introversion, extroversion and intensity. This post will highlight the temperamental trait of “Persistence.”


(Sheedy Kurcinka, 2006)

Some children are easily redirected to new activities and will comply readily when you say “no.” Persistent children will refuse to cooperate and persist in doing what they want to do.

Triggers for bad behaviors in persistent children include:

• Direct commands
• Being told that they can’t do something they wanted to do
• Inconsistent and unclear limits

Managing Their Feelings:

Give them positive labels of themselves: Children who are committed to task at hand, goal oriented, unwilling to give up, assertive, and love to debate. They will be adults who really stick to things. This is a valuable trait, however it is difficult to work with these children.

To help them understand their feelings we can say:
“It’s hard for you to hear ‘no.’”
“When you hear ‘no’ you want to fight back right away.”
“You like to make your own decisions.

To Engage Cooperation:

– Avoid giving direct commands
– Always give choices: “Do you want the red or blue cup? Are you wearing pants or a skirt today?”
– State your feelings and set clear and consistent rules on issues that are important to their safety and cannot be compromised.

These children challenge their parents almost daily and if parents are to get along with these children then alternatives to punishments need to be found. Persistent children like it when their parents ask their opinion on things:

“What do you think? Should we eat dinner now or in about a half hour?”

“We need to go to 3 stores today. Where should we go first?”

It is also helpful to praise these children for their ability to persist and most importantly for their ability to compromise:

“I was not in my room and you went to the kitchen and the basement to find out where I was.”

“You and Michael both wanted the scissors and you came up with the solution of taking turns.”

Freeing Children from Negative Roles:

Persistent children need to be freed from the following negative roles:

Fresh/Justice Seeker

You can let your child overhear you say something nice about them:

Dad to Mom: “I wanted Joanie to play in the sandbox so I could sit for a little while and she wanted to play with the swings. We compromised. She played in the sandbox and then she played on the swings.”

If you, the parent is persistent:

• Recognize your persistence
• Assume responsibility for contributing to escalating the problem
• Give choices
• Remember to use problem-solving techniques.

Stay tuned for our next article on the temperamental trait of “Sensitivity”


Sheedy Kurcinka, M. (2003). Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook. NY. Harper Collins.
Sheedy Kurcinka, M. (2006). Raising Your Spirited Child. NY. Harper Collins.
Faber, A., Mazlish, E. (1999). How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. NY: Harper Collins.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.