My little girl is undoubtedly all of what I could have dreamt up in a child and more. A dynamic, inquisitive, sensitive girl, she is anything but placid. In her preschool classroom, she is the one spouting off answers, flitting from centre to centre, and consoling the kids who cry or are upset.

This week, she received a report card home from preschool. In it, she was acclaimed for her ability to identify her emotions. While this is something I’m incredibly proud of, at home, she is hardly the epitome of poise and articulation. My son is almost always in her personal space wanting to be involved with that she is doing. All too often, hitting, screaming, fighting, and whining are the soundtrack in our household. As such, a lot of my efforts go into parenting through big emotions.

On top of my sweet girl’s big emotions, she also is a headstrong little girl. Parenting both her and her little brother is no cakewalk. And I’m far from the perfect parent. Life, sleeplessness, and coaching both of my kids through their crying can play a role in me cutting corners. I wish my perspective would start out right and then I could hit parenting cruise control. But such is not life, or at least, life for me.

Recently, I noticed the dynamic between my two kids was in need of a reset, BIG TIME. Here are some of my strategies for parenting a strong-willed, sensitive kid.

1. Get to the bottom of their upset. When my kids are a wreck, I try and take inventory of where we are at in our day. I ask myself, “Are all of their basic needs presently met?”

  • Have they eaten well?
  • Did they get enough sleep?
  • Am I available to them or have I gotten lost in replying to emails, surfing social media, or trying to get menial things done?
  • Are they feeling heard? In this case, I ask them how they’re feeling and also try and deduce what is actually going on. This helps identify their feelings and know that their feelings matter.

2. Empathise and know empathy is not adding fuel to their (tantrum) fire. While acknowledging their upset may lead to more tears initially, your empathy is the one of the most substantial gifts you can give your child to develop emotional resiliency. Paraphrasing their feelings is cathartic. It also helps them label the emotion in the future and, as a result, helps them move past it.

3. Be crazy consistent. Strong-willed children have an incredible gift of boundary testing and seeing how far they can go. If the boundaries aren’t clear, they seemingly test more. If discipline is inconsistent, they’re likely going to push back in the worst way possible. In my household, I aim for one warning for bad listening, but no warnings for hurting someone. It’s only when I’m not consistent and not present that I notice their bad behaviour overtakes the day.

4. Get present. Get down to their level. If they’re struggling to self-regulate, sometimes undivided attention is the key to everything.

5. Get outside. Whether it’s pouring rain, there’s five feet of snow on the ground, or it’s blazing hot, dress them for the weather and get outside. I can’t profess to know what it is about fresh air and kids, but their ability to self-regulate outside is exponentially better. Also, they’re more likely to expend pent up energy leading to better eating and sleeping. So really, it’s a win-win!

There are always ways I can improve upon my parenting, but I find centering in on these five strategies have a profoundly positive impact on our lives.

alana-paceWhen Alana Pace found out she was pregnant with her second child only six months after having her first, she knew she had to get creative fast. Fortunately, spending so much of her childhood outdoors with a mother who specialized in Early Childhood Education, learning through play is almost instinctive. Each morning with her kids marks a new opportunity to explore and seize the day! On her blog, she writes about her family’s experiences, positive parenting strategies, play-based learning ideas and more. Be sure to follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest to stay connected.