Parenting certainly has its trying moments, especially if you’re dealing with a mini version of yourself who wants nothing more than to argue with you every minute of the day. In theory, we know we should embrace our strong-willed children in the hopes that they turn these behaviors into leadership skills later in life. But when you’re in the moment and your kid is rejecting the breakfast they asked for—which you lovingly prepared in the shape of a dinosaur—it’s tough to keep your cool. So tough.

But as parents, we also know that a surefire way to feel exponentially worse is to lose it just like our kids have. That’s when the yelling starts, and the pleading and desperation. So why not start by taking a deep breath? This is the first step in the four-step approach suggested by parenting coach Albiona Rakipi to help you cope with a kid who doesn’t seem to like anything you do. She shared it on her TikTok account @theparentingreframe and we think it’s pretty brilliant.


It is so hard for parents to connect with a child who fights them on everything. Listen to this example can consider these steps next time a power struggle lands. #parentingstrongwilledchildren #tantrum #settingboundaries #powerstruggles #defiantkids #challengingbehavior

♬ original sound – Albiona Rakipi

@theparentingreframe suggests you follow the acronym PARR to get you through a highly charged situation with your little one:

  1. Pause: Pause and take a deep breath. Do not react. “If you’re reactive right away, your child’s going to feel it, and guess what happens? Everybody escalates,” Albiona explains. If you pause and take a minute to center yourself, it can change the trajectory of the entire event.
  2. Acknowledge: Acknowledge to yourself what you’re feeling, whether it’s triggered, agitated, or annoyed.
  3. Respond: We don’t want to launch into a long response. We’re keeping it short and setting the boundaries. If you made pancakes because that’s what the child asked for and now they’re asking for waffles, Albiona recommends you say something like, “I know it’s hard when we can’t decide what we want to eat. But pancakes are what’s for breakfast.” You aren’t offering them a million choices for toppings. You aren’t offering alternatives. You are setting the boundary and moving on.
  4. Reflect: After the situation has passed, reflect on what the trigger was and why it brought up so many emotions for you as a parent. Is there something you could do differently to avoid that reaction in the future?

Two important things to note in this four-step process are that you can’t take your kid’s behavior personally and you aren’t launching into a lengthy explanation about why they need to eat this breakfast. While you might want to explain that it’s important not to waste food or that it hurts your feelings when they don’t want something you made, this is not the time. Your kid is in a highly reactive state.

“What they’re really communicating is that they need boundaries,” Albiona explains. “They need you to take the parental lead and keep a safe space for them because they know their emotions can’t be regulated by them alone, and they don’t know what to do with all their power. So in that moment, just clearly and concisely state the boundary.”

Dealing with a strong-willed kid can be challenging, but by keeping the emotion out of your response and setting firm boundaries, you’re teaching your child that you’re there to support them and help them regulate their own emotions. And that can make a world of difference for you both.

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