6 Tips for Your Strong Willed 2 Year Old

So you have a strong willed 2 year old? Parenting a strong willed child can be so hard. Here are the tips you need to discipline them with respect and confidence.

How to Raise a Strong Willed 2 Year Old

Do you feel like you are getting into power struggles with your 2 year old all the time?

Does it seem like they are always disagreeing with what you want, and challenging your instructions. Words like “strong willed,” and “spirited” might come to mind, or maybe even “defiant” or “stubborn.”

Some toddlers are strong willed, and this can be evident even in your 2 year old. 

If think you have a strong willed 2 year old you’ll want to read here how to tackle their behaviour because it can be very challenging as the parent. There might be days where the crying and screaming feels like too much for you to handle and you don’t know what to do! You might even find yourself becoming the angry mom you never thought you’d be. 

I’m going to give you Gentle Parenting approved tips to help you when it comes to your strong willed 2 year old so you can parent confidently and calmly.

"6 tips for your strong willed 2 year old" with Barbie mom and daughter

Characteristics of a Strong Willed 2 Year Old

If you’re not sure yet whether you have a strong willed 2 year old, ask yourself if you could describe them in any of these ways:

  • They want to be in control
  • They want to test things out for themselves
  • They push the limits as far as possible
  • They have angry outbursts
  • They resist doing what they don’t want to do
  • They can be very insistent

Does this sound like your little one? You might have a strong willed 2 year old. 

I do believe though that some children can be more strong willed than others, so it’s possible that you have a slightly strong willed 2 year old, and not full blown strong willed. Either way, the tips you will find below will still be very helpful. 

(Still not sure if you have a strong willed child? Check out this article from Very Well Family.)

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(This post might contain affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy a product I love then I may get a commission – at no extra cost to you! For all the Ts and Cs go here.)

Being a Strong Willed 2 Year Old is Great?

I think it is ALWAYS important to flip the script on how we generally talk about children. Society has conditioned us to think and talk about children in a certain way, and it’s not always accurate.

Having a strong willed 2 year old can be extremely stressful for the parent, absolutely, but it can be a good sign for who your child has the potential to be, especially if they are well nurtured in childhood. 

Many strong willed children grow up to actually be leaders in their career and community. You also can’t call a strong willed person wishy washy, they are more likely to stick to their morals than to slip under peer pressure, and to guide others to do the same.

Your strong willed 2 year old might very likely be giving you a headache even as you read this, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you have a future leader on your hands!

So in these tips I am going to help you to discipline your strong willed 2 year old in a way that doesn’t break their spirit, but that instead encourages them to make good choices, and to learn who the right people are to listen to. 

6 Tips to Make Parenting Your Strong Willed 2 Year Old Easier

Here are my tips on how to parent your strong willed 2 year old.

Respect and Connect

Respecting our children and connecting with them are two major aspects of Gentle Parenting no matter what your child’s personality is like, but even more so if you have a strong willed child.

If your 2 year old doesn’t like to listen to what you’ve instructed without testing it out for themselves first, offering them more respect and connection can help to solve this. 

Part of being a strong willed child is that they want to test things for themselves to know where the limits are, what’s safe and what’s not, etc. They like to experiment and truly know things for themselves.  A lot of the time though this simply is not possible, and we need them to trust us when we say something is dangerous, without having to test if for themselves.

When we strengthen our relationship with our child it helps them to trust us more, which does make it easier for them to listen to us.

Give them Control 

Strong willed 2 year olds deeply desire control. They do not want you to do things for them, they want to do it themselves…even if they don’t know how.

As much as you can, give your 2 year old control over their life. Allow them to pick out their own clothes, decide what to play with, etc.

Sometimes this even means listening to your child when they demand something. If you are brushing their hair, and they don’t like it, and they make that clear to you somehow, you certainly have the option to stop brushing their hair.  You might have to take a short break and then go back to brushing, or try again later, or let them try on their own in front of the mirror, but listening to them is important as it gives them some control over their life.

There are some things that have to happen no matter what. Say your toddler hates having their car seat buckled, well the truth is you’re not going to drive away without it buckled, but you can let them try, listen when they shout, “STOP,” and allow this process to take a bit longer. You might eventually need to say something like, “I know you don’t like this, but we have to leave now so I’m going to do it really fast, but I will also be gentle.” Even by communicating with them openly you are giving them some form of control because now they know what to expect.

Give Choices

You won’t always be able to give your strong willed 2 year old full control, but you can give them options to choose from.

Maybe you can’t let them choose anything to eat for breakfast, but you can offer two reasonable options. Allowing them to choose from the options you have given allows them to have some control, but ultimately you are still in control. There may be some tears as they really wanted something else, but hopefully they will be able to accept one of these options.

I find that it is good to give choices all the time, not just when you’re on the verge of a power struggle. Even when your 2 year old is having fun reading books with you, and probably doesn’t have a strong opinion about which books needs to be next, you can still allow them to choose.

These daily doses of control can be healthy for your toddler. It doesn’t mean that next time when they can’t be in control that they’re automatically going to freak out even more because they’re used to being in control, but instead it will help to fulfill their desire for control, which will make it easier to give up control now and then.

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Reduce Temptations

If there are a lot of things your 2 year old simply cannot resist to touch, throw around, and potentially break, then it is wise just to reduce those temptations by making them physically off limits. 

I am a huge fan of baby proofing because it can be exhausting to constantly redirect your little one when they’re touching something they might break. If you have an energetic 2 year old then I know you know what I mean!

So if you feel like you are constantly getting into a power struggle because your strong willed 2 year old is always squeezing your shampoo bottle into the bath, then simply find a better home for that shampoo where the 2 year old won’t be able to access it anymore.

One day they will be able to learn to resist doing these things, but for now it is great to set them up for success by reducing their temptations. 

Stick to Routines 

Routines are another way for children to feel like their life is under control. As someone who loves s16chedules and gets extremely frazzled when my schedule is hijacked by someone else’s spontaneous plan, I can really sympathize with toddlers on this one.

When a toddler has a general idea of how their day is going to go, it makes them feel like they are in control, even if we are the ones in control of the schedule. Routines create a sense of security. 

Routines don’t need to be rigid and stick to certain times on the clock, but I find they work best when there is an order of activities throughout the day so nothing comes as a surprise.

If you are going to do something different than usual that day, say it’s grocery shopping day, it can be good to prepare your 2 year old ahead of time by mentioning it to them multiple times before you leave. If you’re worried it might be an issue, then it’s, of course, wise to go when you know they are well-rested and fed to avoid any power struggles brought on by tiredness or hunger.

Be Consistent

It is important that you are also a predictable part of your child’s life. Responding consistently, and following through with what you have said, will help to give your child more predictability.

This means that if at the store you have said, “No,” to a certain request that that “No,” remains, even if there is screaming and crying. If you’re dealing with a lot of tantrums you might want to check out my full tantrum post for that. 

Being consistent will create security for your strong-willed 2-year-old. They will learn that they cannot change your mind, and that what you have said you will do, you do. This makes it very important that we as the parent then make a good choice to begin with (don’t say “No,” if you actually have nothing wrong with saying, “Yes,” to their request. Sometimes “No,” just becomes the default). 

Being consistent might mean you end up repeating the same thing many times, each time getting louder screams in response. But remember that you are here to support your growing and learning child, who will one day be an amazing leader! Try connecting with them and offering comfort as well. This can be very challenging, especially in public, but consistency is really important for how we discipline our children.


Parenting a strong willed 2 year old can actually be an amazing experience as you see their leadership skills grow, and it can be exciting to see how persistent they are clearly going to be later in life (maybe someone who always stands up for what is right).

But it can also be really exhausting.

Like really, really, really exhausting.

So it’s also important that as a mom you find ways to take care of yourself as well. This doesn’t have to mean taking spa days or anything, but it could even just be to prioritize your sleep so you have as much patient energy as possible for each new day.

There are so many moms out there who are struggling with their strong willed 2 year old, you are not alone in this at all, even if it feels like your child is the loudest screamer on earth! 

So you have got this! One day your child will not fight you on the things they currently fight you on, and they will learn to make their own good choices, but for now they really need your support. Work on creating trust now while also giving them control so when they’re a teenager you can continue to work together for them to make the right choice.

The Gentle Way to Discipline a Strong Willed Toddler

More Gentle Parenting Toddler Posts

How to Put a Toddler to Sleep

2 Year Old Tantrums: The 1 Tip You Can’t Miss

Best Books to Teach Kids ABout Feelings and Emotions

6 Tips for Your Strong Willed 2 Year Old

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