Let me start by saying that I do not have a laid back child in the bunch. All of my children would be considered "strong willed". That's not to say they are bad - many people use the word "strong- willed" as a way of saying "I just don't want to discipline - they behave the way they do because they are strong willed". There is a big difference between a strong-willed child and an undisciplined child. In the case of my children - I questioned for a long time "why couldn't I have one laid back child - I don't understand why they are ALL strong willed" Well I do now. God gave them a will of iron because they were going to need it. Living with a mentally ill person is hard, loving them can even be harder. I am extremely proud of my children. Their brother has literally made our life into a nightmare, and yet; they pray for him, love him & anticipate the day he comes home. This is made possible by a "strong will". A will that says I will love you because you are my family no matter what. I now thank God that He did give them such strong wills - it has helped them through some really tough times.
The secret to disciplining a strong willed child is simple. I have heard countless times "break the will without breaking the Spirit of the child". This cannot be done. For a strong willed child, their will is part of their spirit. You'll just frustrate yourself and them in the process if this is what you set out to do. What you must do is change their will. God gave your child a gift, his will - why would you try to take that away? Instead shape it into what it ought to be. Making a strong willed child obey you is nearly impossible unless they want to -- make them want to even when they would rather do something else.
In my home we use what we call "the chip system". This has been extremely effective for us. I will tell you up front that it takes a ton of consistency and can be a major pain at times, but the results are beautiful. I would rather deal with the annoyance of the chip then deal with the behaviors that come when we do not use the chip system.
Here is how it works:
We have an "If - Then" chart. The "If" column list a variety of behaviors; unkind words, lies, rudeness, yelling, etc In the middle column we have a Bible verse written to go with that behavior. In the "then" column are the consequences, "2 chips" Sometimes "2 chips plus time out" (when my children go in time out - I tell them they need to examine the attitude of their heart - they are not allowed out until they can tell me what their hearts attitude was, why that attitude was wrong and what it is now "my heart had an attitude of unkindness, this was wrong because Jesus tells us to be kind to one another - I would now like to make someone smile instead of hurt them with my words".) Stealing would be another exception it states "5 chips plus double restitution" If someone in my house were caught stealing they would have to pay back double what they stole from the person. So for instance if they took a bottle of fingernail polish with out asking (if you do not have permission to have something that is not yours- it's stealing) they would have to give back the original bottle plus one of their own.
We also have a "Blessings Chart". This chart list a good behavior (taking initiative) then a Bible verse, then in the last column a number of chips the child will receive. If you wish to shape your child's will - it is extremely important that you "catch them being good" Be generous rewarding good behaviors - children thrive on praise.
The charts are very important - they help with consistency.
We then on Fridays have a chip store. This store consist of index cards that have privileges written on them "stay up an hour late one night" "stay up an hour late every night this week" "wii time" (you get the picture) I also have things in there that I have bought on clearance. The children really look forward to Fridays. When my son comes home from the hospital we will do the store more often. Our behaviorist has suggested that because of the mental illness & RAD - a week is probably too long for him. You will have to adjust your system to what fits your family, but do not go out longer than a week - keep the rewards of good behavior in the front of your children minds.
This is a very simple system - but it works. The children can see fairness in the system because the consequences remain the same. The best thing about this system is I no longer feel the need to "yell". If two children are arguing I simply say - "what does the Bible say about unkind words" wait for a reply then say "get me 2 chips please then you can figure out how to handle your dispute correctly".