“I’m a mild-mannered person who has an extremely strong willed children. How do I cope?”
Thank you for asking the question all parents of future leaders ask about our strong willed children. Certain kids are just born to be influential. You can spot it as soon as they begin to communicate with fussing and stomping.
The real question for those of us with a strong willed children is how do we get them to adulthood without a stint in jail. Us, not them. Okay, I am kidding a little. Still, its true: strong willed children test our patience to the point of snapping.
One of my favorite people on the planet is a very successful professional with a resume a mile long. I can easily imagine her tender mother’s bewilderment at my friend’s stubbornness and determined spirit as a child. My favorite thing about her as an adult is the way she enjoys her children, laughing at their antics when they were little and clapping the loudest at their successes now. I bet her mother wore herself out worrying about my friend as a child, and yet, what a blessing she is as an adult. A tried and true friend, a beloved wife, and one of the best, most devoted moms I have ever seen.
Strong Willed Children
Almost magically, strong willed, independent thinkers grow up to be the ones who are visionary, determined leaders. Stubbornness in a childish person becomes determination and perseverance in a mature adult. The same small kid who complained and challenged each of our decisions becomes the independent thinker. Independent thinkers grow up to create solutions while all the other adults in the room are scratching our heads.
The Gift of Gentle Coaching
Likewise, never underestimate the power of a mild-mannered approach to life. Like my friend’s mom, you are instilling strengths into your child’s heart, not just her will. Strong willed children are often natural born leaders, but they will not be successful in life unless they learn to tone down their intensity. Your gentle, consistent, and relaxed approach will give them another tool in their leadership toolbox. Humor, too, is a gift you will want to share with the future leaders at your house. Strong willed children come with a treasure trove of hilarious stories along the way about their audacity! Remember, when our children stand against us, they are learning to stand alone, even as we gently and consistently rein them in. Even as we laugh along with their antics!
Benefits of Loyalty and Faithfulness
Stubbornness transforms into loyalty and faithfulness as humans mature. With your devoted and gentle coaching, your self-willed, strong willed child will grow up to be the spouse who is loyal and faithful. Obviously, no one wants to raise kids whose homes implode. Coaching your child’s natural stubbornness and intensity into loyalty and faithfulness means he or she will be better prepared to create a successful marriage that stands up to life’s inevitable challenges. With a secure home saturated in loyalty and faithfulness, he or she can passionately lead, tackling the big challenges of our culture.
Easier Said Than Done
Easier said than done, right? If you are raising a strong willed child, you are probably worn out. I get it. I am going to share a few practical tips, just in case the only thing you get to do for yourself today is read this. Yep, there were days with my small kids when I considered it a big success if I brushed my own hair and teeth that day.
Five Parenting Tips for Parents of Strong Willed Children
#1 Make sure they trust you.
Yes, it is really hard to keep enforcing the boundaries which they test constantly. Seriously, this is especially true if God wired you to be a mild-mannered peacemaker. Holding firm, while being honest and real, is how you win their trust, though.
#2 Laugh a lot, even if you have to fake it.
Some days will be so overwhelming that you just survive. However, when you laugh, even fake laughter, you introduce all kinds of good chemicals into your body. Plus, kids are hilarious. Especially when they are trying to be serious and intense. We grabbed a camera and took pictures of their first tantrums as toddlers. At our house, we believed strong willed children grow up to be independent, enterprising, persevering adults. We marked early evidence of their determined spirit with snapshots of their crinkled, frowning, tantrum-pitching little faces. Think of it as blackmail for the rehearsal dinner some day.
#3 Take care of yourself.
Yep, mommy needs a time out sometimes, too. A night out with the girls, a date night, a moment alone. Do what you need to, but definitely recharge your own batteries. Of course, your beautiful, talented, adorable children deserve a mommy who can take a deep breath and smile. Even when her strong willed child is stomping a foot yet again.
#4 Develop wise friends.
Seek out the companionship of older moms who can encourage you. We are smart to learn from others’ mistakes and successes. Plus, they will love you for letting them offer you insight.
#5 Remember our role as parent is to serve our child’s best interests.
Seriously, you want to serve your child or you would never have asked that question. However, it’s easy to forget when our toddler is melting down or our elementary kid is slamming doors. The best way we can serve the child may seem exhausting when they are little, but as they get bigger, their strong will works in our favor. By the way, when the teenage years hit, conscientious parents of strong willed children start to see the fruits of their labor in bushel baskets.
The Proud Parent of a Strong Willed Child
The “no” they practiced repetitively as a toddler becomes the “no” they use against peer pressure as a teenager. As they learn to stand on their own and trust their ability to think independently, they start to make good decisions. By the time they are teenagers, that strong willed kid, lovingly coached, makes you a very proud parent.
I can offer you this comfort in the meantime: The child that learns to trust your wisdom as a toddler, will not rebel as a teenager. Of course, an independent thinker, strong willed or otherwise, will hold you accountable for your reasons and make you justify your decisions all along. However, teenagers do seek out counsel as they grow into their newly-won independence, even though they may not admit it. Your consistent, loving trustworthiness all along the way will earn you the position of most valued counselor in your child’s life. By giving strategic thought to how to best serve your strong willed child, you are well on your way. Congratulations for thinking ahead!
May I pray for you?
Dear Heavenly Father, You are the One who is a faultless Parent, caring for us always with our best interests at heart, in ways we do not comprehend. You are constant even when we choose self-willed paths. I pray now for this dear reader who is committed to parenting with determination and dignity. Give this reader the courage to wisely coach this beloved, if strong willed, child. Guide this child into maturity prepared for leadership roles, given the design You chose for them both. Give this parent the forbearance to consistently and unconditionally love. Give this parent laughter and joy in the process. Bless their family. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Cathy Krafve, Texas Author, Columnist, Speaker, and Radio Personality, specializing in Christian Marriage and Family invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang.