Do you have a strong-willed child?
Our first child was extremely strong willed.
I even talked to our Christian doctor about my daughter. I was ready to put her on medication to help me keep my own sanity. But . . .
Our physician said to deal with our daughter firmly and consistently to see a change.
He also said that when a person gets right with God by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins, their behavior changes. Until then we had to modify her behavior and pray for her heart. My daughter did not get saved until she was 7 (which is a lot of years to pray!) Keep praying for your child’s heart and your patience.
It is worth it!
Her problem was lack of self-control and impulsiveness. Her longest time to focus on a project that she liked was 6 minutes. So every time she did focus on something for 7 minutes, we rewarded her.
I lived a lot of that time of life in 6 and 7 minute time blocks.
She would focus on puzzles so we bought puzzles. Lots of them! And we would work and work on getting her to lengthen her focus, one minute at a time.
I am so thankful for God’s work on her heart and on my patience!
Do you need help parenting your strong willed child?
I was a strong willed child. My mom reminds me of this sometimes! That is good because if I hadn’t been stubborn or persistent or tenacious or whatever you want to call it, my own daughter would have run over me again and again.
Or perhaps I would have let my daughter get away with bad behavior if I had not been so determined. My daughter needed to learn some lessons: to obey, to persist, to follow through. Importantly, teaching obedience provided safety and set an important foundation for future self-control.
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One Story About My Strong-Willed Daughter
One day, my 3-year-old daughter was trying to have her own way and I was having none of it! She was a strong-willed child who was bound and determined to get her way. But I was the MOM!
“I needed to find a way to teach my strong willed daughter without breaking her spirit. So we went for a walk.”
What could I do to help her? We could walk to a tree.
I needed a task that we could conquer together. What could it be? The Lord helped me come up with the following task: walk to a tree 50 feet away, touch it, and walk back to the house.
I explained to my little daughter what we were going to do and, holding hands, we started out. All the time I was talking to her and encouraging her. “Come on,” I’d say, “All we have to do is walk to the tree and touch it, and then we are done. We can go play. Come on, we can do this!” How long do you think it took us?
It took us an hour!
Why? My daughter was completely unwilling to put herself under my authority. She fought me the whole way. She was working against the plan. I was holding her hand but she would throw herself down and cry. I would pick her up, set on her feet again and we’d start toward the tree. It was one tantrum after another.
We would take one step closer, more crying, set her up again and keep going. Over and over again. I could have said, “Well, this isn’t working,” and just stopped. Or I could have said, “Maybe she doesn’t understand the plan here. This is just frustrating for both of us.”
Strong willed child: Moms, you have to know your children.
Moms, you have to know your children. I knew my daughter understood what the task was. I knew it wasn’t working-yet. But I knew I had to keep going because there was more at stake than the frustration of the moment.
There were a whole lot of life lessons that started right then and continued for the next 18 years. That walk to the tree represented a lot more than walking to a tree.
“Thought: What you do with your children become life lessons with future implications. Be wise.”
What is success?
Finally we got to that tree. We touched it! Let me clarify that: I held her hand and touched her hand to the tree (she was not going to do it on her own.) Then we walked back to the house. She was still sniffling and crying.
Did I mention that she was a strong-willed child? She threw herself down on the ground even as we walked back to the house. Again, I would pick her up and get her set on her feet and we’d continue walking back to the house.
She was tired and I was tired. Physically I was exhausted from picking her up over and over and making her walk to the tree. She was tired from having an hour-long temper tantrum.
However, I knew I couldn’t give up. She needed to obey and yield her stubborn spirit to my parental authority.
You can probably guess my daughter’s reaction when I introduced the task of walking to the tree the next day. She exhibited the same negative behavior. Not surprisingly, it took a long time to get to the tree and back to the house. We were both tired, again.
And we walked to the tree the next day. We walked to the tree the following day. After that, we walked to that tree again.
But my strong-willed child finally began to understand: Mommy means it.
- My daughter finally began to understand the message: Mommy means it.
- Mommy said this is what we are going to do and she won’t back down.
- Mommy is telling me the truth- once we get to the tree I can go do something else.
- I am valuable enough to Mommy that she isn’t giving up on me- she keeps working with me.
My daughter was three. She didn’t have the reasoning skills to realize the foundation of life lessons that I was trying to get across. But I had to lay a foundation of my authority and her obedience from an early age so that we could make progress in the future with character training. I wasn’t trying to break her will- I was trying to help her control it.
Furthermore, unless you want to hold your child’s hand their whole life, obedience is absolutely necessary for keeping your child safe. Some examples include:
- Staying with Mommy in a store.
- No standing up in the shopping cart.
- Some things are poisonous- don’t eat that!
- Don’t stand up in the bathtub.
- Keep the screwdriver out of the electrical outlet.
Mom, this is a battle that you have to fight and win. Pray that God will make you courageous for the task He has placed in front of you.
I often prayed, “Lord, you gave me this child. You said that you would give me strength and help. I need You to keep your word and supply my needs. Give me wisdom beyond my years. Provide me with your wisdom so that I can raise this child to love and obey You always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
So, Mom, if you are discouraged, if things don’t seem to be getting through to your child, ask the Lord to help you think of an approach that will work with your child. It may be walking to a tree.
And if it is, walk to that tree everyday.
And what do you say to the mom who is dealing with this? You say, “I’ll pray for you. Keep on going. You’re doing a good job being the MOM.”
Strong willed Child: Phone Encouragement
I am glad to offer some phone encouragement to parents if you are at your wits end. Because I want to encourage you in your home schooling journey, this consult is free. This 15 minute Quick Talk will help you identify a problem and come up with 2 or more ways to work on a solution. Get on my calendar here to chat.
The Military Wife and Mom has a good worksheet about How to End Power Struggles in her article 5 Highly Effective Tips for Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child.
A Survivor’s Guide to Home Schooling by Luanne Shackelford and Susan White. This excellent home schooling resource has a chapter called “Making Them Do It.” She explores the following:
- What is Not True About Parents and Children
- What does the Bible Teach?
- How to Begin with Biblical Discipline
- What Kids Need
- The Swat Chart
- House Rules
- About Home Schooling Obedience
- When Not to Homeschool
- I like that Luanne uses the word swat instead of spank or corporal punishment. No caring parent wants to hurt their children but they do want to discipline their children!
I love this little poem she uses about home schooling:
School doesn’t have to be fun, It just has to be done!
What is punishment?
“Punishment is meant to deter negative behavior, that is, to dissuade and discourage inappropriate or potentially dangerous behavior and defiance. Your punishment must have impact. A light tap on the bottom of a diapered strong-willed toddler is not accomplishing your goal of punishment.” from Family Life, an article written by Kendra Smiley.
Sometimes we do need to punish our children. But is that our goal? To constantly punish them? No, it isn’t! Our goal is to teach them. First, children are parent-controlled. Then they gain some self-control. But the true goal for me is to have my children follow the Lord and be Spirit-controlled. You can read more about what the Lord can do for you here.
Free Action Plan for Success
5 Home Schooling Helps for Parents: Discipline First, this article includes a great Action Plan for Success (free downloadable). Secondly, there are good examples of how to use the action plan successfully.
To Spank or Not to Spank? by Focus on the Family. This well-written article argues that spanking should not be the first discipline measure used in your family, but may be included in your discipline toolkit. It is worth reading!
Building Your Discipline Toolkit From a Biblical Perspective by Danny Huerta is an excellent article and includes great examples.
Questions About Spanking This article examines the age appropriateness for spanking as related to other disciplinary techniques. “Spanking can serve as a meaningful negative consequence in cases of undesirable behavior, but it tends to be most useful – and necessary – when a child is under 3 ½ years of age. That’s because reasoning and taking away privileges simply don’t work with very young children.”
What is Your Parenting Style?
Authoritative parents are responsive to the child’s emotional needs while having high standards. They set limits and are very consistent in enforcing boundaries. Their children are shown to be obedient as children and later in life.
What Is Authoritative Parenting? (Examples) – Parenting For Brain
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