In an effort to teach our then four year old daughter responsibility and the value of hard work, my husband and I decided to start implementing daily chores. I remember explaining to her one day that she was a member of our family and old enough to begin contributing in some aspect.
A big smile lit up her face as she eagerly agreed. The idea of helping out around the house made her feel like such a big girl!
My little lady proved to be a hard worker over the next several months. It wasn’t until she was five years old and I assigned her some new chores that her eagerness slowly faded.
A Strong Will Defined
There was one new chore in particular that she was less than fond of: sweeping the kitchen. She absolutely hated to sweep the kitchen!
This chore should have taken her less time to complete than all of the rest of her chores for the week, but for some reason she insisted on dragging her feet about it and easily taking five times longer than needed to finish.
For a few months straight we both dreaded Monday mornings, AKA: Sweeping Day. Every Monday was the same. She would explain to me that she wasn’t capable of completing such a task.
She would plead with me to give her something else in its place. She would cry big sad tears. She would get disciplined for her occasional willful disobedience and defiance.
One particular Monday I had the most brilliant idea pop into my head! (I was already celebrating my mommy win inside). I shared with my daughter that I would be willing to do her sweeping that day if she would, in exchange, do all of my housework for me.
I explained to her the LONG list of things I had yet to accomplish: clean the bathroom, dust the house, do the dishes, vacuum, make dinner… but that I’d be willing to swap with her if she would like.
To my surprise she actually agreed! She went and got the cleaning supplies and started cleaning the bathroom! She was willing to do 2 HOURS of housework just so she could get out of doing 5-10 minutes of something she didn’t like.
In Need Of His Strength
My daughter has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. She is very sweet and thoughtful, but she also has a WILL. OF. IRON.
God in His wisdom saw fit to bless my husband and I with not one, but two very strong willed children. Although I still ask Him “why?” as the trials arise, I believe I already know the answer.
These immense parenting challenges force me to see myself as I truly am: a broken sinner in need of a Savior.
In my own strength and wisdom I will fail my children. I will become frustrated, impatient, and without hope. I desperately need the strength, wisdom, patience, and guidance of my Heavenly Father.
I do not have all the answers. I still have a long ways to go on this parenting journey, but I am grateful for His sweet grace and guidance that gently teaches me truth along the way.
Consistency is Key
Strong willed children will use inconsistent discipline to their full advantage and do everything in their power to exhaust and defeat us. We must stay calm, in control, and steady in our discipline without ever letting them win.
It may seem as if their entire goal in life, at times, is to wear us down in defeat, but I am discovering that children crave boundaries and develop a greater respect when we remain in authority.
Pick Your Battles
These children are amazingly driven to be in control of any situation. Although this advice goes against my motherly instincts, I have learned that some battles simply aren’t worth it. If I attempted to correct every single opposition I would be running on fumes until my children were grown.
My daughter is a very artistic little girl who views her bedroom as an imaginary playground with endless possibilities for creativity and fun. Simply put- she greatly struggles to keep her room clean. Although our ideas of clean and organized are polar opposites I have learned, over time, to compromise with her in this area. As long as her room is picked up and somewhat tidy I am happy.
Give Them Options
This is another one that I struggled with in the beginning. In my mind children simply need to learn obedience to their parents instruction. However, strong willed children don’t always operate this way. Sometimes it is okay to give them an option between two choices that you provide them to make them feel as if they have some say in the matter.
Make Them Smile
Our discipline and correction should always be rooted in love and while we do need to be firm we can also afford to lighten up sometimes and make them smile. I cannot tell you how many times my children’s anger has been diffused by turning the situation to a lighter topic after their correction and making them smile in the end.
We need to remind them that our love for them isn’t dependent upon their actions. Praise them for their good choices and accomplishments. Give a gentle but firm rebuke and appropriate discipline to their bad ones.
We can faithfully do each one of these to the best of our ability, but if our efforts aren’t based upon seeking God through prayer and studying the truths of His Word we will only be fighting an uphill battle. We have an enemy who will do everything in his power to destroy our children and our families. We must fight him in God’s strength and not our own. Earnestly pray for your children and stay close to your Savior.
I am reminded of a “teabag” analogy I once heard as a teenager. Picture your heart as a teabag and the hot water you’re about to steep it in as life’s difficult circumstances. The hot water merely draws out of the teabag what was already in it. The trials of parenting merely draw out of our hearts what is already there, they are not the cause.
I know that raising a strong willed child can be emotionally exhausting. However, please remember that God can use that will of iron for your child’s good and His glory if it is molded and shaped correctly. Keep your gaze fixed upon your Savior. Meditate on the truths of Scripture. And rest assured that even in the valleys He will carry you through.
Tabatha Hull is a stay at home and homeschool mom of two sweet kiddos just trying to stay focused on what truly matters in life. She married her best friend 8 years ago and doing life together has been a wonderful journey. A few of her favorites include: hiking with her family, cooking, working out, cuddling with her puppy, and all things peanut butter. For more information please visit her blog at ajoyfueledjourney.com where she talks about family, faith, food, and fitness.