Parenting a strong will child has been one of the most challenging elements of parenting for me. Next to sleep deprivation, a strong will child is the next most exhausting thing in this motherhood journey.
I didn’t expect that.
Honestly, it still surprises me how much my strong willed child has changed me.
I’m going to be raw here, complete honesty. This isn’t a “here’s how to manage your strong willed child” post or encouragement on how to handle their attitudes. This is how their behavior affects us, how they change us – if we let them.
This little boy has brought me to my knees in prayer more times in 5 years than anything else. I’ve spent more nights bawling my eyes to my husband about how I’m failing at training him, reaching his heart, getting through to him to change his behavior. I’ve been so angry and frustrated with him for still challenging me over the same things for years and years. I’ve thrown my hands into the air and said the words, “I give up. I can’t deal with him.”
The thought of just going through another day with the same battles made me want to run away as soon as I woke up. I felt trapped in this nightmare that has no ending in sight. This was not how motherhood was supposed to look like to me. This was not what I had signed up for. I should’ve had an instinct that this little boy was going to be strong willed when I spent months on hospital bed rest with placenta previa, this boy would not move himself.
But here’s what I’ve learned in the last 5 years.
God gives exactly what we need in order to change our hearts to be more Christ-like. Sometimes that means giving us a child that stretches us, challenges us, who is actually like us in a little person’s body.
This little boy is all of my ugliness trapped in a 5-year-olds body. When I see his attitude, I see mine. When he stomps away, I see myself stomping away. When he defiantly says no, I hear myself saying no.
It’s not pretty to have a mirror of your sin staring back at you day in and day out. Yet here I am in the middle of this story. This is real life. If I want to change his behavior, I need to change mine.
Words matter. If there’s one thing I learned quickly, it was how much my words (and attitude) affected this little boy. He could hear the frustration, the anger, the annoyance in every word or nonverbal I made. Not only did he hear it and see it but it always affects his soul. They make or break him. I could make him cry, angry, frustrated just as quickly as he could make me. The difference was he usually likes to get me upset, while I had to learn the effects of my words afterward. I had to learn (and honestly, it’s still a learning process) to control my words and my emotions in the midst of a battle. If he couldn’t see or hear my emotion things were much easier on the both of us.
Parenting this little boy has taught me how consistent you need to be in parenting. Consistency is the key for parenting a strong willed child. They have a strong desire to buck up against rules and authority. They want to be in charge. They will usurp your authority any chance they get. If you aren’t consistent they will keep trying to win the fight. Don’t give in and don’t give up, this is the hardest struggle I’ve found.
I just want a day off from the fight, from the struggle, from the exhaustion. If I know he’s going to fight me over putting the letter O in his name during school, I’m likely to skip it and not make it a big deal. Because mama can’t handle a fight today.
I’ve learned that the little things (non-attitude and heart issue things) don’t always require a fight. We all have our own way of doing things, even if it’s not the best way to do it or the way everyone else does it. And if it’s not the best way to do we usually learn how to change our ways. For example, this little boy puts his shoes on the wrong feet. He has for years. Basically, since he started doing his own shoes. For so long I made it a big deal. Clearly, I know what’s best, all of society does, but this little dude decided that his way was better. We would go round and round fighting over him needing to change his shoes before we left the house. And ya know what, one day after another battle I asked myself “why is this such a big deal?”. I don’t have the mental energy or physical strength to fight all the big battles and all the little battles. I started letting him wear his shoes however he wants. Eventually, he will learn.
It’s important to let go of the control(sometimes). Another hard lesson to learn. This piggybacks off the previous lesson. I had to find ways to let this little boy have some control because it was an ego boost. Strong wills need their egos boosted a lot. If it’s not a big deal to me and a huge one to him, I let him choose. Flops or sneakers today? You pick, little man. Enjoy.
The biggest life lesson this strong willed child has taught me has been to rely on the Lord. Through it all, I need His strength. Through the bed rest, through the scary diagnosis, through his surgery as an infant and all the sleep deprivation in between, through each battle over saying sorry, eating broccoli and obeying each command, I need the Lord to get me through. Because without it, without Him, I am failing at this parenting job. Without Him, I am failing my strong willed child. Without Him, I am losing my ever-loving mind. Without Him, there would be no hope of a battle free day. Without Him, there would be no joy in each battle won. Without Him, I would be a mess.
God does give us more than we can handle, but He doesn’t give us more than what He can handle. Parenting a strong willed child is exhausting, it is hard work, it’s done on your knees and it’s done with consistency, love, and grace. As my little man turns 5 tomorrow, I’m amazed and shocked at where we’ve been together and where we’ll be later. I’m amazed at how he’s changed me and how much you can love your child. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, on the good days and the bad.
Your turn! Are you parenting a strong will child? What lessons have you learned? Let’s chat in the comments below!
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