Saturday, June 2, 2007

Finding Joy in Your Strong Willed Child

By Sheila Wilder

Very few people understand the challenge of a strong willed child. These children seem to come in to the world determined to challenge you on every point. They can sap your energy and have you on edge within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed in the morning. They are feisty, determined, and unnerving. The biggest challenge I have encountered with my strong willed child is the strength and energy to purpose to like her. Loving her is never in question, but liking her takes some persistence on my part.

That sounds terrible doesn't it? How pitiful that you would have to make it a point to like your child. But mothers of strong willed children are nodding their heads and some are relieved to find out that they are not alone. When you are constantly being pushed to the edge, dislike is a normal reaction. At times, we may be unaware or unwilling (for kind reasons) to admit that we just don't like being around this child. If we are not careful, we can unwittingly let those feelings of dislike dominate our relationship.

It takes more energy and determination to find joy in your relationship with your strong willed child than it does to operate in the norm. You must persevere; however, because the rewards you will reap from this persistence are immeasurable and invaluable. So what can you do to find joy in your strong willed child?

Look at the unique and special purpose God has planned for your child.These kids are the Joshuas and Calebs of the world (Numbers 14). They can stand alone. And when God chooses to use them for His purpose; they are the Noahs (Genesis 6). They have awesome tenacity; pursuing and fighting for a God-given vision even when every shred of evidence should discourage them. You have a gem in your midst.

Look at the role your child plays in your family and how God uses them to shape and mold you and others in your family. My daughter's personality is forcing her compliant younger brother to develop some assertiveness that he would not have developed this early on his own. It will serve him well. Likewise, my daughter's unique personality has forced me to grow closer to the Lord. Lisa Welchel stated my experience so well when she reflected on her son: "raising Tucker has taught me more about stepping outside the box, being non-judgmental and longsuffering, controlling my anger, throwing myself on the Lord, and listening to that still small voice than anything else I've done in my life."1 These kids can change us for the better if we will continually fall on the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:11).

Carefully consider how your own parenting style plays into your feelings toward your strong willed child. I have learned that if the issue is not safety, modesty, or obedience; it need not be an issue. Sometimes that means dealing with things inside of me that make unimportant things an issue. I have learned that it was my pride that made going to the store with my daughter dressed in polka dots and stripes an issue (after all, who wants to be seen out in public with a child dressed like that!)

Look carefully at the root cause of some of your issues. Can any of them be put to rest? (Philippians 2:3-4) Cynthia Ulrich Tobias wrote a book, You Can't Make Me…But I Can Be Persuaded, about dealing with strong willed children that has helped me tremendously. Don't let the title fool you, it is not a book about cajoling your child into behaving. It is about the parent being in control and removing opportunities for resistance to your parenting style.

Make a commitment to pursue a joyful relationship with your strong willed child. Try to always focus on the positive while in the midst of disciplining the negative. Make a list of your child's positive qualities and reflect on them daily during your prayer time (Philippians 4:8). Make it a point to connect with your strong willed child. They act like they don't want or need our acceptance, but in truth they have a strong need for a deep connection with us. It takes resolve, determination, and grace; but you must commit yourself to actively seeking an enjoyable relationship with your strong willed child. It will be worth everything you have, and everything you are. After all, that is all He asks of us (Luke 9:23)!

"Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose." - Philippians 2:21

*Courtney, Camerin. "The Real Facts - and Fun! - of Life." Today's Christian Woman May/June 2004: 44.


My Journey to Hope said...

Thank you for sharing this! I needed it!

:) Michelle