Over the last few months I have had more conversations with mothers about strong willed children, parenting and feeling worn out. I don’t have all the answers, (no surprise!) but I do know the one who does! And that, makes all the difference. Here’s some nuggets I’ve learned on the way. And hopefully it’ll help you too!
Back at the end of the spring heading into summer in 2018, my 2 year old started acting out and becoming this completely different person. Instead of laughing and playing all day long, I would have days where I just felt like I yelled, corrected and disciplined ALL DAY LONG! It was EXHAUSTING! (I was also pregnant, so that didn’t help. haha)
His crazy tantrums peaked late fall/ Christmas. I would call up my husband crying, unsure of what to do and quite honestly, I was tired of being screamed at by a 2 year old.
Somewhere in the mix of that, I had downloaded Dr. Dobson’s book, The New Strong-Willed Child. I usually like hardcover books for anything that isn’t just for fun, but I needed help and I needed it quick. The easiest way for me to ensure that I would read it, was to keep it on my phone. If I had 5 minutes here and there, I would whip out my phone and read a few pages.
Let me just say it is OK to not have it all together! One particular day I was feeling really down and frustrated. I felt like I was making zero headway with Uriah, and
I felt like I was going to lose it if something didn’t change some days I did lose it. I was sharing some of this with my Mother-In-Love. She raised four boys and had plenty of first hand experience of the things little boys do (and if I do say so myself, every single one of them turned out so well. I pray our two boys turn out just as wonderful). She said the most encouraging and supportive thing she could have told me in that moment.
“As a parent of small children, anyone who says they never lose it is lying”.
So I’m not a horrible mother? I inwardly asked myself. Do you know how freeing that was? I instantly felt relief wash over me. It was permission to not have everything together or perfect. (Just as a side note, that wasn’t permission to go all rouge on my children, but just an encouraging.. “it’s ok, you can do it, keep going,” kind of thing).
I began reading Dr. Dobson’s book, The New Strong-Willed Child and found that:
1) Uriah was not that bad! Some of the stories in that book though… LOL. It gave me a better perspective.
2) I was doing a lot of things right.
3) It gave me some ideas to try.
4) I realized my husband had it right all along, and negotiating with a strong willed child is the way to go! HA-HA.
In all seriousness though, don’t feel like you are a bad parent because you need a book or need to try something outside of the box. Children aren’t cookie cutter. They aren’t manufactured the same way. As a child I was what the book would describe as the “compliant” child. I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing my parents or disobeying the rules. To this day I like knowing what is expected of me, and I like knowing my boundaries.
One thing the book briefly touched on was parents who had compliant children won’t understand what your dealing with. I have definitely had my share of comments, “Well if you just did this like I did” or “If you would just be more consistent in your discipline”… etc. People mean well, but they just don’t understand and that’s ok.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
First it is very common for these moms and dads to feel great guilt and condemnation. They are trying so hard to be good parents, but the struggle for control that goes on at home day after day leaves them frustrated and fatigued. No one told them parenting would be this difficult and they blame themselves for the tension that arises. They had planned to be such loving and effective parents…Second, I have found that the parents of compliant children don’t understand their friends with defiant youngsters. They intensify guilt and embarrassment by implying, “if you would raise your kids the way I do mine, you wouldn’t be having those awful problems.” May I say to both groups that willful children can be difficult to manage even when parents handle their responsibilities with great skill and dedication.
We are pursuing our child’s heart. Don’t let comments like those above get to you. Sometimes a child’s behavior is because a parent isn’t keeping up with discipline… we’ve all seen those children and parents. But, I’d say the majority of the time, a child is who God created them to be, and they are working out how they fit in this world. Being strong-willed means they won’t get pushed around; they won’t cave to peer pressure, they are natural leaders.
As a parent we can’t be a hundred percent discipline all the time. If we do that, we run the risk of losing our child’s heart and just becoming this authoritarian. We are meant to be pursuing them just as the Father pursues us. We don’t get it right all the time either. We have our own tantrums and pity parties.
One day I was heading out and before I got to the end of the drive way, Uriah had thrown something on the floor of the car. It seemed to be a new habit of his. He’d get mad, so he’d throw something down, and then throw a tantrum because he didn’t have that object any more. I told him too bad so sad. After all, he needed to learn there were consequences for his actions, right? That’s when the Holy Spirit sweetly whispered, “Sometimes we just need to extend grace, didn’t your husband do that to you last night when you made a big blunder in front of his family?” Yikes! Holy Spirit was right. So what did I do? Jump out of the car at the end of the drive and get him his toy.
Stay sensitive to what Holy Spirit speaks to you, and know when to let things slide and when not to. After all, Holy Spirit doesn’t sit there all day long and critique us. We’d never make it if all God did was correct us. Instead, God pours out His love on us so much that we then feel secure in how He sees us. Then when we know we are secure in His love, He will sweetly bring up different areas and encourage us to go a better way. I have found that He rarely talks about the icky areas, as much as He talks about who I already am in His love. That view point spurs me on to leave behind the yuck and run after His heart. Let’s do that for our children!
Holy Spirit knows our children better than we do. He knows exactly what they need and when they need it. Stay tender to His voice, and watch how God helps you reach your child’s heart. As parents we get the privilege to be missionaries to our children. Let the Jesus inside of us be so attractive to them that they have a burning desire to have a relationship with Jesus too.
Psalm 103:13 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
Romans 8:14-17 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
1 John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
What are some ways Holy Spirit has helped you parent?
P.S here is the link for Dr. Dobson’s book if you’d like to read it,Dobson’s strong willed child
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