I have a strong-willed child and I'm so thankful that I do. Not that it's easy, as any parent with a strong-willed child will attest. But there are some definite positives to raising a child with a strong will.
I remember talking with my daughter when she was around seven. Her strong will had been rearing its defiant head more than usual that day. Now it was bedtime, a time to reflect on the day. I recall saying something like this to my girl.
"You have something called a strong will and that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you use it."
She nodded and looked down. She knew we'd had a bad day just as much as I did.
"When you use it to disobey, even when you know what's right, it's the wrong way to use it. But when your friends ask you to do something you know you shouldn't and you tell them no, then that's a good way to use it. Do you understand?"
"I'm glad you have a strong will. I know you'll use it the right way most of the time. We all make mistakes and wish we did things differently sometimes. Remember that I'll always love you, no matter what."
That little girl is now almost seventeen and has used her strong will in the best ways possible most of the time. She's her own person, to be sure, and isn't afraid to take the road less traveled if she believes it's the right one for her. She isn't easily bent by peer pressure.
Here are a few tips for parenting your strong-willed child:
- Don't try to squelch your child's strong will. Be thankful for it and try to channel it in positive directions. As your little one grows older, it can be a huge asset in helping him stand up for what's right and stand against what's wrong. Peer pressure evaporates when a strong-willed child says no. And they help weaker friends make good decisions.
- Tell your child about this amazing gift called strong will that God placed inside her. Make sure you keep your comments positive. I sometimes referred to it as a super-power!
- Remind your child how God would have him use his strong will. This comes in handy when your child disobeys. He can be determined to make good choices with that stubborn will as well as bad.
- Give choices when possible. This gives your child the ability to make her own decisions, yet stay within the boundaries you've set.
- Pray for him to learn submission when necessary. A child can't always get his way. Try to empathize with him when he has to submit. "I know you feel frustrated that you can't do it your way this time.. But it's Mommy's turn do it her way." Or, "I can see you're disappointed (or angry, or whatever). I'm sorry. But I really need your help with this." Give consistent consequences for noncompliance.
Most of all, pray for yourself as you raise this child. As parents, we always need wisdom and God is glad to give it when we ask (James 1:5). Ask Him to give you eyes to see the good in your child and that you'd be able to guide his strong will in positive ways. I know you'll find a delightful child lurking behind all those "No's!"
Do you have a strong-willed child? How do you know? What tips can you give for raising such a child?