I am hearing a lot of frustration on the ABCJLM Facebook Group about having a strong-willed child.
Can I just encourage you for a moment?
While there are varying degrees, raising a strong-willed child means that your child is developing…growing…maturing. Showing their desire is part of the process of learning independence and checking to see if the boundaries put up by the adult are firm. They want to see if what you say is what you mean.
Having a strong-willed child means that you are a parent. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent, have bad genes, or that the label “strong-willed” gives you a ticket to check out of parenting. It means that your child is normal.
Because we are born with sinful hearts, every person has a strong desire or will for their own way (Romans 3:23). I fight it on a daily basis. You do too.
Here are a few points to remember.
If your child is demanding his way, praise God that you have an opportunity to set firm boundaries around that child to bend his or her will to love God and love others (Mark 12:28-31). You have the opportunity to lovingly teach that child cause and effect before the world teaches it in a not-so-kind way. A display of will is a gift to explain to your child that she needs a Savior.
Pray for the Child
Demanding his way is a reminder for you to pray for your child. Pray for wisdom to know how to “train up” this child (Proverbs 22:6). Pray that your child’s heart will have a love for obedience.
But, Please Don’t Label
I loved the wisdom that Alison shared on Facebook. (paraphrased)
Never allow a child to hear you labeling them a specific characteristic (i.e. liar, lazy, forgetful). I was labeled a “strong-willed child,” and I felt shame–something in me wasn’t good because I wasn’t as compliant as my sister. But just as it is important to guard what we say in our children’s earshot, what we say outside of their hearing shapes our hearts toward them.
As a mother of six, none of my children are 100% compliant. The difference with ones that are labeled “strong-willed” is simply that they are more vocal and out-front about it. But the quieter ones are just as prone to disobedience. Sometimes we overlook it because it’s not as obvious. Instead of outright argue, they may respond in a passive or passive-aggressive manner (i.e. ignore instructions, make excuses, manipulation).
Whether vocal or quiet, the child is asserting their way instead of having a teachable spirit and obedient heart. We need to remember that sin hurts our children, their fellowship with others, and ultimately their relationship with God.
The next time your child throws a fit, demands her way, or kicks the floor because you told him “No,” don’t feel alone. Don’t feel ashamed. Know that your child is normal and you have just been given a gift to show your child boundaries in a loving and logical way. And with consistency, the child will learn that he or she is safe and trust will begin to form.
Unsure what godly parenting looks like or how to put up age-appropriate boundaries?
Check out the practical tips on the ABCJLM Parenting Playlist on YouTube.