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Once upon a time, I was a young and naive mom. I thought, “Motherhood isn’t that difficult. My kids are beautiful, obedient, well-behaved, and it must be because I am raising them right.”
Then, my oldest hit three. MAN, did I not at all expect what the next three years brought me. Day after day, hour after hour, I butted up against a very, VERY strong-willed little girl who questioned me on everything and worked hard to manipulate and control her way into and out of anything and everything.
I was BAFFLED! What was I doing wrong???
And, MAN, did I struggle! I struggled HARD.
I read loads of parenting books that led me down a spiral of crazy that it took the Lord to help me crawl back out of.
Modern psychology led me to believe that I just simply needed to spend more time with her. Well, when I tried that, she simply was never satisfied…and I had two other children (at that time) who also needed my attention.
Well, then I read through various perspectives from Christian philosophy, which instructed me that my daughter simply needed more discipline and rigidity to clarify the rules and boundaries that she needed to respect.
Closer, but there was NO MAGIC CURE to heal her from her incessant need to disobey and defy.
For three years this went on, and I battled deep, deep questioning of everything I thought I was called to be.
Are you sure I am cut out for this job, Lord? Are you SURE you want me to homeschool them? How am I supposed to meet all of her apparent needs while also caring for the other children? How am I supposed to do this?!?!
Eventually, there was a reprieve and I had a chance to take a breath of air and really, really reflect on what the Lord was teaching me through the realities of my apparently uncontrollable and inconceivable life.
I was not in control of it at all.
5 Freeing Realities I’ve Learned Raising a Strong-Willed Child
So, so, sooo many voices today want to tell us that if we simply do this, or do that, we will have obedient, responsible, well-behaved children in no time flat, or your money back.
Reality 1: We only truly have control over ourselves.
This takes a lot of time to really grasp and embrace, but the truth of the matter is that each and every child is unique and completely different from others.
There is no magic pill or formula to make all children act, interpret, and behave the same.
We can raise them and teach them and train them, but what they do with that information is between them and our Abba. Consequences and punishments are still needed, but whether or not the child internalizes those rules as their own is not ours to choose.
Reality 2: Every child is unique with their own personality.
I have seven children (at present) and you know how many are the same? ZERO.
Not one of my children is the same as the others, even though I am the same mother to all of them. You know what that tells me? I’m not the source of childish behaviors, struggles, issues, or general behavioral problems, regardless of what modern psychology wants to suggest and throw out into the world.
It is easy to think that a child is exclusively the product of their environment, but a little attention to even babies shows that elements of temperament are present even in the earliest days.
So, as a mom, I can’t change nor control who my child is as designed by God, but I can work to teach them how to navigate their design one step at a time.
Reality 3: A struggling child does not equal a negligent parent.
My strong-willed child has been one of the most beneficial influences in my parenting journey. I have had to have many talks with God to sift through the dirt and grime that came along with a fiery, go-getter child matched with a laid-back, go-with-the-flow parent.
I often felt like I was somehow messing her up by not being able to do all the things she wanted to do in her youngest years. It was a heavy burden to carry that much supposed responsibility for another person’s contentment with life (and it took a long time to realize that it wasn’t my burden to carry in the first place).
We are all doing the best we know how…
Do I think that parents can “mess up their children?” Sure, but I do not think that most believing parents are doing so by “missing” some special ingredient in their lives, but rather are simply experiencing the realities of a fallen world with fallen people regularly rubbing up against each other.
Children struggle with a variety of ordeals, including plain ‘ole rebellion and defiance. Even wonderful parents who hold firm boundaries and clear lines may have a child who just has not yet internalized the rules.
For this reason, we must all be careful not to judge the parenting efforts of others based solely on the behavior of their child. If you feel so inclined to judge, pray for them instead. It is always best for us to assume the best of others than the worst.
Reality 4: Parenting can be messy at times.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When “iron sharpens iron” you better expect some sparks!
I wish that I could say that I entered into my parenting journey fully mature and wise about how to best parent in a Godly manner. But, I can’t, because I believe in authenticity.
The Truth is that I entered into parenting with confusion and boundary issues from a childhood of the same. It has taken me years to simply navigate through my own confusions and misconceptions, one step at a time, and that means that along the way I have made a lot of mistakes.
[bctt tweet=”You can’t make a diamond without intense pressure…in the same way we mature into precious gems through trials and adversity.” username=”JulieFilter”]
But, I also know that the Lord is using all of it for His glory. I can say for sure that my struggles have softened any judgement of others that I might have had otherwise.
Children are some of the best tools for refinement that the Lord could ever give us. Think about a diamond! You don’t get such a majestic object of amazing value from simply smacking a rock against a tree a few times.
When we ask the Lord to challenge and grow us, we must then receive the challenges that He brings into our lives, even if they are in the form of small people with loud voices. When we go through life with this perspective, we become precious jewels of honor to Him one step of the journey at a time.
Reality 5: It is my job to train my children; it is their job to receive it.
You know the greatest blessing that my children have brought into my life? The knowledge that I can do NOTHING in this life separate from my Abba Father. It took a number of children, plus disease, plus financial issues to really, really solidify this Truth within my soul.
Does this mean that I should have “stopped having children” several mouths ago? NO.
Does this mean that I should throw in the towel with this whole homeschooling business and simply ship them all off to school? No.
Does this mean that I am a terrible mother because I struggle and sometimes feel like I have no idea what I am doing? NO!
What this means is that I have been given the blessed privilege of perspective. I know how small I truly am in the grand scheme of things. I realize how weak and deformed I am as a fallen human aside from the grace of my loving God. I can give thanks without end for the amazing blessing of being loved by a mighty God. He knows my frame and that I am DUST, yet still calls me beautiful, amazing, and perfect because He dotes on me as His child.
If God, the most perfect Father that ever existed, still has rebellious, disobedient children, why would I expect that I might not experience the same?
It all comes down to boundaries
I continue to learn and understand what a boundary is and how it applies to the world of parenting. It has been a long and arduous process for me, but I’m finally starting to figure it out.
The best book I have found on the topic is Henry St. Cloud’s Boundaries with Kids (aff link) which is one of a series of books on boundaries that he has written. I HIGHLY recommend them!
Stand strong, Mama. The Lord has a plan, even when things are tough and seem hopeless. He’s making jewels for your crown, and those jewels need some pressure to become precious stones.
What are some lessons you have learned while raising a strong-willed child? Please share below so we can help each other along.