Friday, August 5, 2011

Fun Friday: The Strong Willed Child

Look at that face! Isn't that just the cutest little girl you've ever seen? She could never be anything other than a completely compliant angel right?! HA! This is my 4 year old daughter and I absolutely love her to death, but this girl defines "Strong willed child".

From the second she was born we knew she had a very different personality than our son who didn't really challenge us much and was just a generally easy going child. I was not a strong willed child at all so my little Lexi completely threw me! At 2 and 3 years old, her and I would get into these wars and I just didn't know what I was doing wrong. I was raising her the same way i'd raised my son and yet she fought me so much more than he ever did. I knew early on that she was a strong willed child but I didn't fully understand what that meant, or how I needed to parent her differently than my son who was not strong willed.

Then I got smart and started looking outside of myself and what i'd been doing, for advice on how to train her. I got advice from a child trainer in our church and got the book "The New Strong Willed Child" by Dr James Dobson. By the way, if you have a strong willed child I very highly recommend this book! It will absolutely change the way to parent your child, and give you some amazing tools you need to raise them.

I'd always heard when raising a strong willed child that all you needed to do was simply break their will. If you do that you'll be able to fully shape and mold them into the person they need to be. If you've heard this teaching or are putting it into practice with your strong willed child stop right now! Take that advice and throw it out the door. Never ever try to break your child's will, you simply need to train it. When you break their will you can crush their spirit and that is something you never, ever want to do!

Now, I may very well say some things that some people don't like but i'm ok with that. While I am no expert at all, I do have some experience with this issue so i'm simply going to go off of that in this post.

The very best advice I can give in dealing with a strong willed child is this, if your child decides to challenge you and your authority, you have to win every single time. There is just no way around this one. If your child wins, their will just gets stronger. My daughter will pick some of the strangest battles to fight, and as silly as the fight seems to me, as soon as she digs her heels in I dig mine in. For example, most of the time I let her pick out her own clothes but every now and then when we're in a hurry I will simply pick something out for her. Sometimes she's ok with this and sometimes she takes that as me declaring war and she is determined to win. While I completely agree that this seems like a silly thing to fight with her about, I do not let her win. You see, with a strong willed child it doesn't matter how silly the battle is. If they win one battle, they will fight you 10 times for the chance to win again.

A great example of this is something that happened between my sister and my mother when my sister was younger. My mom decided that my sister needed to drink a glass of V8 juice and my sister decided she would have no part of that. Well many spankings later my sister won and didn't have to drink the juice. To this day, at least 20 years later my sister still talks about that and rejoices in the fact that she won that battle. Winning is HUGE to strong willed children and honestly, it feeds the strength of their will.

Now I do think that when you have a strong willed child you have to pick your battles very carefully. I usually try to allow my daughter as much freedom as possible and allow her to make as many choices as she can. But, if I do have to make a choice for her and there is no way around it, I am aware of the fact that she may very well fight it. But one of the biggest keys to parenting a strong willed child is being a strong willed parent.

Now please don't take this as my advocating parenting like an abusive dictator! I believe you should give your children every opportunity possible to make their own choices, and they should have age appropriate freedoms. But every parent knows that there are times when you have to make an ultimate decision and with strong willed children especially, you have to train them to respond without argument. When your child is about to run out into the street and you tell them to stop, that is not the time to find out if they will mind you!

You also need to understand that the strong willed child will never grow out of this, it is something they will struggle with for most of their life. But they themselves will have to learn to not give into their will and it is our job as parents to teach them how to do that. However, if you can train their will when they are young it will be one of their greatest assets as they get older. They will not be the ones falling for peer pressure, they will be the ones creating the peer pressure. As my pastor's wife once said, when your strong willed child becomes a teenager, they will be leading their friends somewhere. How you train them determines where they will lead them.

This is such a complex subject and I know i'm not going to have fully covered it in this post so feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, or email me about any part of this that isn't clear to you. Also, if you have a strong willed child please get the book I mentioned my Dr Dobson! It is a fantastic book and he thoroughly covers this issue and answers many questions from readers in it. Learning how to parent and train a strong willed child is not something that comes naturally (unless of course you yourself were a strong willed child) so don't be ashamed to admit that you need help in this area. The sooner you do this, the better off you and your child will be.

Each Friday I tackle the thoughts and questions of my readers. If there is something you would like me to discuss feel free to either leave a comment below, leave a comment on my facebook page or email me at joinmeforcoffeeblog(at)gmail(dot)com.


Holly said...

Great post Jamie! I guess I need to get that book. And I totally agree about the battles. If you let them have their way once it definitely sets a pattern.

Jamie said...

Oh you totally should! Get a copy and completely mark it up. Take notes on the pages, underline things that apply to your situation, make it very personal for you and your kids and it will be a huge help. I love my copy and am planning on reading it again very soon for a refresher course! :o)


Keri at Growing in His Glory said...

I have a strong-willed almost three-year-old daughter and like you, I am not a strong-willed person. It has been a struggle to understand and mother her correctly. My husband and I are at our wit's end at times because of the silly things she wants to fight over. You are so right that you cannot give in no matter what! And I agree also that you choose your battles wisely. You can't fight her on everything or else you WILL break her will, and like you and Dobson says, you have to harness the will, not break it. Thank you for your post because it encouraged me that even though the days are long and difficult right now, they will get better and one day our daughters will want to do something amazing and they will because of their strong wills. Blessings!!

Jamie said...

Keri, i'm so glad this post gave you some encouragement! I have to say, with my daughter, 3 was such a hard year. I think her and I spent most of that year fighting, it seemed like every single day she woke up determined to win. Also we worked really hard to potty train her that year which of course she saw as a battle. She actually did not potty train until she was 4 1/2 because she was determined to not let me win that fight.

Once we got through that battle though she became a different kid! Now that's not saying that we never have battles because we do and i'm sure we always will. But, that was the biggest battle in her mind and until I "won" she still saw herself as the one in charge in every other battle we faced.

I suggest you and your husband both pray very hard over her. Ask God to show you exactly what she sees as a battle and ask Him to give you the strength to fight every fight that you should. Sometimes we don't see the situation as the battle that they see it as, so they end up "winning" without our even realizing. Does that make sense? I'll be praying for the strength of a strong willed parent to rise up in you, and for you and your daughter to have an amazing and beautiful relationship!!