Encouragement for Mamas of Strong Willed Children

Encouragement for Mamas of Strong Willed Children

By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

The other morning I was snuggling with my three year old daughter on the couch right after she had woken up. I love those times of the morning, where my kids are bleary eyed and will actually sit with me for extended minutes while I kiss their heads, rub their backs and just breathe in all of the their sweetness.

“I love you mom, so much… I could never even stop loving you!” she says to me. The emotion in my heart welled up in my eyes. “I know sweetie, I love you so much too, and will never stop loving you.”

And last night, my little boy, not even two, says to me for the first time, unprompted, “I yuve you mom,” and I can’t stop kissing him and saying, “I love you too, I love you too, so much.”  So much I think my heart will burst.

My babies, except they’re really not babies anymore. Three and a half and smart as a whip and sharp as a knife. 23 months, with a will of iron and the best laugh. Ever.

Is It Supposed to Be This Hard?

These little ones, my little ones, being a mom is the most rewarding, and hardest thing I have ever done. And these little moments are the ones that make everything else seems so insignificant. The moments where I hope that I must be doing at least something right. My kids know that I love them, and they love me in return. What more could I ask for?

These moments, although huge in their significance, are small in number and scattered between times, minutes, hours, sometime whole days it feels like, where my kids, how shall I say it – well let’s just say that those other times don’t bring out the best in me as a mother.

My kids fight me, resist correction, throw tantrums, exert their free and strong wills. All. day. long.

I will be honest that I often, daily, struggle with my role as a mother. I feel inadequate, ill prepared, for this enormous task of raising these little ones. And I often struggle with knowing if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m doing a good job, if my kids even hear or learn from anything I’m saying or trying to teach them.

And I get discouraged, and disheartened. Is it supposed to be this hard?

I often find myself needing some encouragement, a word, a thought, a smile from one of them, that tells me that it’s going to be alright. And that helps me to get from one moment to the next. Because with these kids, that’s the only way I can live – moment by moment.

Encouragement for Mamas of Strong Willed Children

Give God Room to Work in Their Lives

I was recently listening to a program on the radio about raising children with strong wills and the speaker was saying that as parents we cannot make our children do anything. This is one thing that I learned pretty early on as a parent of a strong willed daughter, but I still sometimes act as though I can.

This speaker said that the only one who can actually make us do something, who has control over our free will as a person, is God, but He doesn’t ever exert that power over us. He never makes us do something, even though He could. He always gives us our free will. So, who am I, as an imperfect parent, to think that I have more authority over my child than God and can force them to do something?

Instead I need to look to God, the one who changes hearts, and pray that he would change my heart first. That instead of trying to force my will onto my child, that I would step back, and allow God the space that His Spirit needs to work in my childrens’ lives.

All the while, crying out to Him in prayer, for His grace, and patience, and love, to show through me, and for my children that it would be Him, and not me, working in their little hearts and lives to mold them and shape them into the people that He wants them to be.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have this all figured out – not by a long shot. I am a very imperfect parent in need of as much grace, if not more, than my strong willed children. After all, I was am a strong willed child just like them (where do I think they got it from?) and in His love, my Heavenly Father never exerts his will over mine.

I am so thankful that God loves my kids even more than I do, and He has a plan and a purpose for their lives, there is a reason that He has given them strong wills. And even though it is so hard at times, I know that more than having perfectly obedient children, I want to encourage them, help them, and guide them to embrace all that God has created them to be.

Do you struggle with parenting your strong willed children? What encourages you in midst of the struggle?

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  1. Thank-you for sharing this today! This is definitely something I need to work on with my children, both the strong-willed one and the one who isn’t. 🙂 Two things I keep reminding myself are that each day is a new day for me to keep working on being a better mother and that God’s grace is able to work in my children no matter how many times I may blow it as a mom. I am so thankful to know that the God we serve is bigger than my mistakes!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement! I have 3 young boys. I thought my oldest was strong willed until my second came along. My struggle lately is that if I make a request or set a boundary his automatic response is: “no”. Without even thinking about what i said. I’ve been trying to make him aware and to perhaps say “okay” more often than “no”. Like you said we can’t make our children do anything and I know they will never be perfect but I also find myself under the delusion that I can make them do what I want and they still have a shot at perfection. 😉

  3. So powerful . Thank you for pouring your heart out to mine. That was God’s reminder to me of the blessing that my 9 kids are , not that I forgot but I should embrace the individuality in each of them. I know my kids don’t realize this yet but God has used them to teach me more about myself than some days I care to admit . I loved your entry today thank you

  4. While it is hard to parent a strong willed child, it helps to know that being strong willed is not necessarily bad. God may be preparing them for something to do for him that requires a strong will. Also strong willed children are less likely to be led astray by their friends, as they feel very strongly about what they believe in. You need to guide and teach them to channel that strong will into doing good things.

  5. Thank you for this challenge and encouragement. I need to remember that it is my heart that first needs to be changed!

  6. agreed, I so needed to hear this. I have a strong willed 4 yr old. who is adjusting to the fact that his little brother (1) has just discovered his will, and it is also strong. My days lately seem to revolve around quelling disputes and helpping the older be kind to the younger and the younger not pester the older. I feel like every day I hear “NO!” more than I hear “yes.” and “You are making me SO angry!” more than I hear, “I love you”.
    Mornings are our sweet spot too. before the world gets in the way. We have some time to enjoy each other.

  7. Thanks for this. I feel like I could have written this post myself. 🙂

    I have a very spirited almost 5yo and a 1yo who is very different, but also strong willed in his own way. I have found that working on “me” and my attitude has been the key to enjoying them more.
    I have read a lot of parenting books. Raising Your Spirited Child is hands down my favorite and has given me so much insight into my oldest. (I swear she wrote the book about him. LOL) I’m reading Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline right now and am finding some good things to work on.
    I thank God daily for His grace!

    1. @MamaK, Thanks for the book recommendations, I’ve been looking for some good books to read on parenting strong willed children and I’ll definitely have to check those out!

  8. Definitely something I needed to wake up to this morning! We had a battle with the plants last night– my 18 month old is drawn to our veggie garden and wants to “peek!” (pick) everything. After what I thought was an effective time out, he stood right back up, ran over to the garden, and did it again!! I agree that it’s all about examining our own hearts and allowing God to work in us and in our children. When we surrender to that truth is when we’ll find peace : )

  9. My strong willed child is now a grown, beautiful, woman of nearly 27! If I can offer any encouragement, it’s that this strong willed child who says “No!” daily with hands on hips, who is the boss in every crowd, who challenges you at every turn; is the one that will grow up to be a child with convictions and leadership skills. The one who follows the rules and most likely the one who follows the heart of God. It’s very hard to see past the early years of life, but as my son weds his bride this Friday, I can attest that the time you hold them in your lap is short. Very short. The time you spend on your knees is forever!

    These years will pass with the blink of an eye. Make memories every day. Hold them as long as you can. Teach them that love is unconditional and that they can never do anything to make you love them less. Do your best as a parent and leave the results to God. He loves them so much more.

    1. @Diane@Peaceful Acres Farm, That is the most beautiful and inspiring response!!!! Thank you for lifting and lightening my heart. My sister and I were just discussing the ‘trenches of young motherhood’ last night and I am going to pass along your comments along with the article. We both have some precious strong willed spirits under our watch! Thank you so much 🙂

    2. @Diane@Peaceful Acres Farm, So true! I love this post… I have three very strong willed children, who are each very different except for that trait… Making sure they know how much they are loved, and to continue to teach them has been our approach, and while we have had plenty of difficult times (we could share many stories!) we are seeing them develop as loving compassionate people, and strong leaders. Now they’re 14, 17 and 20 and life is much easier.

  10. Thank you for this beautiful post. I have 1 especially strong willed child and your post really hit home with me. Thank you for the encouragement.

  11. Every year, I think that my strong willed child will “get better” and every year it gets worse. I am always needing encouragement to not give up.

  12. Thank you so much. I have 5 boys and 2 are really strong willed. (an 8yr old and a 3yrold) Some days I wonder if I am doing anything right with them. I really love this post and it did give me encouragement today. (and the point that really hit home: I AM a strong willed child with God!)

  13. Oh thank you! This was exactly what I needed. I was praying desperately yesterday simply, “God help” (yeah… it was one of those days with the kids). I woke up this morning with the thought that I wanted a day off from being a mommy and then this pops up in my news feed on Facebook. Thank you. I needed this encouragement, especially today.

  14. It’s important for children to learn to submit to the will of their parents, in the same way that we need to learn to submit to the will of God. The Lord will chasten us (immediately or eventually) if we are not obedient to Him. I guess I’m confused as to where discipline comes into play when you’re allowing your children to work out this submission on their own. Yes, God never exerts His will over our own, but He has placed parents in the lives of children to train, instruct & discipline, not just to observe them as they freely do whatever they choose. What should the response then be if you instruct your child to do something and they refuse? In my opinion, this is the time to give correction for disobedience, and teach the child that whether they desire to or not, they must submit to the authorities God has placed over them.

    1. @Erin,
      I often wonder the same thing. I think that as parents we are called to train and discipline our children. However, I think we can do that and still show them the grace and love that is showered upon us.
      I always have to question myself, as a strong willed Mama. Is it about me wanting control or about what God wants? Am I disciplining my child in a loving way that shows them love and grace? Is MY attitude in check when disciplining them?

    2. @Erin,
      I am so glad you wrote this. Kids are always going to be strong willed until the parents decide that they must discipline and have that child respect their authority over them. It is hard, it will sometimes hurt, but it is worth it in the end and something God calls u to do, to train our children to be obedient stewards. Our kids do not control us. We don’t control them, but they need to listen and obey, no excuses. There will be bad days, but that doesn’t mean we just overlook their bad attitude because its a “bad day”. Its the perfect opportunity to correct, get right to the heart of the matter and turn the child in the right direction again.

      That being said, I still have yet to live up to this with my own stubborn toddler. And looking back I was foolish to let him control me for so long. I wish I had known how to give discipline when it was needed- from the start. And that doesn’t mean we are unloving about it, giving discipline is loving in and of itself as long as we are doing it out love for that child, and not out of anger.

      1. @Shyla,

        Hi Shyla!

        Married 10+ years, but sadly not a momma yet. We’d like a big family (say maybe 10 or more!), but in the meantime I’m trying to redeem the time by doing all I can to prepare for someday (to include lots of reading, observing, and questioning other moms on the topic). I’ve been blessed to help mother many little ones of friends and family over the years, so have a (tiny) bit of experience. Hope that doesn’t exclude me from the dialogue!

    3. @Erin, Hey, that balance is exactly what I’ve been deeply struggling with as well. I’ve recently discovered further insights that really helped and enhanced my perspective. “discipline’ comes from the same root as ‘disciple’. I had always somehow equated discipline with punishment for correction, and it wasn’t until I read a phenomenal book called ‘Heartfelt Discipline’ by Clay Clarkson (a wonderful christian father and leader) did the light go on for me that discipline was TEACHING: aka leading, modeling, tutoring the RIGHT BEHAVIOR – in heart and actions. Realizing that opened SOO many ‘AHAs’ for me and so many new connections. It’s the way the Savior ~ lead ~ his disciples: by precept and example. He rebuked man’s authoritarian method of force, and he instead works through love, invitation, longsuffering and patience, and reminds us that you never know when the sinner will turn and repent. I still use force some myself with strong-willed little ones, but am finding their spirits openning more as I apply gentleness, time to teach, and love. So much better!!!! So much to learn in learning how to lead!! 🙂

    4. @Erin,
      Thanks for your thoughts Erin, I am not trying to imply that there is no discipline necessary for strong willed children, but as Beth mentioned, as a strong willed person myself, I have to walk the fine line between true discipline and teaching and training my children to make the right choices, and just trying to “win” the fight. I think you will learn as a mother that there are simply times that you have to choose your battles.
      This post was meant more as an encouragement for those times when as mamas of strong willed children we are weary from the “fight”. I don’t want to fight with my kids, and when our wills match up against each other, that’s sometimes what can happen. So, in those instances, I have to check my own strong will before God, and make sure that I am submitting to Him and His call for me to love and extended grace to my children in the same way that He has towards me.

  15. Thank you so much! Just what I needed! I screamed like a “mom”ster at my son yesterday and felt so terrible. Your article reminded me of what I already know and that I can influence and help, but they need to be prompted from God too. Gonna keep praying and doing the best I can 🙂

  16. What a delightful read! You are on the right path – hang in there with God. I am on the other side of raising strong willed children, but I well remember those days. 🙂

  17. Our kids are almost exactly the same age! My daughter will be 3.5 in July, and my son will be 23 months next week. They are both very strong-willed.

    I often think, how wonderful it will be when they are older! My daughter will never cave to peer pressure. She really doesn’t care what others think or say or do. She won’t hesitate to stand up for HER beliefs, for what she knows is right. That is really encouraging to me, to know that the characteristics that make her “difficult” now will serve her so well in the future.

    Honestly we allow our children to talk to us and reason with us. We encourage questions and discussions most of the time (some things, of course, are not optional). And although it can be frustrating, we’re also delighted to hear how their minds work and how much they know and have figured out on their own! It’s fun to revel in these moments and try to forget the bad.

    I have also made an effort in the last few months to speak more gently and be more consistent, and discipline more gently too when I can. They are reacting to me now in a more sensitive and aware way than they used to. My moods drive theirs. If they are being rough I can say, “Ow, that hurts! Be careful!” and they will stop. They will say “Hurt?” (well, my son does, my daughter can say more) and offer kisses. They’re more likely to cry when I do discipline them now, because they are very upset that they disappointed me. My daughter shares her feelings verbally, which I acknowledge and encourage.

    We definitely have bad days and times — of course! But things are better than they used to be. (Try last night, when I was trying to make dinner, my son was fussing, and my daughter shook a locked cabinet hard enough to knock a bunch of mason jars down — breaking one. Ooh, I was not happy!! When my husband got home I said, “Take them away.” But dinner got cooked and everyone was fine.) I just like to think more about the good times than the bad because they are my world and I’m so proud most of the time, even when they do drive me crazy! Positive thinking helps. 🙂 (Oh, and real-life friends who are dealing with the same thing.)

    1. @Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama, You’re doing a GREAT job there, Momma!! 🙂 I am finding the same thing in our family as well. My Tone sets the whole home, and gentleness opens their little hearts and spirits so beautifully…. I love it. Keep it up!!! 😀

    2. @Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama,
      Thanks for your thoughts Kate! I am learning more and more about gentle discipline too, and find that my kids are much more receptive to that. You are so right that often our own tones and attitudes as mamas are reflected in the attitudes of our children. And I love what you said about how your daughter’s strong will will serve her well in the future. I think the same will be true for my daughter too. It’s always good to look for the positives!

  18. As a mother of 5 VERY different children I have to remind my self, and pray, that god gives me the stregnth I need to sit back and let them grow into the men he would have them be. Every morning I pray and thank God for my blessings ,no matter how trying they are. lol

  19. I have an 18 month old son who is VERY busy and VERY strong willed. He’s either very happy or very mad, there is no emotion in between. Some days, I tell my husband, “YOUR son did this”, as if I can take no credit for him. Haha. Anyway, one of the most encouraging things for me is that I also have an almost 5 year old daughter that went through a very strong willed period from age 3-4. I remember that we got through it and on the other side, she is great. I remember hard days of consistent discipline, patience and prayer. It all paid off. So I will do the same thing with my son, consistency, patience and prayer. We’ll get through it. One day!

  20. How perfect this was this morning…I was just posting on Facebook how the Lord woke me with the thought that I need to raise my children with a smile, that I spend too much time frowning and concerning myself about discipline (not that discipline is wrong, but my focus should be joy instead). I want my children to look back on their childhood and think of it as a time of joy, that their parents laughed with them and were excited about watching them grow…not frustrated and tired by the inconvenience of constant discipline and struggle.

    I really appreciate what you said about not being able to MAKE them do anything. If I examine my heart, I believe and act as if I can make them bend to my will. But how often have I refused to bend to the will of God? Again, it is an attitude of our heart as parents. I can rant and rave and be angry that my children don’t obey, or I can be calm and peaceful, while still disciplining and providing a measure of justice in their little lives…often with a smile. Which will be more effective in the long run? Considering that God does not rant and rave at me…I think a peaceful, matter-of-fact approach during times of distress would work better. And of course, the rest of the time, a smile, a giggle, and lots of “I love you’s!”

  21. I always feel better when hearing stories that other people do not have “perfect” children either. I have one son who is now 19 and I am a single parent. I love my son, but he was always a very strong-willed child. ALWAYS. At two, he was addicted to Animal Planet. One day he refused to get dressed so that I could go out and run errands. He was afraid he would miss something on tv. So, I dragged him out of the house in his Batman pajamas and walked all over town getting very strange looks. When he was 3 he informed me that he was going to have me arrested for child abuse. I had just yelled at him because he’d painted pink nail polish on the oak floor of the rented apartment we lived in. The next day I took him to the police station and told him I was going to leave him there so they could find him a new family to live with. He reconsidered and decided I was ok. On the other hand, when he was old enough for me to leave home when I was working, he would call and ask what I wanted for dinner. Granted, it was only something he could microwave, but it meant a lot to me to have a hot meal prepared for me by a son who obviously cared. But the battle rages on. He wants to be his own person and bristles whenever he discovers that in many ways he is just like me. He also suffers from depression, like most of us in my family do. As a teenager he dropped out of high school, got addicted to drugs, and a month ago, swallowed a whole bottle of anti-depressants. We got him to the hospital in time, Thank God, and I think maybe, just maybe, we’ve turned a corner.

    Now, I’m not telling you this story to bring you down, or to make you think there’s no hope and it will just get worse. I guess I’m saying that it may be a long battle. But there are so many moments that make it so worth it. My son shares new “indie” movies and music with me – he invites me into that part of his life. He lets me read his poetry, stories and blogs. He sat down and patiently explained to me why people became “cutters” (he was one).

    I’ve been told to cut him loose, kick him out, wash my hands of him. He is my child. He will always be my child. And I will always love him. Even at his most unlovable. We still argue. It’s like we’re looking at life from opposite ends of the road; my backward perspective of “been there”, his forward perspective of “I’m going to do this because you don’t know what you’re talking about”. And that’s ok. Oh, it’s hard, but our arguments make both of us think too. And, I want him to use that strong will of his to survive whatever life throws at him. It hasn’t worked all that well as yet, but with hope and faith I’ll keep hanging in there with him. Whether he likes it or not. He will always be my baby.

    1. @Heidi,
      Heidi — He WILL always be your baby, and there is ALWAYS Hope 🙂 Press on in your faith that God will do good things in your son’s life 🙂

  22. I have 2 boys with strong wills and I thought I’d get a break with my daughter. But I’m afraid not. SHe is 3 and showing her strong will more &n more lately. I get very discouraged. I pray a lot and the Lord sends answers and people into my life that give me strength. THis blog is one of them. Thank you.

  23. My children are strong willed too, especially my oldest one. We are learning how to deal with it in the right way. I think its compounded by the fact that she is so much like me in many ways.

  24. Almost 14 years into this parenting journey, I continue to ask, “Is it supposed to be this hard?” — and continue to fight those feelings of inadequacy. Really, though — I AM inadequate — which is why I need Jesus so much. I simply can’t do it in my own strength — and that’s part of the lesson I’m supposed to learn.

    I totally understand the questions/comments about discipline and obedience. But ultimately, no amount of discipline/correction/requiring of immediate obedience will change a heart. Discipline/training/instructing have always been my strong suit — but those primarily address behavioural issues. Only God can change the heart and I, too, have been learning (I’m SUCH a slow learner!) that it’s MY heart that He needs to change first. It’s hard. It’s a moment-by-moment process, and right now I’d give just about anything not to have to endure it. But this is where God has me — and it’s encouraging to hear from other moms who are floundering in the same waves of despair. We need to keep telling each other to reach out to the Only One who can rescue us!

  25. Thank you for this post. I have an 11 month old and some days are just so hard. How hard it is to be a mother isnt often talked about as it makes us feel like we’re bad mothers so thank you for sharing. Makes me feel so much better that I’m not the only one. Beautiful photos

  26. This was the perfect thing for me to read today – being a mom to two very strong willed children. I like the idea of praying to God daily for grace and patience… and to remind myself that I can’t change their personalities. God has a great plan for both of them… what a great prespecitve to have! Thank you for this article! It’s refreshing to know that my kids are not the only strong-willed kiddos out there 🙂

  27. truly what i needed to read today. Stuggling with a very strong-willed 2 year old, and I am an exhausted mama pregnant with baby #2… feeling nervous about having another little one to add to the mix, and wanting to be the best mama that God has called me to be. thanks again!

  28. The book Raising Your Spirited Child helped me tremendously with understanding my 3 year old son. I am much more at peace with his temperament and personality, and try to enjoy him every day, instead of battle with him.

  29. Thank you for posting this. We have been struggling a lot with our strong willed 4 year old. This was very encouraging and I just wanted to say thanks! 🙂

  30. I have an almost-three-year-old and I’ve been praying for God to mold his spirit into one of calm, rather than destruction. I need to add myself to that, too, thank you for the reminder 🙂

  31. I have a strong willed little girl too!! She is one year old, and thinks she pretty much rules the house and should get to do/eat/play with/destroy whatever she would like to at any given moment in time… Whatever she wants to do, she tries to do it, and if I physically remove her from whatever she is trying to do, a tantrum ensues 🙂 I do my best to be patient with her and explain her feelings to her in simple terms. I also try to explain to her how to deal with frustration, but it is difficult because she can’t understand what I am saying. So hopefully someday (soon) she will understand and learn how to control the emotions she feels herself. I have a hard time with things when I am not in control, so I am sure she gets this from me.

    I pray for patience, guidance and wisdom to deal with this difficult stage of learning independence (and learning limitations)… God has wonderful things planned for her life, I know this. Thank you for this post. I really needed it. Praise God for little blessings like this blog – and for our children who really and truly are such blessings to us 🙂

  32. I think one of the challenges for me and my (5) strong willed children… is the continually deciding of when it is time for me to “win” and when it is time to “let go”. At this point, I am encouraged that the letting go and not always having to “win” and believing in the best/ giving them the benefit of the doubt pays off in the long run, big time :).

  33. Thanks for this! My baby is only 4 months but refuses a bottle. Strong-willed? I think yes! So I know this is going to be a great post to continue coming back to in the future. And it’s a good reminder for the bottle thing now… it’s just not a huge deal in the long run. And I don’t need to try to control her or that situation so much.

  34. Thank you for this post, I have been praying about how to deal with my two youngest, they both have strong wills. As I read your post I though about how you can’t hold on to a strong wind but you can harness its energy and direct it for a useful purpose. That is my prayer for my children to take that will and direct it towards a useful purpose, His glory.

  35. These are all such good thoughts. You are all great mommas and I salute you (us!) for heart and endurance.
    I would like to observe though: it might be dangerous to become too focused on our own inadequacies as mothers. That can be paralyzing. We all do need to grow and improve, that’s true. But our children should be discipled/parented/taught/loved right now, without us waiting until we feel ‘adequate’ or ‘deserving’ of the role. I often feel tempted to overlook my children’s poor behavior or attitudes because I remember how spiritually immature I am myself. I know that I am a disobedient child of God’s, too. But that doesn’t mean I have no right to require my children to learn to be obedient. On the contrary- I don’t have the right NOT to. It’s biblical. They need to obey me because of the position I’m in as their mother; they’re not off the hook just because I am not perfect.
    My girlfriends are often asking for prayer for their mothering, or bemoaning that they obviously need more patience and grace for their strong-willed children. And I think: “Girl! Your kids were being really naughty! It’s their behavior and attitude that needs changing, not yours.” Grace and patience- yes, those are needed, but also action. Don’t be afraid of your kids, of setting off a tantrum, of making a decision they don’t like, or of them not ‘liking’ you.

    You and your children will all be happier and freer to experience the joys of childhood, if you establish early the firm (and reasonable) requirements of their behavior. When this is basically in place, there is so much fun and joy available to them! They don’t have to spend all morning testing your boundaries (they know those), therefore they have time to color and blow bubbles and play dress-up and read books and play tag with you…

    Both spiritually, and in childhood, real freedom and joy can only be found through obedience.

  36. thank you so much for writing this post. i can relate to so much of what you said. i have 2 strong willed children and often wonder if i’m doing anything right. i never thought parenting would be as hard but also as wonderful as it is. just wanted to say thanks for your honesty.

  37. Good post, and something I work on quite a lot. Several things help me stay balanced 1) remembering that the training is as much about God training me, as it is about God training my girls through me 2) Memorizing scripture 3) Knowing when to walk away because I am loosing my self-control 4) Don’t wait till things go wrong to train. Set up training moments when you are calm and they are calm and everyone is feeling well. They will be different depending on age. For a one year old it might be as simple and setting down a cookie and telling them not to touch it, and enforcing it until they obey. Think of the way good dog training works. They don’t wait till the dog is running away and the whole situation is out of control and the dog is about to be hit by a car to teach the dog to come. A good dog trainer teaches a dog to come under a controlled safe environment. 5) Don’t teach your children that you expect obedience only when you raise your voice and are loosing self-control or when you get to the number five. Don’t give any command you are not ready to enforce the very first time the command is given. Do this consistently and your child will learn to obey the first time a command is given in a calm voice.
    I have twins, both stubborn and head strong in there own way. And there have been days I have screamed and been the worst person I am capable of being, but I learn to forgive myself and do better the next time. And now at 15 months the girls come when I tell them to, wait when asked, put things back when told to. Consistency is hard work but it pays off.
    Two books I would recommend are “Train up a Child” and “Hints and child training” both have been a huge blessing to me.
    Finally I agree with your point that we cannot force our children to bend to our will (“Hints on Child Training” talks a lot about that) though we must punish for disobedience, but I will disagree on the point that God NEVER forces us to do his will. Sometimes he does, though most of the time he will not. Think of Pharaoh or Jonah, though their hearts never seem to change, God does MAKE them do his will. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  38. My goal in teaching my daughter, and my students, to obey and submit to me, is in preparation for them submitting to God. Right now, God deals with grace and gentleness, using it to win us and change our hearts so that we WANT to do the right thing– but one Day, on the Last Day, He will no longer approach with kindness. The Scriptures are crystal clear that every single knee– willing or not– will bow (Phil 2), and every single tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, like it or not. God absolutely will make everyone do exactly what is right. Parenting is done in light of that Day. It’s not about me exerting my will over my daughter to MAKE her pick up her toys- that would be sinful pride, exasperating my child. It is about me teaching her to submit herself to a will other than her own, (and I pray!) learning to make herself do things so that she is spared the terror of an angry, righteous Judge making her do them.

    A more experienced mom once told me to pick the lines I draw- so my kids don’t have to dance to avoid them, or feel totally cramped! But also, to draw the lines that I need to draw. If we don’t demand from our kids just for the sake of demanding, they will be more likely to respond in joyful obedience when it IS demanded. And at times, it is demanded.

    Two great parenting books I love are Ted Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” and “Don’t Make me Count to Three” by Ginger Plowman.

  39. I’m humbled by this post and in tears. I too am a strong willed child and have 2 strong willed daughters. I felt exactly like you…very inadequate in my parenting and frustrated that I’m always frustrated. Wanting to have well-mannered children (because I TOTALLY judge parents who’s kids are brats & don’t want people thinking my kids are & judging me…hypocritical I know) yet not wanting to be a psycho, Hitler-like control freak mom who is no fun & doesn’t allow my children to be who God created them to be. I forget about God (my independent side) and allowing him to take control…of me…so I can be the best mom in the world. Thank you for the reminder and for helping me know there are other mom’s like me. I love my girls more than anyone and am thankful God chose me to watch over them and train them for Him!

  40. I heard that radio show too…but I was running about and didn’t get to hear all of it. It really impacted me because my husband and I are both strong willed…our oldest daughter is SO obediant, and flexible, and easy to handle…but our youngest is very strong willed. So, we’ve had difficulties with her royal twoness the last few months. I am so blessed to read this. To be reminded by others in this walk to leave room for GOD to show them…Praise the Lord.

  41. God sent me to this post tonight; I have 4 children ages 6 and under and 3 of the 4 are most definitely strong-willed, and I continually feel like I am failing. My oldest still throws temper tantrums at times similar to our one year old. My husband and I are frustrated and at our wits end, both of us begging the Lord for guidance. We certainly have structure and discipline, but it doesn’t seem to do much good. The behaviours don’t change. My daughter (the oldest) says she has asked Jesus into her heart, but yet she is really struggling with not acting any differently, and then she beats herself up when she is done with her fits. I am just fearful that they will grow up and be stubborn against the Lord and not choose Him; while I cannot make them do that, I want that for them more than anything else in their lives. Thank you for the encouragement that you shared in this post!

  42. Thank you so much for the encouragement and the reminder! The hardest part for me is letting go of the controls and handing God the “steering wheel”, especially when it comes to my daughter. Understanding that sometimes, there’s nothing I can do, and that I’ve done all that it is in my power, now it’s time to tap into a higher power.
    Thanks again for a very uplifting article!

  43. I’m very blessed to come across this blog!!! My husband and I really needed the encouragement. I struggle with trying to understand my childs strong willed nature because my husband and I where both submissive children till young adulthood.I feel like I don’t relate to his diffiance, but I’m trying to appreciate the strong man I see in the future because of his will to stand up for what he wants. I DONT want to destroy his stong spirit but I want to also instill respect for others. Its an ongoing struggle for us but with God all things are possible, hopefully God will give us His patience in our time of need.Thank you all for reminding us we are not alone.

  44. We all feel like that right? I cannot count the number of times I wanted to strangle my oldest (now 4). But really, haven’t we done much worse to our Savior? You are right when you say imperfect… imperfect parents demanding perfection from their own children? I read Dr. Dobson’s popular book on Strong-willed children (can’t remember the name of it tho lol) and even though I didn’t think it was a great book, I took away one thing — pray that the Holy Spirit will take hold of your child’s will and show them how to be in control also. But us, we aren’t to break their will because, as you said, God meant it to be there for a reason. I’m definitely looking to write some things like this myself when I open up my website in a few weeks here.

  45. Thanks for posting this. I have two children as well and whilst my 6 yr old has not been super strong willed he’s given me a run for my money over the years. However my near 2 year old is more stubborn than I could ever imagine! This is just what I needed to read!!

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