There are a handful of topics that I consider myself to be an expert on. One of those are strong-willed children. I have had exactly 9 years, 7 months, and 3 days of intense training in this area. My training doubled approximately 5 years, 7 months, and 14 days ago when my second strong willed child screamed her way into my house. So if that doesn’t make me an expert, I don’t know what does.
I haven’t written any books on the subject yet because those types of books have to be written once the child moves out. One can’t possibly accomplish writing a book until they leave. But in the meantime, here are 5 things to remember while raising a strong willed child…or two if you are as blessed as I am.
- The desire behind nearly everything they do is control. Good behavior, bad behavior…it doesn’t matter. They want to control all of the things. And I say, just let them when it’s reasonable to let them. Be selective about the hills you allow them to slay you on.
- Their love is every bit as fierce as their hate. But the two cannot exist at the same time. It really is in your personal best interest for them to love you more often than not.
- * You can’t break their spirits. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve read that you must be cautious not to break the spirit of a strong willed child. That makes me laugh. The spirits of truly strong willed children can’t be broken. Their spirits can be wounded temporarily, not broken.
- Prison is a real place. Sometimes this thought alone is the only thing that keeps me somewhat in line.
- They will eventually move out. Unless they refuse to move out. I’m already aware that I may have to sell my house and move and not tell them where I have moved to.
And if this stuff makes you roll your eyes or think for one moment that I am a pushover, congratulations…you don’t have a strong-willed child. If you think you *might* have a strong-willed child, you don’t have a strong willed child. When you have one, you know it. There isn’t a shred of doubt in your mind. And when you have two or more, may God have mercy on your soul.
*And regarding #3, it probably is possible to break their spirits, but not with acceptable and legal parenting practices. Obviously if a child is abused, their spirits can be shattered into a million pieces. I’m not talking about that.
I noticed you tonight in a packed restaurant. I glanced at you a few times. And I smiled. You caught me glancing at you. I think I made you feel self-conscious. I’m sorry.
I wasn’t looking at you for pervy or judgmental reasons. Not at all. I glanced at you because I was a breastfeeding mom a long time ago. Because I still mourn that I just had the one child that I *could* breastfeed. Because I saw a beautiful mommy loving her baby. Because you are brave. I wish I had been more brave like you. Any time I see a parent being an amazing parent, I kind of want to sneak a peek. I want to cheer them on. I wanted to tell you these things, but that might have been awkward. So instead, I made you feel uncomfortable and then I left without you knowing why.
When I see a Grandpa tickle his grandkid, when I see a Daddy carefully put his little girl’s hair behind her ear, when I see an older sister grab the hand of a little brother to walk across the street before her mother tells her to, and yes, when I see a mommy breastfeeding her baby… those are just some of the beautiful moments in life that I want to actually notice.
You shouldn’t have to be brave to openly feed your child in public. But you are brave. May you continue to be brave no matter how many glances you get. ❤
Sounds gross, right? Loins. Just the word sounds slimy and unappealing. It’s a really old school phrase that basically means to get your tunic (men) pulled up and out of the way to prepare for a fight. I’m going to compare it to the phrase (ladies) to “Put your big girl panties on.” Roll up your sleeves, crack your knuckles, grit your teeth, and get ready to stand your ground. Take on the day. Take on the problem. Get ready to fight.
I think many of us have some things we need to fight for. Right now, I feel like I need to fight for my kids’ innocence. That is my battle ground right now. That’s a fight I’m not prepared to lose. And I will gird up my loins (do girls have loins) and fight. We’ve been through some rough patches where we had to fight for our marriage. We’ll be there again, I have no doubt. Maybe we need to fight for our health. Maybe we have friendships we need to fight for. Maybe we need to fight for our integrity.
And when it comes to these kind of fights, I think these things are important to remember:
- Prayer is seriously a great line of defense. (And I admittedly don’t do enough of it.)
- We need a good support system.
- Humility is our ally. Pride is our enemy.
- When in doubt, just tell the truth.
- Limit distractions.
And just for fun, here’s an illustration of how to literally gird up your loins. It’s a good thing guys now have Hanes. This looks complicated.
When we moved Jack from the crib to a toddler bed, all I had to say was “Stay in your bed” and he did just that. He rarely ever got out or whined or cried. He just didn’t. And I thought I was so awesome.
Then there was Mikey. (dun..dun..dun…) When we moved Mikey from his crib to a toddler bed, it was kind of a nightmare. He fell asleep on the floor almost every night. He screamed. He cried. He threw toys. He banged his head on the floor. When we moved him from the toddler bed to a twin bed, it was worse. I would sit in the hallway outside his door so he could see me until he fell asleep. He didn’t regularly fall asleep in a bed until he was probably 3 years old or so. He would fall asleep on the floor or a chair or the couch. He was and sort of still is a huge pain to get to sleep. I stopped thinking I was awesome long ago.
Brittany came to us already sleeping in a big girl bed. She’s only gotten out of her bed a handful of times. She’s cried at bedtime more than a handful of times, but nothing out of the ordinary for a 2-3 year old. She wasn’t easy before she came to us, and not for several months in, but she’s easy now. Pretty much.
And now there’s Katie. She screams when we put her in her bed. She kicks the wall. She throws everything out of her bed and then gets mad because she wants it back. She wakes up in the morning screaming at the world. She’s pretty much done this for the last 15 months. We just took the rail off of her crib last night. She got out once and she got in trouble. She woke up this morning and didn’t scream. She just played until I got them out of their room. Tonight she hasn’t gotten out of her bed yet, but she screamed for about 10 minutes. Now she’s just in there talking trash. She’s temperamental, but nothing like Mikey was at this age. She’s strong-willed, but it’s laughable compared to Mikey.
So it looks like we are officially out of the crib stage FOREVER! Now if I can only get Katie potty trained, we’ll be golden.
So either it’s because I’m feeling extra guilty about things left undone with my kids or it’s because I’ve really got SO MUCH other work to do that I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to deal with it…
Either way, I thought up this chart in the bathtub this evening and I’m going to give it a whirl. I’ve made sticker charts to hold my kids accountable before and we didn’t stick with it for very long. But I’ve never made a chart for my kids to hold me accountable. And honestly, I’m a little skeered. It may seem to some that this chart is just sad. A chart to make yourself spend 30 minutes a day with each child? You don’t do that already?? No, I’m afraid I don’t. Not undivided. Not without trying to sneak off to eat or edit photos or text somebody or clean up something gross or get on facebook. There are days that I don’t spend much time with them individually at all.
There are days that I go to bed thinking, “Did I even hold Katie today other than just to carry her out to the car 50 times?” “Did I sit with Brittany for even five minutes and read to her?” “Did I do anything with Mikey today other than just bark at him?” “Other than homeschool, did I listen to anything Jackson had to say today at all?” Did I? I lay awake at night thinking about these things. I say that I will do better the next day and I don’t. And I just think that I need to do better. My kids deserve better.
So, starting tomorrow, my kids are going to be in charge of helping me step it up a few notches. I’m not sure at this moment if this chart is too ambitious or not ambitious enough. But I feel like I need to start somewhere. Thoughts? I’d love to hear them. If you click on it, I think you can see it better.
If I had it to do all over again, I’d pray more with my kids. I’d lift them up more. I’d abandon the housework and play with them for hours on end. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t overreact. I’d let them glue macaroni all over the walls. I would remember what’s really important…all the time. If I had it to do all over again, I’d be a perfect parent. I’d have perfect kids with no resentments towards me. I’d have kids who have the fondest childhood memories of any kid.
When I hear the phrase “If I had it to do all over again, I’d….” my ears close up. I stop listening. Because I’m pretty sure that if you had it to do all over again, you’d scramble to do your best just like you did the first time around. You’d fail. A lot. You’d know the right things to do and you wouldn’t do them all over again. You’d love your kids the best you knew how and every night lay in bed wishing you’d done something different, only to do the same stupid thing the next day and the next and the next.
I appreciate advice from people who have traveled this road. I really do. But sometimes it’s apparent to me that parents remember their childrens’ growing up years with far more fondness than the reality that was. They remember themselves better. They remember their children sweeter, more obedient. They remember themselves often as “uninformed” rather than overwhelmed. If only I’d known… then I would have done…
I love my kids dearly. I play with them often. I treasure them. They are my world. But I’m pretty sure that if the phrase, “If I had it to do all over again…” comes out of my mouth, it will be followed by “I would fall into sinking despair because that was the hardest time in my life and I don’t want to relive it.”
Instead of telling me your perfect scenario if you had it to do all over again, how about tell me what you did? Tell me what you did that you feel good about. Tell me how you failed. Tell me how you think those failures have affected your kids. Be honest with me. I won’t judge you. I don’t need your hypothetical Candy Land dream that’s unattainable. I don’t need your beautiful, but false painted picture of how it was when you raised your kids. As well meaning as you are, that doesn’t give me hope. I just need you to shoot straight. I just need you to help me feel less crazy.
They tell me to blink and they’ll be grown. Well, I keep blinking…