“She’s going to be a leader!” proclaimed a voice from the long line for the women’s bathroom after BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). The strong-willed preschooler again exclaimed, “No!” as she refused to enter the open stall. Meanwhile, the mother adjusted her baby boy on one hip and held a door closed for the older daughter. Middle-child held firm, her stance as resolute as her attitude.
“Yes, she’ll be a leader,” another voice confirmed as the preschooler continued to resist. Mom patiently asked the little girl, “Please try to go.” Finally, strong-willed girl headed into the stall and the battle ended. The mother remained patient and calm, expertly dealing with all three children at once. Hearing that her daughter showed leadership skills probably did not encourage the battle-weary mother.
When middle-child finally obeyed, I felt a collective sense of relief from the waiting women. Like many of us in that line, I had faced challenges raising my own strong-willed children. There was so much I wanted to say to encourage that precious mother.
About five minutes later, I saw brothers M & T bolt toward the exit door without their usual mom-escort. I had met the two-year-old twins during occasional mornings spent helping with BSF leadership childcare. M & T are well-known and well-loved by the volunteers. We enjoy these smart boys, keeping them from climbing while trying to engage them with blocks or mechanical toys.
When we realized that H, their ever-attentive mom, was not nearby, another woman and I started chasing M & T. Silly conversation, turning the boys around, helping them look for Mommy—nothing could distract them from their march outside. H soon arrived and, with a breathless thank you, followed M & T through the exit door. Again I wanted to encourage that dear mother, who probably had a five-second conversation before her sons ran off.
My encouragement for moms of strong-willed children:
1. Your strong-willed child is a gift from God.
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3 NASB
Your sovereign God has rewarded you with the gift of this child. As Creator God, He knew both you and your child before He formed you in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). That means He knows what is best for all of you. Sometimes that truth is hard to hang onto. I certainly felt that way when my two strong-willed children overwhelmed me, especially when I parented alone for seven years. I had to trust and obey God, even when my parenting job seemed impossible. Dear Tired Momma, trust your sovereign God with all of life’s challenges, especially with parenting the child He gave you.
2. Your strong-willed child is a blessing to others.
Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me. Mark 9:37
Glancing from the boys’ Sunday-school room, I caught a glimpse of the second-grade girls across the hall. To my horror, two girls were jumping on the table—my daughter and her friend! In comparison, our energetic second-grade boys seemed fun, respectful, and manageable. Yet again, that confirmed my strategy. I volunteered to teach children for our church activities, as long as I didn’t have my kids in my class. Because I faced battles with my strong-willed children at home, I didn’t want to do that at church, too. I felt grateful to have help from other teachers who could impact my kids at church.
Twenty-plus years later, I can appreciate those God-given attributes of spunk, tenacity, and adventure in children. When not used in disrespectful or dangerous ways, those traits can be appreciated, nurtured, and guided. But maintaining perspective is tough when battles with your strong-willed child seem constant. Years ago, a woman named Lynne Jackson greatly encouraged me during our conversation. Now, Lynne and her husband Jim have a Bible-based ministry called Connected Families that helps thousands of frazzled parents.
God knows what character traits your children need for the future. Make sure that people dealing with your children do not squelch the very qualities that God created in them. Allow other people to teach and enjoy your children. And don’t be surprised when other people enjoy and are blessed by time spent with your children. Hopefully, that will give you encouragement, perspective, role models, and a respite. After surviving my own children, I now enjoy sharing Christ’s love with children—especially when they’re strong-willed.
3. God will grow your faith as you parent your strong-willed child.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:5-7
When we teach our children as God instructs, our focus on loving and serving God keeps us grounded in Him. Our faith will deepen as we draw closer to our Creator while parenting the children He gave us.
Dear Tired Momma, may you recognize your child as a gift from the sovereign God who created both of you. May God give you insight into your child’s character as you deal with strong-willed behavior in challenging situations. Even as you cope with parenting frustrations, may God reveal how your child blesses others. May the Holy Spirit grow His gifts in you (Galatians 5:22-23) as you follow His guidance in your parenting. I pray that God will refresh and encourage you in the ongoing journey of parenting.