How would I know what a strong willed child needs? Well, I am was one. I gave my parents a run for their money, dug my heels in, and fought for every last thing I wanted. It wasn’t pretty. Since then, I’ve found Christ and hopefully matured a bit. But now I have four daughters. To say that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with a couple of them would be an understatement. I find myself thinking through what reached me as a young person, what I wanted to hear (even when I said I didn’t), and how I can use this to reach my strong willed ladies.
5 Ways to Reach a Strong Willed Child
- They don’t hear you when you raise your voice. Most likely, they’ve completely tuned you out and they don’t comprehend a word you say. Gentleness reaches through the brick wall much faster than volume. This one is first on the list, because I need this reminder the most.
- Threats are challenges, not wake-up calls. If I was told I’d better not ___ or else, guess what I did? That exact thing. Strong willed children want to hear what they can do, not more of what they can’t do. Use yes as a regular tool in your arsenal. Use no with grace and love.
- They want to figure it out. They will fail at it, but they need to know that you believe in them even then. They’re still learning, after all. God, relationships, clothing choices, sibling issues–they want to do it their way. (This is why number five is crucially important.)
- They may seem like they’re pushing you away, but strong willed children crave your attention. Find a way to relate or something you can do together. It will probably be something you don’t like. A new class you take together or watching their favorite book-turned-movie might not be your favorite thing, but endure it. The effort is what will win your child’s heart, not the outcome.
- Strong willed children need boundaries and clear ones. Make sure they know you are making those boundaries out of love. Remind them that you want the very best for them. Let them do their own thing within the boundaries. Stand firm against their persistent begging to change the rules.
We obviously can’t turn back the clock or change a single thing in our past. Maybe you have had a rough patch with your strong willed child. I know that I have! But God’s mercy and grace never end. We have a new chance every day to try our best with our children. Those strong willed ones might give us a run for our money, but God has given them to us for a reason. And those strong wills? When molded with grace and prayer, they turn those difficult children into amazing leaders. Have faith that God is able to complete his work in them.
Were you a strong willed child, and are you parenting one now? Share your ideas and experiences with us!