Today we continue our series “Parenting a Strong-willed Child” with a contribution from Ryan. Ryan is a husband, and father who loves God and desires to serve Him. He loves working with youth and sharing God’s love to everyone he meets. You can view some of Ryan’s other contributions to the Parenting Weekends here and here.
Here is what Ryan has to say about his experience parenting a strong-willed child.
When I think of a strong willed child I think of them as a child that can be reasonable but opinionated and steadfast. So the child has certain ideas, opinions and concepts that they hold to be true and they hold to them feverishly until they are reasonably convinced otherwise.
There’s a saying which goes “bend the tree while it is yet young”. The training of the child must begin in the littlest years. “… but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) But even if you begin at a later age, once you have made that stand to train your child in the right way, seeds will be sown, that will bring forth fruit.
In the case of a strong willed child I would offer these suggestions:
First, get to know your child. It may seem odd but sometimes life’s busy schedule keeps us from really knowing what they like and dislike. When we really know them then we see their needs and we can really influence them for good. A strong willed child is very independent, they like things a particular way and they usually see the world through a narrow lens. Let me also say that a strong will is neither good nor bad but by development it can go either way. That why parental influence is extremely important.
Secondly, I would suggest a change in the mindset of the parent. Parents usually view noncompliance and disrespect as punishable in the harshest manner; usually because it occurs publicly and embarrasses us; I have been there many times. But if we accept that the child has a need for evidence before he/she changes their mind then we would operate differently. We can calmly teach that child how to disagree in a polite way, while still obeying. I often have to tell my son that if mommy or daddy tells him to do something that he doesn’t like, he can respectfully talk to us after he has obeyed..
Thirdly, give them responsibility. Since the child is strong willed it suggests that they may be knowledgeable and intelligent and love taking charge. These kinds of children love responsibility. Give them responsibility within clearly set guidelines. They need to be taught from experience because they seldom take a parent’s say-so. My son is a big brother and boy does he love that role. He almost goes above and beyond to protect his little sister. It’s too cute. And the lessons he learns from caring for her are far more effective than me telling him because he is very opinionated. He has an idea for everything and that idea must be tested.
Lastly, be patient with them. They are children. As parents we overlook this fact very often. We forget they have feelings and live in their world. They don’t see it as we do because they do not understand the complex stuff. They need our love and attention. Don’t over react, don’t shout, don’t give up in despair just see it as a blessing from God. Strong willed children are leaders because they stand for something while others follow. Train that child with patience, love and determination. See them as God sees them and you will have a leader that will stand up because of your training.
December 2015: How to raise compassionate children
This world has a lot of pain and suffering. How can we raise our children not only to feel saddened by the pain that others feel, but also to reach out to help others?