It is a well known fact that the strong willed child pushes buttons – pushes their parent’s buttons. Parents often quip to their children: You can’t control someone elses’ action, you can only control your own reaction. But do we ever quote that to ourselves? Our strong willed child pushes our buttons maybe, but they are not accountable for our response. They can’t control how I react – that is my choice. And I don’t always make the best choice.
Character is the quality of our response to people and circumstances. As a parent we need to respond to the strong willed child with character. No matter what they do, no matter how hard it is, we need to be a mum of strong character.
6 Character Traits for the Mum of a Strong Willed Child
Practical application of knowledge
Though the definition of wisdom is ‘application of knowledge’ as a Christian mum, I like this definition: Practical application of knowing Jesus. How does knowing Jesus affect, or change how you parent? Jesus offers us love, unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness and grace – the power of the Holy Spirit hovering over our hearts enabling us to change. This is a role model for us – we need to offer our strong willed child unconditional love, forgiveness and grace (which will help them to grow and mature).
Being willing to change my schedule and priorities in order to meet the needs of others.
We may think that being a mother is the very essence of being available but reality is we fill our time with other things and sometimes our children and their needs become secondary. This is a very real danger with the strong willed child because they are so determined to do everything their way we can start to feel unnecessary. But we are certainly necessary – we need to be available in body and spirit – ready to support, encourage, guide and praise them. Just because they are strong doesn’t mean they are independent or disconnected.
Taking the time to work through a situation without demanding a conclusion
Patience is closely tied with availability – when we are short on time, we become less patient. Patience means we respond with kindness. Patience means we wait for them to process. Patience means we encourage them to try again. Patience means we don’t cut them short, we give them time. Patience means we don’t react to them when they push our buttons! A strong willed child will push our buttons, they will push on the boundaries we set. As soon as we take this personally, we’ll lose our patience and be frustrated with them. Instead we need to understand that parenting this child is going to take time, and we need to be calm about it. Patience.
Understand the deeper thoughts and motivations behind an action or decision
Discernment is closely connected with wisdom. Discernment is about understanding what is going on in your child’s heart, discernment is about knowing when to choose one parenting tool over another, discernment is about choosing your battles and knowing when to be firm and when to be flexible. Parenting the strong willed child is not easy – but when we are committed to not reacting, but thinking before we make a decision, things will go better all round.
Treating others with honour and dignity
We show respect to people as we recognise that God created them, loves them, accepts and values them. Just as they are. And God calls us to love them as he does. So often we are clear on how we are to love other people, and yet we don’t give our frustrating, demanding, strong willed child the same love and respect that we do to other people. This is a little person, created in God’s image, we need to treat them with respect, honour, dignity. This doesn’t diminish our role as parent. It does mean every little facet of their personality, every quirk, every strength, every weakness….when we start with love and respect, we will respond differently.
Ability to recover from difficulties
It is hard not to take a child’s attitude to heart, to take it personally – but we must get over it. As the parent, as the older (and hopefully wiser) we need to find a calm and a strength that is not dependent on our child. When I think of resilience I think of shock absorbers – and parents of the strong willed child need to be shock absorbers. Letting the shocks of confrontation be absorbed instead of letting them bounce or ricochet off creating even more damage. Resilience is an inner strength that comes from knowing your security does not come from the people around you – it doesn’t matter what they do – you will still be true to yourself. This is the call for the parent of a strong willed child.
It is easy to fall into the way of thinking that says that this child needs to change and we take it on as our parenting task to help them change. And I don’t doubt there is room for that. A parent’s role is to teach their children what is right, and to give them the skills necessary to choose to live that way. But maybe, just maybe, them being our child is a way for us to grow and change as well. The strength of our parenting will always depend on the strength of our relationship with our children. When it comes down to it, we cannot demand that our child changes, we cannot demand that they do what is good and right.
Peter and I often reflect on the idea that when you show character, people begin to respect you, after time that respect grows into trust, after time that trust builds a relationship. When you have relationship with people, you have influence into their lives.
This is so crucial with parenting – and even more so with parenting the strong willed child. We need to be consistent in our own character – that will be the foundation for your child trusting you, and that will be the foundation for them listening to you and being willing to take on your instruction, advice, and encouragement today and in years to come.
We must be a mum with character. A mum who lives out her values, and doesn’t let the pushback from her child prod her into responding contrary to those values.
Over to You:
How do you remind yourself to stay true to your character when dealing with your strong willed child?