I have been thinking for a while about writing on the subject of raising a strong willed child. Those of you who truly know us, know exactly which child I am speaking of. He is that strong willed, wired completely different from a compliant child, ready to take on anyone at a moments notice.
We recently went away overnight for our ninth anniversary and some very brave, very brave, friends offered to take our four kids overnight. Well the little strong willed fellow had a time out while there for something I don't recall and told Pastor Sam that when his Papa came back, he'd give Pastor Sam a big spanking!
Sean said to Sam afterward, "I bet if you didn't know us, you'd think that little boy was never disciplined..."
1. Disciplining a strong willed child is a whole nother ballgame.
Consistency is key. I've discovered that our small one has a constant need for boundary checks. I think his little mind must be constantly re-evaluating his world and wondering if everything is still the same.
2. Strong willed children have a need for power and appreciation.
We see our son at his best when he is given a task that only he can do. For example, he'll empty the entire cart of wood for the wood stove by himself. I would never expect any other three year old to empty a cart of firewood, but our son thrives on doing this, volunteering himself for the job. (He's also the size of a five year old). He also loves to add the water to the juice concentrate by himself and put clean dishes away.
We have a tradition of buying watch of the kids an ornament after Christmas each year to date and put away for when they have their own homes. This year, when our small strong willed one realized he had his own, he walked around the store with it saying, "I'm in charge of this. I'm in charge of this." Over and over, eyes gleaming.
Realizing that our son is wired this way, I'm learning to take advantage of it by giving him a set list of things to accomplish that are only for him to do. He gets upset if someone else intrudes on his helping territory.
3. Don't take the constant struggle for control personally.
This is a hard one for me as the Mama and I have to remind myself that as long as I am seeking God's will, praying for my son, and accepting my need for more patience with this child, I am doing the right thing.
4. Don't get shoved on the guilt wagon.
Parents with easy-going compliant children will not understand your situation. You'll get discipline suggestions, dirty looks, rolled eyes, and upturned noses. They place guilt and shame by insinuating that if you raised your child like they raise theirs, then your child wouldn't act the way they do. It's just their way of patting themselves on the back as parents.
5. Learn to ask questions and give options.
While sometimes I do need my son to do exactly as I ask, giving him options when I can helps a whole lot.
"We need to get dressed and brush our teeth now. What would you like to do first?"
"This morning you can have oatmeal with raisins or without raisins. Which would you like?"
Asking questions and giving options like these lets strong willed children have a sense of control.
I also have organized his clothes and drawers by outfits so that he can pick out his own clothes in the morning.
6. Strong willed children need to know what to expect.
Clearly lay out the path leading to a discipline or correction for them.
"Honey, if you throw yourself on the floor and scream when I ask you to _______, then that is showing me that you need help obeying. This is how Mama is going to help you remember to obey the first time."
Then acknowledge their feelings: "I understand that you want to play with your cars right now and so we'll find time for that later. Right now, it is time to obey and help Mama with what I've asked you to."
7. Pray constantly.
Seriously, this is how I survive. With four liner prayers through the day. "God, give me grace." "God, give me wisdom." "God, help me here."
Serious "give me" prayers but I don't think God minds regarding the welfare and raising of our children.