Monday, July 11

Discipline Part Five - Strong Willed Child

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.


Rebecca Ann said...

This is a great list of ways to help out a strong willed child. I can say this even though I don't have children, because I was that child and still can be! :) I need appreciation when I do something, I want to also do it on my own, but along side you at the same time. I like to be in on the everyday activities my mom does and I am 20. :) I like to lend a helping hand and be appreciated. Praise God we can pray for our children and the Lord helps us through tough times. Without my parents disciplining me in a Biblical way. I would have run the coop a long time ago. I am thankful for their taking the responsibility of raising me seriously even though I was strong willed. :)

In Christ,

Jessica said...

Great post. Our 6yr old daughter is a strong willed child. She's very loving and giving, but God love her, she is very strong willed too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. I've been enjoying this series but this one really helps. My husband and I are in the process of fostering to adopt two children and our 2 1/2 year old little girl is very willful. You can just see it in her eyes when she is told not to do something - it is like she is thinking maybe I'll try it any way. I have found that giving her helper tasks and choices do help but your thoughts confirm it.


Me said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Rebecca. I was a pretty strong willed child at times too from what I can remember.

Thank you, Before the Dawn - I love that mamas can encourage each other through our experiences and what we've learned based on God's word.

Sandra, the most stubborn child I ever parented was our two yr old foster daughter. There were so many *other* issues coming to the surface and playing out and it was such sweet relief to give her a job she could do and be proud of or give her a choice between 2 things to eat and see how happy she was to finally have some small control in her life. Blessings to you as you walk this road,

Treena said...

This is a great post, but for some reason you are not posting my comments here. Perhaps it is because I am against spanking and I hinted at that in my last comment. I don't think your strong-willed son threatening to spank his babysitter looks like he is never disciplined. It looks like he is being spanked and learning to hit people when they do things he doesn't like because despite all the wonderful things you are doing, this is what you are teaching him when you spank. Children learn the most from what they *see* us doing.

My child could have won the strong-willed child of the year award. Will. of. iron. But we stopped spanking him and his personality has transformed before our very eyes over the past year into a wonderful, compassionate little boy. Obviously you are not open to trying this, since you won't even post my comments here, and the parenting links you suggested are all very pro-spanking. It makes me sad because being open-minded to a more Biblical way of parenting that does not involve spanking is such a joyful blessing.

Treena said...

Something for you to consider--it wasn't that long ago in history that it would have been legal and sociably acceptable for your husband to use corporal punishment on you, as well as drunken sailors and criminals. Now, in 2011 the law protecs women, drunks, and criminals all from corporal punishment, yet, sadly, children--the most defensless in our society due to their size and dependance on us, are not protected against corporal punishment.

I encourage you and your husband to read the following article,

That's all I will say, I will not bother you or your blog again. All the best to you and your family.

Me said...

Dear Treena,
I can find no other comment from you in my comment moderation box. I've checked the spam box too and don't see another anywhere...
Perhaps it not going through is the cause of your offense?
Anyway, we have friends who spank and friends who don't and get along fine with each other and all love our children and are raising them to the glory of God, not finding it reason to build walls between Christians. Sean and I have researched this matter to the bone, oh so very much so, and so very carefully - after all these are *our* children, or more correctly and precisely - God;s on loan to us, and we do use the rare spanking as one form of discipline.

Treena said...

I am sorry for my assumptions, Hannah. The comments I posted prevously were thanking you for your beautiful encouragement on parenting. I asked you if there were anyway you could have this series on your blog as a button, for easy access. Even though we are oppossed to spanking, my husband and I stil do many similar parenting methods that you talked about and we strive to also be gentle, firm and loving, so I was very encouraged to continue on doing this, even though it can be hard. I just said that, as a mama, I struggle with following through with consequences out of fear because I was spanked harshly with wooden spoons, belts, and rubber hoses as a child and it has caused many problems for me as a child and even now as an adult.

You and I have different beliefs, but I think you have a beautiful blog and I have been following it daily for about 1 1/2 years now. Again, I am truly sorry for assuming.

Aritha said...

Dear Hannah,

I'm so glad you wrote about these ( sort of) children. As I read your words, there were tears in my eyes. My daughter, 11 years, is a child with a strong will and I thank you for the good tips!

Extra time to spend with this childs, is very good. This morning I shops with her. She felt like a princess. How often we are grumbling, just for/to these children?

It's difficult/hard to discuss with these children. About bedtime, about how long playing outside, about buying candy, ice cream.
I am steadfast. But also tired. Therefore I am grateful for your tip of prayer. Thanks!

Unknown said...

This is a good post! Thank you for the list of ideas!! :) How young do can you determine a strong-willed tendency in a child, do you think?

Me said...

Jedidja, yes, stay in prayer. Prayer is my lifeline.

They Call Me Mommy, I don't know. I know every child is certainly different. Our strong little fellow wanted his way only from about 18mos, I remember. A lot of his behavior, we knew, was out of fear and seperation anxiety - he had just had a traumatic experience and a six hour long operation and a lot of pain... We know God gifted him this personality...strong personalities are not bad when submitted to the Lord they are wonderful and as a babe he needed a fighting spirit.
Anyway, rambling...

SC Mom said...

Oh thank you for this. My 7 year old is a strong willed child and I struggle with her. Sometimes I think it is more her attitude than the strong will ;p Prayer gets me through the tough times also ;D I love your blog and check it daily. God bless you and your family.