Dealing With Strong-Willed Children

Do you have a stubborn or strong-willed child at home? Are you dreading getting them into routine for the school year? Do they fight with you about what to wear? I too was one of those children. Good thing my Mom had a lot of patience, love, and innovativeness. 

Let’s just say I was very aware of what I liked to wear and what I didn’t. My parents were great at teaching my brother and I from an early age how to take care of ourselves. We had to help with chores around the house and get ourselves ready for the day as much as we could. My Mom and Dad both worked full-time. My Dad was up and gone early so my Mom had to get herself and us ready each morning, which was difficult. So, it was time for us to learn. 

With that though came a lot of independence. I felt I could often do more than I should. Having a strong-willed personality mixed with independence gave my parents a run for their money at times. But they were always a step ahead of me, thankfully. They were extremely loving, but very firm with us in certain things, which was a good thing, and something I’ve come to greatly appreciate. 

Well, the days arrived for me to go to school. I’d see my rough farm play clothes and want to wear those. My poor Mom would try to plan out what I would wear to school so she could efficiently get us ready in the morning. She would work with me to pick something out and we’d agree it was good. But, every morning, I would have switch plans in my mind. This led to us battling it out and being late. 

Finally, the day came that she and I had enough. We did our routine. I got ready in the clothes we picked out the night before. Then I spotted a shirt I would play in that had a stain on it. I decided in my mind that was what I wanted to wear. We were in a rush. Mom told me to get in the car, when the tantrum commenced. No, I wanted to change. She saw the shirt I wanted to wear and told me no. That was my play clothes. I crawled under a little table we had for us kids in the kitchen and hung onto the legs refusing to leave in the outfit I was wearing! My Mom, tired of dealing with this, picked the table up with me attached, pried my little fingers from it, and firmly carried me out to the car.

She had a good cry and then decided that was enough. A new plan was going to ensue. That night, she moved all my school clothes into the closet, along with my church clothes. All of my play clothes went in the dresser. Then she explained to me that I could choose whatever I wanted to wear to school out of the closet each day.

Problem solved. I gained my independence and wore what I wanted. Thankfully, I was mostly good at picking things that coordinated, from what I can remember. The mornings went smoother, and my Mom and I were spared the unnecessary arguments.

I’d also like to be a big helper. I had a little kitchen set growing up. My Mom decided to move it into the kitchen. When Mom made dinner, I would “cook” in my little kitchen set alongside her. That way I felt like I was helping and doing stuff too. As I got older, she had me help with basic tasks for the meal. This eventually built into teaching me how to cook and make meals for myself and the family as well. 

Fast forward about twenty years. I was in Ireland helping a couple missionary families. They both had new born babies and lots of responsibilities to manage. I had the privilege of stepping in, minding the children, making some meals, cleaning, and helping out where I could to take a load off of them. 

While at one of the houses, I noticed that their four-year-old was causing a bit of a stink. She didn’t like a lot of what they ate and was often tricky to deal with around meal time. I noticed that she also had an independent and strong-willed personality as well. 

With her mother’s permission, I reorganized their kitchen to create a better workflow. One of the things I did was put all of the kids’ dishes, cups, and cutlery in one of the lower corner cupboards. When it came to meal times, I had her daughter get her own dishes out and bring them to the table. 

Then, while preparing dinner, I had her help. She learned how to peel potatoes. She ended up getting a little cut from the peeler, but we put a pretty bandage on it and kept going. One thing to note is that this girl did not like potatoes. The parents would often have to make another side dish for her to make sure she had enough to eat. That night, after helping me make the potato dish, she actually ate it. All because she had the excitement and pride of cooking it. 

I realize this takes patience on the parents’ parts. But perhaps these little innovative tricks will help you in the long run. Sometimes taking a moment to be creative and think about what’s really causing the morning fights can help you have a better understanding of what to change and how to make the mornings more efficient and smoother. Often times, little children want their independence and to learn how to help. They want to feel like a “big kid”. If you can implement little changes like these now, it’ll actually develop great life skills in them for the future. 

Thanks to my Mom for never giving up and always having the upper hand. Thank you for your patience and always thinking of new ways to teach and work with me rather than giving in to my wants. I feel I’m a better person today because of it.

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