The Struggle of a Strong-Willed Child

About a month ago, we started to get some negative feedback from our daughter’s school on her behavior. The director started telling us how our 4 year old daughter was hitting, spitting, kicking and punching the teachers and other children. At first, I was a little shocked and wondered what happened to make her act this way. When she is at home or at church, we do not see this kind of behavior. And yes, deep inside, I thought “whatever, she is not acting this way; she is my little angel”. My daughter never behaved the way they described; ever. She tells me constantly how much she loves me, brushes my hair, gives me hugs and is kind to me.

Day after day, we would pick her up and get another incident report. She punched her friend in the face, she said a bad word, she kicked her teacher. By the end of the third week, I was exhausted emotionally and mentally. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I set up a meeting with the teacher and director and my husband and I went to talk it out. After about 45 minutes of chatting, we learned that our beautiful angel was struggling a lot more than we realized. We have known for a while that she was strong-willed and didn’t like change but it because apparent that those aspects were taking a toll on her emotionally.

To give you a glimpse of how strong-willed she is let me tell you about when she was first born. When she was first born, she would eat out of a bottle and breastfeed. So when we didn’t continue bottle feeding, we didn’t think it would be that hard to transition into it later on. Boy were we wrong. She would go 10 hours without eating until I came home from work. Often times, the babysitter, my mom or whomever was watching her, would have to drive to my work twice a day in order for her to get some food. So it is no surprise that she is strong-willed but we never knew that it had taken such a toll in school.

The teacher explained that when they moved from one station to another station, our daughter would act out in anger or if a friend sat too close to her after changing stations, she would then kick or hit that friend. Nap times were becoming difficult for the teachers and listening was a dwindling talent for her in class. So something had to change. The meeting with her teacher helped but I still felt like a failure as a parent and needed some encouragement. I had a few audible credits left so I purchased a parenting book on a whim. I did no research before hand nor did anyone recommend this book to us (God was working for sure!). The book is called “Parenting” by Paul David Tripp.

I want to share a few tips I have learned so far. We are far from being over this hurdle and I am only on chapter four but we have also learned so much during this first month and throughout this amazing book that I had to share it with other struggling parents.

  1. You are not alone. First, I want to stress to you that you are not alone. So often we hide the rough moments from others because we want everyone to think we have it together and when I struggled with the feelings of being a bad mother or not wanting to be a mom at all, it brought on a lot of depression. I mean it when I say I have had moments when I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be a mom anymore” or “Where did I go wrong?” So please, know that you aren’t alone. That is the first hurdle you need to face as a parent. Whatever you are going through as a parent, you are not the first one; I can promise you that.
  2. Don’t desire to change your strong-willed child. When I first ran into this a few weeks ago, all I thought about was changing her; but why? God created her with such a strength inside and although it comes out in this stage of her life as strong-will being negative, she can grow into an amazing, strong leader or an individual who’s strength can be used in other aspects of her life. God made her a strong child but He has a plan behind that strength.
  3. Identity is often discovered by watching others. Your child looks to you to discover their identity so when you tear them down rather than guiding them through this difficult moment in time, they might look at their strength/ strong-will as being a bad thing when they grow up. Never tell your child, “I wish you weren’t like this” for they will view themselves in a negative light.
  4. You have no power to change them. Only God can change the hearts of others and that includes your children. So instead of trying to change them, pray for them and with them. God’s grace alone has the power to change our children.
  5. Every day is full of opportunities to point towards God and talk about His grace. Don’t let the opportunities slip passed; even when you are having a rough day with your child.
  6. Lastly, no one gives grace better than a parent who humbly admits they need grace themselves. When we admit, as parents, that we are not perfect, our children can see that as well and they can see God working in our lives.

Although I am only a month into this battle, I wanted to share the lessons I have learned. We all hit certain battles with our children and often times, we need to help each other by sharing those battles and the accomplishments we reach. The picture above is of my beautiful little girl. I asked her to be a strong warrior and this is what she gave me. Don’t erase the strength within your child but let God work in their lives to cultivate that strong-will into a strong child of God.

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