Holy Stubbornness

We were told this was supposed to be a routine outpatient surgery. Instead our then 22-month old daughter, Summer, ended up in pediatric ICU with pulmonary edema. It was torture for my husband and me to watch her tiny body heave up and down as she tried to pull her little arms free from the straps that held her body still while the nurses suctioned fluid from her lungs. God intervened to heal Summer and then our little one’s tenacity took over as she recovered. It was then we realized we had a tiny tiger on our hands.

Summer is now 19 and she has been “blessed” with an abundance of stubbornness (just ask her older sisters what life was like growing up with her! :) ) Early on, as we noticed this often not-so-endearing trait in her young life, my husband wisely recognized that her  stubbornness could become a real asset if channeled in the right direction. And so we worked to instill in her and her siblings a heart for God and a fierce love for His Word. Summer’s stubbornness remains, but it is almost always directed in a godly manner. While Summer is a diminutive young lady, she is a giant in character.  Instead of making us want to pull our hair out, she has become a delight.  She hates injustice, loves helping others who are struggling and stands up for truth, even when it is uncomfortable to do so.

You may find yourselves living with a little tiger, too—that child who is difficult to discipline and at times makes you question your own mental stability. How do you keep your sanity when you have one of these children?  I am here to tell you the situation is not hopeless, but you do have to be on it 24/7.

Here are some things we did with our stubborn child to point her stubbornness in a positive direction:

1.  We affirmed her stubbornness as a characteristic God could use to build His kingdom.

2.  We gave her (and her siblings) things worth being passionate about. For example, we helped her as a young child care about the mentally handicapped by involving her in our church’s ministry to the mentally and physically challenged. We took her to pray in front of the abortion clinic weekly. We told her to watch for children being left out in Sunday School or other social settings and befriend them.

3.  We taught her a Christian worldview and helped her see why the Christian faith made sense.

4.  We worked hard at being consistent in discipline.

5.  We bathed her in prayer because we knew we alone were not big enough for the task God had presented us with.

Raising a stubborn child is not for the faint of heart. But if you can remember that your stubborn child was placed in your family as part of God’s sovereign plan, it can help you keep your focus in directing that awful, wonderful stubbornness in the right direction.

Keep pressing on,


Photo Credit:  http://www.dreamstime.com/stubborn-image5241850

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  1. Elise says

    Thank you for this post! I am raising a girl that God has gifted this way and needed to be reminded of this today.

    • Barb Spencer says

      I’m glad to share this with other moms, for sure! And I like how you said you are raising a girl “God has gifted this way” because it truly is a gifting. Hang in there! When channeled for Christ, it is an awesome trait!

  2. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for this post Barb. It is definitely something I needed to read to keep my sanity with my stubborn 3 year old. I have been trying to figure out how to guide this characteristic in the right direction, so thanks for the ideas!

    • Barb Spencer says

      It can be very trying, Lorieah. Your 3 year old is at a great age to start working on their stubbornness and making it a positive thing for the Kingdom! Give your child godly things to be passionate about and he (she) will do great!


  3. Meghan Carver says

    We have a stubborn one who just turned three, and my husband and I remind each other on a regular basis that he could do great things for God with that stubbornness if it is trained properly. Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder to pray regularly. It is too easy to forget in the midst of the consistent discipline!

    • Barb Spencer says

      You’ll do great if you’re already thinking this way, Megan! Just keep on it…you (and your child) will be rewarded! ~Barb

  4. Michelle says

    Barb As I read this we are on our third time out with both of my stubborn little miracles this morning, I find it hard to maintain the discipline sometimes necessary with both of them due to just sheer exhaustion from keeping up with it lol especially now with baby number three on the way I am wondering if you can please share some of the strategies you and your husband used for consistent discipline in your home(they are five and three). How did you manage to stay a Gentle mother with a Child who is basked in the glory of persistence I find it a struggle daily sometimes not to yell I would love any tips! Sory for all the questions I am just at a loss some days lately. I want to be a gentle mother just find my paitence more and more tried lately.

    • Barb Spencer says

      Oh Michelle, I can so relate to you! Our three girls (our oldest) were each 2 years apart. Summer (the stubborn one) was the youngest and I was often so tired. I remember complaining to my husband when he came home from work that Summer would not behave. He asked if I was being consistent during the day and I had to confess, I wasn’t. Give yourself a break, Michelle…we all yell at times (I surely did, what with raising little ones, laundry, meals, a house to clean). God extends grace and you have to remember that your children (at the ages they are now) will probably not remember that you got angry at times. Consistency, consistency, consistency in discipline is the key. If your husband is not on board, tell him you need his help.

      Another thing we did with Summer (often) was to tell her that her stubbornness could be a WONDERFUL quality if used in the right way. Then we’d explain what was and what was not the right way. Your 5 year old will most likely understand, but your 3 year old may not. And for those times they don’t, you may have to put him in a time out chair or whatever might get his attention.

      As one of many writing for the Better Mom, I can tell you, none of us are perfect and most likely, we all have had days (too many) when we’ve felt like the mean mom…anything but the better mom! You’re not alone; everyone struggles. Hang in there and remember what you’re doing will pay great dividends and I can attest to that.


  5. Jennifer says

    Today has been one of the most trying days I’ve had with one of our 5 year old twins, emotionally and mentally exhausting. Thank you for this post. God’s timing and those He uses to bring encouragement never cease to amaze me. As a mother of 5 (ages 3-8), 3 of which who are stubborn and strong willed, encouragement and faith being built up is much appreciated! Thank you for sharing your insights and giving hope back that we can direct her stubbornness in positive, Godly direction.

    • Barb Spencer says

      Thanks, Jennifer! I know it’s hard to believe now, but someday, you’ll wish you could have your little ones back. Somedays it’s just all we can do to hang on, but you keep at it and God will give you the strength you need to push through. You’ve got your hands full, so extend some grace to yourself–God does. Remind those stubborn, strong-willed little ones that God can use those qualities in a great way when channeled in a godly way. Keep on loving those little ones!


  6. Krista Bordelon says

    I was a stubborn child myself, and I have now been blessed with a stubborn child of my own (ok well, I have 3 stubborn ones). I’m so blessed that God instilled in me a sense of directing that stubborness just like you have shared! I know the good that came out of others never being able to convince me to do anything I didn’t want to do, the passion I just naturally have for certain things, and also the harm that can come out of being stubborn at the wrong times and in the wrong places. Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement that our stubborn children were lovingly created by our Father and can be used perfectly for His glory!!!

    • Barb Spencer says

      That is awesome, Krista! You have the benefit of having been that way and so you can better understand those little ones God has blessed you with. I’m sure you will direct yours to have a passion for God that no one can take away! Blessings, Barb

  7. says

    I love how you characterize stubbornness as a blessing, and it truly is! Like most blessings, it can be misused and twisted, but when molded into Jesus’ likeness, it can be a stunningly beautiful reflection of Him. Two of my six are on the stubborn end of the spectrum, one extremely so. My stubborn-but-not-extreme child is still very young (just turned six) and a daily parenting challenge that leads me back to my Father again and again. My stubborn-to-the-extreme child is grown and married. She graduated at 19 with a degree in psychology and is now a Family Therapist. I learned most of my parenting strategies through ‘experimenting’ on her, lol, and then refining them with my other children, and now revisiting and fine-tuning them with my stubborn-but-not-extreme child. I have a baby who seems to be quite mellow, but time will tell if I have another stubborn blessing on my hands!

    • Barb Spencer says

      Thanks for sharing this. You have a lot of experience, so I’m sure you’re well-equipped for whatever quality this new little one has!


  8. Mstamy says

    Thanks for this reminder. I have a 3 yo boy who is 3 handsful, at least. My biggest challenge is knowing how to mold that will and teach willing submission without breaking his spirit. I definitely am not capable of this task on my own wits or power. Prayer is the only thing that often gets me through the day. As much of the prayers are for us as they are for him. I can’t even imagine the good works God has laid out for him to walk into if he is obedient.

    • Barb Spencer says

      You’re at a great place…when we recognize our own inadequacy, we turn to the One who is completely sufficient. God, indeed, has great things in store for your little one as you help him/her channel stubbornness in a godly direction.

  9. says

    We have a 4 yo girl who is quite the spitfire!. It’s refreshing to hear such an encouraging post from someone who has been where we are! I believe that being stubborn is a part our sweet girls spiritual gifting. She has to be nurtured, shaped and molded, but God made her with this personality and she will be used for His glory!!!

    • Barb Spencer says

      Amber, what a blessing that you recognize at an early age that stubbornness is, indeed, a gift God has given your little girl. If she’s anything like ours, she will be a mighty force for the Kingdom that will last forever.


  10. S H says

    Wow, I can’t tell you how much I’ve needed to read this over the past 3 1/2 yrs! My oldest is almost 4yrs old & to say she is a handful & gives us a run for our money is an understatement! I’ve been so worn our & frustrated with her that I haven’t wanted any more children… I’ve been praying that the Lord would change my heart towards her & my role as her mom. Thank you for writing this post, letting the Lord use you to encourage me in this struggle. And thank you for the practical ways to channel her “gifts” :)

    • Barb Spencer says

      I’m glad that this encouraged you. I can tell you that Summer is stubborn, but it is a great thing. She will NOT bend in her convictions. She has a passion for the unborn and though she is quiet, she is not quiet on this issue. If you can see your little one in terms of what God may have in store for your little powerhouse and what she can do for His Kingdom, it will help you. Don’t give up. Remind her that her stubbornness can be an awesome thing if she uses it in a good way. And keep praying. It’s powerful stuff.


  11. Amy Rathbun says

    Thanks for this bit of wisdom, Barb! We have been blessed with 2 of these wonderfully stubborn little ones and it is so helpful to consider how God will use that character trait for His glory and purpose! His grace is sufficient! I loved the practical suggestions you gave! Much thanks!!

  12. Michelle says

    Thank you so much for this! We have been blessed with 3 beautiful children, ages 4.5yrs (girl), 3.5yrs (boy), and 20mths old (boy). Our oldest is our stubborn one, and we try very hard to remain consistent, but it is difficult some days. But I can see the difference when we’ve stayed consistent from the days we have slipped. Our 3.5yr old I call him our sweet firecracker, he has a temper, not the stubbornness, but his temper is short lived. He loves to give everyone hugs. Our youngest seems to be more like our oldest. All three are quite sweet, and filled with character. They have a willingness to help and I love seeing the smiles they bring to everyone’s face, including ours of course :) Even though we have days of frustration it is wonderful watching our children grow the way God made them. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement and the suggestions too!!

  13. says

    Just today I was having a tough time with my son and his moods in preschool. You don’t known how much i needed to read this. This is another thing that show that God has a plan and inspires us to do thing. Thank you again!


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