Hope for When You're Raising a Strong Willed Child

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I have a general disdain for being told what to do, and that’s the way it’s been since I was a little girl. I can take care of myself and make my own decisions, thank you very much. I also have the keen ability of finding myself in conflict, especially when something triggers my sense of righteousness. And I can also engage in a battle of words without ceasing and desisting until I’ve won. Oh yes, I am what the experts like to call strong willed and what mommas liked to call “trouble” with a capital T.

There’s nothing fun about feeling like “trouble” nor finding yourself in the middle of it . . . all the time. It’s not like I choose to be this way. Neither did my daughter. She can match my strength and determination inch by inch. Her passion to stand up for the oppressed, her determination to persevere through a challenge on her own, and her skill at arguing a point, are all manifestation of her God-given gifts — her strength — but unyielded to God can leave a wake of destruction in her path. Yes, she often finds herself in conflict and feeling condemnation about it, too.

The problem in being strong-willed occurs when God-given strength is not yielded to the Lord for His glory. {click to tweet}

So how does a strong-willed person learn to yield? Moreover, how does a parent of a strong-willed child endure the battles while training the heart submit to the Lord?

Hope for When You're Raising a Strong-Willed Child

No doubt, raising a strong-willed child can be exhausting. It’s an endeavor that requires much prayer and perseverance in the pursuit of holy sanctification and heart-changing transformation. But it’s also a privilege, because within that child is a young person who has the potential to impact the world for the glory of God in powerful way.

She’s not strong willed. She’s a young woman who has yet to discover her leadership potential.

He’s not stubborn- hearted. He’s a man of honor who has yet to discover the impact of humble servant-hood.

Our strong-willed children still need to discover how they are wired so that they know how to use the gifts and talents God has given them.

 

Hope for Raising Strong-Willed Children

Training up a child who is wired with such strength demands equal commitment in going through the trenches with them. May these steps give you ways to find hope, help, and a healthy perspective as you get into the trenches of parenting with them:

1.  Change the Label

There’s nothing worse than being identified as strong-willed, or any other similarly negative label. While it may be truth, it points to the behavior rather than a Christ-centered identity. So skip the public or private “strong-willed” identifier in favor of calling out their God-given gifts and potential. Casting vision for ways they can use their yielded strength in leadership positions, career opportunities, and relationships. In the midst of conflict, affirm their God-honoring behavior. Praise their humility and the times they yield. Cheer for them to continue to exercise self control.

2.  Seek God Daily

It’s impossible to parent in your own strength, so devote daily time to connecting with God, being in the Word, and yielding your heart in prayer.  Pour out your heart before the Lord on behalf of your child, asking for wisdom and discernment to know what to say, when to say it, and how to respond in each situation. And ask the Holy Spirit to lead as you combat the emotions triggered by your child’s behavior. {Here's a great guide!}

3.  Respond with Truth and Grace

Your child needs to be reminded of the truth of Scripture, but if emotions are escalated, it’s probably better to skip the lecture, threat, or insistence on behavior change for the moment. Offer grace through giving space in order for emotions to settle down before addressing the heart issue. Ask the Lord to work in their heart while working in yours as well during the cool down period.

4.  Use Questions for Everything

A strong-willed person hates to be told what to do and they almost always want the last word.  Whenever possible, use open ended questions to give your child the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. (This is the art of life coaching and why being trained as a coach was so beneficial to me). For example, “Would you like to finish your homework now or after dinner?” Offer a question while making a decision for them, such as “Yes, you can have a sleepover on Friday night, but this will be the last one until after break, or you can pass on this sleepover and arranged one for the first weekend next month.”

5.  Don’t Go It Alone

A collaborative effort is most certainly helpful and beneficial in raising a strong-willed child, so don’t be afraid to connect with your a mom-mentor, your child’s teacher, a pastor, or a counselor for insight and perspective. You don't need to go at this alone!

You’ve been called by God to be the mom of a strong-willed child, even if you feel unqualified and overwhelmed. He is with you. He is your strength. May you parent this precious one on your knees knowing that God is at work accomplishing His purpose in their life.

Blessings,

Elisa Pulliam

moretobe.com & elisapulliam.com

Elisa Pulliam

Elisa Pulliam is passionate about women experiencing a life transformed by God for the sake of impacting the next generation – a mission fueled by God’s redeeming work in her life and twenty-plus years in youth and women’s ministry. She’s the author of "Meet the New You: A 21 Day Plan for Embracing Fresh Attitudes and Focused Habits for Real Life Change," which is a book designed to help women embrace a fresh encounter with God, and "Impact Together: Biblical Mentoring Simplified." She is also founder of moretobe.com and tremendously enjoys working as a life coach and coach trainer. She considers her greatest roles as wife to Stephen and mom to four amazing children. Connect with Elisa at elisapulliam.com.