I was ready to be a mom when I was pregnant with Ben. I loved babysitting as a teenager, I read books on motherhood and parenting and knew in my innocent, naive mind that it would be easy- a breeze in fact. Well, when our little lion came roaring out of the womb I couldn't have been proved more wrong than right then.
Ben came with a strong will, some good lungs and one who began talking before he was one. I love his personality so much because in him I see a fire for adventure, sparks for leading and embers of coated sweetness wrapped carefully around it all.
He turned five a few months ago and can I tell you if you are a parent of a strong willed child- it DOES get easier. Honest, I never thought it would. I thought maybe I was parenting wrong, not disciplining enough or disciplining too much. I thought we would never get a handle on his spirit but then I also was afraid of crushing it and changing it completely.
I would lay awake at night talking to God and wondering what can I do differently? how can I touch his spirit and keep that strong will? I would call my husband countless times a day almost in tears because Ben refused to clean up a mess or he would say something hurtful or he just would ignore me.
But I can honestly say the pay off of the last five years is more than I could of imagined. I am seeing the fruit of our labors of long hard days and nights- praying, searching and blindly parenting at some points.
The same child who would launch out of the shopping cart and fall on his head for a toy is the same one who rubs his daddy's back in the morning asking how he slept.
The same child who screamed for 40+ minutes in his room because he didn't want to go to sleep is the same one who craves his bedtime and his snuggly blanket and bear.
He's five now. He's kind, cuddly, ticklish, loud, strong and a perfect blend of sweet and tough. I wanted to give some encouragement to you- the parent of a strong willed child.
Stand by your word. Don't give in sweet friend. Just know you are doing great. Consistency is key with a strong will and standing by your word is hard but it's a must.
Keep a rhythm. This is huge. Keep a consistent rhythm for your little one. A rhythm of bedtime, waking up, playtime. Ben always loved to know what was going to happen each day (and still does) so if you don't have a consistent day to day rhythm- sit down each day with a chart or piece of paper with little drawings of what will happen that day. Ben does this even today- he draws out each activity that will be happening that day and puts a check mark next to it when completed.
Pick one focus. It's hard to clean the whole home at exactly the same time right? We don't have more than two arms, although it would be nice sometimes! So pick one area of behavior, attitude, etc to focus on and make mini goals to accomplish each week. Set a goal to work on his kindness to others if he struggles with that and go from there.
Let them make choices- in moderation . I have read countless strong will child books that tell you to let the child have a choice for everything. So I tried that for awhile and guess what? It only made his strong will more aggressive! I think it is a great idea to give them choices (in moderation) and to teach them to make good decisions. Decision making is a great skill to begin teaching strong willed children at an early age.
Praise. Praise. Praise. Ok this one is simple. Praise them when they do good, accomplish something, finish a chore. They need it more than you think, they need to know that they are doing well.
Pray for (and with) them. You can't do this alone. Jesus understands more about this than anyone else. When you are feeling lost one day on what to do, put your hand on his/her head and pray. Pray for patience, pray for God to help you both to understand each other, pray for God to touch their heart.
If you ever have a day where you are doubting your role as a mom for this little strong will just know- God doesn't make mistakes. You were chosen. Chosen for this time, for this role with this child. Don't give up and stay the course sweet friend.