The second thing I tell new friends is that my boys are strong willed and stronger willed.
On any given morning, if I offer either son a choice between wearing blue pants or khaki pants, at least one son will go for option C: wearing shorts in freezing weather. He will do so with all the drama and fire that he can muster before breakfast.
The other son is happy to go with whatever pants I offered, but only because he can then wear mismatched patterned socks.
Most parents of a strong willed child will give you the same advice. They’ll tell you to pick your battles. This is normally followed with a whispered reminder that “you can’t afford to lose any of them.”
What few of them will tell you is that parenting strong willed children can be a blessing.
All you have to do is figure out how to channel all that strong willed stuff.
Strong willed means strong beliefs. My son has a deeply held belief that wearing mismatched and/or patterned socks is his birthright. It’s part of his identity. Wearing them to school isn’t about being rebellious. It’s about expressing his unique identity and being different on purpose.
Likewise, he has a deeply held belief in honesty at all costs. It’s part of his identity. He just doesn’t lie, even when telling the truth makes him uncomfortable or unpopular. His passion for the truth is part of his identity. His strong willed “stuff” lets him stand up for his beliefs.
Help your strong-willed child find beliefs worth fighting for (and help them find small ways to be unique that fly under the radar.)
Strong willed can be logical. Early on, we taught the boys the value of a logical appeal. As parents, we do our best not to give in to strongwilled temper tantrums or drama. But we have been known to change our minds in the face of logic. This is true even when the logic is flawed.
“They’re my legs and I’m the one who will be cold” isn’t the strongest argument for wearing shorts in January. It was, however, enough to win. My son was arguing that he should be allowed to suffer the consequences of a bad choice and I chose to respect that.
Strong willed is about submission. Submission is defined as “yielding to the will or authority of another person.” Every time I pick a battle with one of my strong willed sons, I know I can’t lose. I have to stick to my guns until they submit to my authority. Last month, I used the logic of “let’s pretend we had a big argument about this and I won.” It worked. My son submitted without further comment.
In the context of the eternal, this is huge. We are called to submit to God’s authority for our lives. (James 4:7) Anyone who has ever tried that knows what a difficult task it is. By helping our sons submit to our parental authority, we are building the habits they need to submit to God’s authority.
Keep an eye on the eternal. Your strong-willed child needs to understand your scriptural basis for authority and see how you submit to God.
I’m blessed to be the mom to two strong willed boys. Because they stick to their beliefs, I don’t worry too much about peer pressure. They may look argumentative, but I see two young men developing a capacity for logic and reasoned discussion. Best of all, raising strong willed boys has brought me a deeper understanding of God’s character.
If you’ve ever struggled with strong willed stuff, how have you found the blessing?
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Houston Mom Blogger Susan Baker writes at ThisHappyMom and has a passion for encouraging weary worn out moms to find joy in everyday motherhood. She has two elementary school boys, one engineering husband, and one cat. She has a strange fascination for eggs, socks, and books. She spends far too much time on Social Media and at Target. She is crazy in love with her family. She serves an amazing God. She lives an ordinary life filled with wonder.
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