Yesterday, we fought it again until I could take no more. The contractions started up, one on top of another and I fought the fear that I will go into preterm labor at 28 weeks. We fought the daily tantrums from our seven-year old that disrupt the entire household and cause us all to stop and focus solely on her. We fought the wave of bad news from a rental company that crushed our hearts and sought to break our spirits. We fought the urge to yell and scream right back at our very frustrating, out of control child. We fought the urge to scoop up our “good” child and take her away from the yelling and screaming so she could be safe until her sister calmed down. We fought the urge to hate our strong-willed daughter.
As a mother, that last sentence grips my heart and causes me to hold my breath. I pause, looking at that sentence and consider the implications of typing it out, making it known to the world. We fought the urge to hate our strong-willed daughter. How many of you have been there in the trenches with a strong-willed child that will just not conform? They will not behave and it can be very difficult to settle down a strong-willed child or even to draw out of them what the real issue(s) is/are. We’ve been fighting this battle with our seven-year old for years and I’m grieved to admit…we’ve been losing.
If you had asked me a month ago if I felt that having a strong-willed child was a gift, I would’ve laughed inwardly and called you a nut (silently). The more I observe my strong-willed child, the more I do see my own self in her and her intense desire to be loved and to be free to love others. She’s highly passionate, creative, thoughtful and intelligent.
Strong-willed children require so much more patience and time than other children. They’re not at all a problem, yet we tend to perceive them that way. So often, we try to break their wills (to do evil) but end up breaking their spirit instead. This is such a grievous error, yet so easy to make when we listen to the “wisdom” of the world.
We are so far removed from our primal parenting urges that it feels silly and out of place to start listening to them now, but we must! We must not continue raising a generation of strong-willed, broken-spirited children. They will only grow up to be strong-willed, broken-spirited adults.
The more I embrace my strong-willed child, the more she wants to run away. That will not stop me from loving and embracing her, but that does cause me to stop and remember that I cannot control her, nor should I try. I am called to love, guide, lead, direct her to the right path, but I am not now nor was I ever called to control her. She is not out of control. She is out of love. She is begging for more.
There is nowhere that we can go to escape God’s unconditional love for us, even in our wildest and worst moments. We as parents must model Christ’s love for our children and we must do it now. Today. There is simply no time to waste. Our children are far too precious.
As Anthony and I seek to parent our daughter differently, we’ve found that it really does require an entire village. We’ve relied on the prayers of our faith community, of our families and friends, and we’ve spent countless hours upon our knees praying as well. It’s only recently that we’ve begun to figure out how to effectively pray for our daughter that our hearts have begun to change in the right direction. Instead of praying for a heart for obedience for our daughter (which has its’ own place in parenting, for sure), we’ve learned to pray for our ears to be opened to hear her needs. Kids will tell you what they need, but you might have to be looking for it in unexpected places. Those little whispers, whimpers and quips during car rides after school are a good place to start. Bedtime prayers, notes left on the family bulletin board and even their body language also lead us to their list of needs.
I’m so sad to say that more often than not, I’m left wondering if our daughter truly feels loved. It’s not been our intention to cause to her to feel otherwise, but we’ve simply not been listening intently enough to hear what she really has to say. It’s taken my Mom to draw it out of her. I’m ashamed to admit I was relieved that someone else began the hard job of drawing her out, but that can’t continue. I need to be listening too. I need to be responding. So does Anthony.
God never leaves us, never forsakes us. He is always there in our time of need. We need to model that behavior for our children as well.
The following is a link I’m finding very helpful as I seek to make changes in the way that I parent my strong-willed child. I pray it will be of use to you as well.
Heavenly Father, I lift up to you all the strong-willed children and their parents. Please help us to love our children unconditionally as you love us. We love because You first loved us. In Jesus’ Name we boldly pray. Amen.