Today, I thought I’d build off a post over on the Women Living Well blog–http://womenlivingwell.org/2012/03/dealing-with-bad-attitudes-in-children/. Courtney talks about how she’s working to teach and train her children to have good attitudes.
Kids smart-mouthing their parents, throwing tantrums in grocery stores, biting their playmates…any of this sound familiar to you? Today, I’ll focus on the in-your-face stuff (developed into an art form by many strong-willed children), the kind of stuff that makes you feel like you’re beating your head against the wall when you’re disciplining.
Now, I’m no expert on child-rearing, far from it. But I’ve learned some things along the way that have made our lives easier. I hope they might help you, as well.
I’ve stolen all my best ideas from a) the Bible, b) my Grandma, or c) my parents and parents-in-law, whose children did turn out quite well in the end (though my destiny was questionable for some time…yeah, I was a strong-willed little booger)!
First off for the wild kid: Tolerate no disrespect. This is imperative.
The moment the wild kid tries to hit, kick or bite you, you have to shut him/her down. Otherwise, they basically dominate you and they will not stop trying to do so. It’s just human nature. Kid nature, you might say.
How you shut them down is up to you, but for us, it was spanking. This might be controversial, but done right, it can have nearly miraculous results. Eventually, all you have to do is give your child The LOOK, and they know there will be trouble when they get home, unless they stop dumping candy in the grocery cart.
And do not fear that you will crush your child forever. Strong-willed children have a higher tolerance for disciplinary measures, and they actually enjoy seeing how far they can get with their disobedience before they’re called on it. Trust me, I know. But if you don’t quite trust me yet, take Cynthia Tobias’ word–she was strong-willed too, and wrote a book about it—You Can’t Make Me, But I can be Persuaded: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?isbn=1578561930
Secondly: Set boundaries and make them CLEAR.
For us, this often took the form of lecturing BEFORE we went into that grocery store/restaurant. A little pep talk, if you will. “This __________ (fill in the blank) is how I expect you to behave.” It was a little reminder, but I found it to be very effective, given just PRIOR to when said activity was to take place.
A great book on this very topic is Boundaries with Kids, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend–http://www.christianbook.com/boundaries-with-kids-henry-cloud/9780310243151/pd/43157.
Thirdly: Love on your Wild Kid in the Meantime.
This is very self-explanatory, but sometimes it’s hard to do, when your child is driving you nutso. But just be sure to work those hugs and kisses and bedtime stories in there. They know you love them, but it’s good to remind them of it. I always explained that when they were sinning, I knew it was taking them AWAY from God, and they would be happier if they got CLOSER to God instead.
Sometimes, with a strong-willed child, you feel you’re disciplining all the time. But the Bible tells us “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Gal. 6:9 NASB.
Moms/Dads of small strong-willed children, I know you are already weary! You’re so weary you feel like you might as well give up and let the wildness take over. But trust God. We will reap, we just have to keep from fainting (the KJV uses that term, and I like it a little better on this verse!).
I remember when I was ready to give up with my strong-willed young-un. I had three kids under the age of three at one point in time and my husband worked long hours, so I was Bad Cop most of the time. I remember calling him and asking if I should keep up the discipline or just give up the fight.
My wise hubby told me to just keep doing what I was doing, and eventually it would get easier.
And he was totally RIGHT. By the time said strong-willed young’un grew up a couple of years, it was much smoother sailing. Wild child learned that obedience was expected. Wild child learned the path of least resistance might be good.
My wild-child will always be strong-willed, I have no doubt. In fact, the day after I wrote this post, guess what? We had to have a chat about something behaviorally related (happens every time!).
Strong-willed children will stay strong-willed. But if you help them learn to harness that when they’re young, it will be helpful to them when they get older. Strong-willed children have a natural drive and determination to beat the odds.
(A very helpful thing to have in the writing industry, I might add.)
Regardless, I hope these little pointers encouraged you in some way today! And just don’t faint! You will reap!
****What about you? Do you have a strong-willed child? Do you hate these suggestions and have some better ones? Have you almost come to the breaking point with your wild child?****