Raising a Strong-Willed Child is HARD, And Why That's a Good Thing

Hope For The Hard

A few weeks back, I took Jed with me to my small group. I set him up in the adjacent room with a coloring book, a handful of plastic reptiles, and his teddy bear.

In the middle of our small-group discussion time, the leader’s dog started barking from her kennel. Our leader shushed the dog twice to no avail. There was a lull in the conversation while we all waited for our leader to either get up and tend to the dog or ignore the dog and keep going.

In that moment of quiet indecision, my son’s voice rang out.

“Be quiet now!”

Loud. Full of authority. A touch of impediment lingering on a few of his sounds (he is five).

And the dog stopped.

Jed must have thought nothing of it, because he immediately returned to his play. Meanwhile, a living-room full of grown-ups sat puzzled at the man-child who could speak with such authority.

It took my breath away, so unlike his mother, but so completely Jed.

He is growing. He has grown.

God Chooses Imperfect Moms

I was there when he—iron-willed—rocked his crib till it fell.

I was there when he screamed and kicked his legs aiming for me from his shopping cart throne, the loud tyrant of the Walmart.

I was there when he threw every toy he could get his hands on, defiant to the last that he would never lay down on his own bed—not now, not ever.

I’ve been there for every relentless spew of his repetitive line of questioning, “Mom, can I…, Mom? Mom? Mom? MOM!”

That moment at my small group Bible study, it was like a gleaming light illuminating the God-given purpose of Jed’s form. All along, buried in the rocky soil of his unplowed will, were strengths. These years have been trying, but I blinked and before me is this man-child with a God-given authority. I may not know what he will grow up and do or be, but I know God delights in him. I know that iron-will is there on purpose.

His iron-will is a gift, and not a curse.

It’s not that we’ve arrived (oh. Gosh. No. We have not arrived.) If I am honest, three years ago my gratitude to the Lord for letting me be Jed’s momma was at times a desperate hope of one day. It’s not that it was all bad (please don’t think that). It’s that it was HARD. It felt impossible and inconvenient for all the times I had to leave the grocery shopping half-completed or stand bewildered at the tantrum before me or wait and wait and wait for his will to finally give and accept basic things like green vegetables and sleep. Most days, I felt like I didn’t come with enough patience or perseverance (and the truth is I didn’t).

I can't even tell you how many times I felt clueless, like I was winging it, going forward on a hope and a prayer that I wasn't royally screwing up.

But already, I can look back at how far we’ve both come and thank the Lord that I get to be this boy’s momma. It’s always been grace.

Overwhelming. Undeserved. Grace.

I tuck him into bed mostly willing now and argue over who loves who more. He’s sounding out letters and counting up to 100. It’s been hard work tilling up rocky soil, but oh the joy of seeing the first sprouts, the first fruit. I know what it’s taken to get here. I know when and where it looked impossible. I know the refinement we’ve received. And in all that I rejoice. My cup is running over with gratitude.

That I should get to be the one he calls mom. That I should get to see God's unfolding plan for my boy.

Yes. God's Grace has held us all along.

And by Grace, He'll carry us all the way home.


8 Ways You Can Help Your Child and 3 Truths You Need to Know Today

Can I whisper a few a gentle encouragements to all the moms in the thick of it? Raising a strong-willed child sometimes feels a bit like hacking through a dense jungle at night, doesn’t it? I’m not a parenting expert, but my hope and prayer is that these scraps of what I have learned thus far might help you see the way through.

(By the way, I used the pronoun “he” just to be clear, but that’s not me making an assumption that only boys have strong wills.)

  1. If he could obey, he would. He doesn't know how. He doesn't know how to control his emotions yet. Your high calling as mom is to show him (and this might take so much longer and be so much harder than you realized when you first imagined being a mom).
  2. Does your child seem a bit like a one-track freight train about whatever his heart is set on? Then imagine he actually is like that freight train. He can’t make sharp turns or sudden stops. It’s not that you should allow his will to run over you (you shouldn’t), it’s that you should understand your role is to gently teach him how to slow down and change directions. Just like with a train, this takes a long time. So much as is in your power, try to foresee those changes and prepare him for them.
  3. Pep-talk everything. When you arrive at the park, tell him how long you will be there. Before you let him play, quiz him on what he should say when you say it’s time to go. This goes back to #2 and I can't tell you how much this one thing has helped us.
  4. Anytime he asks for something, pause and think through your answer. Once you give your yes or your no, you commit to it and don’t change it. (Or next time, he will know that if he presses long enough and hard enough you can be changed).
  5. Praise and rejoice over the small victories. Notice them. Celebrate them. Make him feel all mushy-gushy good inside when he makes a good choice.
  6. Read Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child.
  7. Choose your threats wisely and follow through.
  8. If you get it wrong, don’t be afraid to apologize. Use your own life as an example for him to follow.
  9. The only way out is through. I wish there was an easy-button. I haven't found it yet. I do know that the refinement comes in the thick of things, in you and that precious child. One day you will look back and testify of the all-sustaining goodness of the Lord. 
  10. God's Grace is sufficient. And for all the ways you might feel like you are failing miserably, like you are overwhelmed, like you are ill-equipped for this; know that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:29). God has never once regretted placing this child in your care. Lean on Him, momma. He is enough. 
  11. How your preschool-aged child behaves is not a reflection on your abilities. Though he is half your DNA, he was made in the image of God. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. He is a reflection of the Most High God and the uniquely designed individual God intended him to be. And he's a work in progress, as are you.


Do you have anything to add to this list? Tell us in the comments!

Are you in the thick of it right now? I'd love to pray for you. Let me know in the comments, shoot me an email at amandaconquers at gmail dot com, or hit the reply button if you are an email subscriber.


By Grace,

Amanda Conquers


Sharing in this lovely community of story-tellers:

Kristin Hill Taylor - Porch Stories


When You Are Raising Both Big Kids and Little Kids

I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a toddler.

The generous ear-to-ear smiles. The fearless climbing. The insatiable curiosity.

I’d forgotten the surprise of discovering as a first-time mom that one human could need so much of my attention, so much of my time. I remember back to when Addy was a newborn and I felt like a zombie; I thought surely it was right here and now that mothering would be the most difficult and demand the most energy…  and then my baby started walking (and climbing and crashing and falling and stopping my heart right in my chest no less than ten times a day.)

I forgot the way life can feel so abundantly full, the gifts stacked right up: the bright blue eyes beneath long blonde lashes, the rough and tumble boy bouncing on his daddy’s back, the stopping in the middle of mom’s hurry to awe at open-close butterfly wings—the way the world gets bigger and smaller, faster and slower all at once when you get to re-see wonder through a toddler’s eyes.

I forgot the way life can feel so empty, the energy always lacking: the spills you couldn’t prevent, the messes that get made while you clean a different mess, the raw sinful defiance not yet tamed, the places you don’t go because you don’t see the point visiting a friend just to let her watch you chase a baby and shush his screams.

These are the days I once wrote of—the days of tied up feet, of walking slowly, of little done yet much accomplished in the unseen places of mine and my children’s selfish hearts.

There’s something so wonderful—so gracious—about being able to go back and do it all over again. I know what matters, and I know what doesn’t. I don’t need the random lady in the grocery store reminding me how fast it goes by (I think I’ve become that lady). I know. I have two elementary-aged kids. One who I think I might as well say it: I can’t carry anymore. I know that might sound silly, but I’m crying over it, because this part of me wishes my girl still needed me like that.

I am living this time around slower, less hurried. I know I am drained, but I am not anticipating the dawning of the next season where I will get more sleep. I know it will come. I want to live here now while I can.

There’s also something difficult about having kids spanned across different seasons of motherhood. I guess because Jed came right as Addy exited diapers, the different demands of mothering the two of them have always seemed to blend together. But Sam is different.

So now I have kids in sports. Kids with friends. Kids who can pretty well pour their own cereal on Saturday mornings. Kids who can take their own baths, do chores, and play independently. It’s a different season of motherhood.   

Only now I also have a toddler. So the demands of motherhood have changed with my other two, and yet I am pulled back. I am straddling two very different seasons of motherhood.

I feel stretched in two directions. One where I should be able to do more: taxi kids and tackle house projects and write during the moments of their growing independence. But I am chasing a toddler and forever cleaning the trail of crushed goldfish behind him.

In this stretch, I am finding that I have to re-surrender my life and my dreams. I am remembering that my no’s are even more valuable that my yes’s. My biggest and best and sometimes hardest yes is to love behind the curtain of our home—the unseen, un-thanked places of sweeping cheerios, singing silly songs, and cutting up nuggets for littles hands and few teeth.

I am learning to keep my eyes on what God has given me and not what God has given to, say, my friends who have kids the same age as my oldest. We are all different. We all have different capacities and different calls to live out. Some of us are done with the toddler stage… and some of us, well, aren’t.

A friend of mine shared a verse a few weeks back in a different version so that the verse so stood out and sorta broke my heart in the best way. “Know the importance of the season you’re in, and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity” Proverbs 10:5 (Passion Translation).

It is here right now that I have the opportunity to carry Sam, sing him songs, dice his food into tiny pieces, gently guard his safety, and enjoy his almost full dependence on me (along with those glimmers of defiant independence). It is here right now that I can have conversations with my older kids, answer their deep questions, hold their hands and cuddle up in their beds. I can watch them play and find their interests and imagine big. And though the needs from me seem great and spread wide, this is the one season I am living in. This is my day of opportunity. And by the grace of God, let me not waste it.

I want to live here and now, ever leaning on my Savior.

A Prayer: Lord God, I lift up all the tired mamas, the spread-thin mamas, the feeling-not-enough mamas. I thank You that You don't ask us to be strong, but rather grant us to fully rely on Your strength. Lord, would You bring rest and and encouragement to us? Would You give us the wisdom to recognize the season we are living in? Would You spur us onward, to seize this day of opportunity, to love those entrusted to us well? Would You help us to surrender our lives and dreams to You? We want to relentlessly follow after You and to point You out to our children. Lord, may we be the mamas who diligently raise up a generation that would praise Your name. We long to glorify You. And we desperately need You. You are our only Hope. {Amen.}


I'd love to hear from you! What are the ages of your kids? What are the "opportunities" you have been given in this season of motherhood? Let me know in the comments. 


By Grace,

Amanda Conquers


Super excited to be able to join in this beautiful community of storytellers after a long break.