“This is my strong-willed child. The one I was telling you about.”
When you read those two sentences, it is very important that you get the right voice inflection. We want you to get the message being sent not only by the words but also through the tone and body language.
Imagine this parent’s words delivered in a manner reflecting a cross between totally exasperated and wondering what she had done to deserve this challenging child.
Strong-willed children can, indeed, be very challenging. In fact, simply defining the category “strong-willed” is difficult.
Let’s begin that process with a quote from a well-respected source, Dr. James Dobson. In his book, The Strong-Willed Child, he writes that a strong-willed child “seems to be born with a clear idea of how he (or she) wants the world to be operated and an intolerance for those who disagree.” (p. 24)
That generally summarizes the strong-willed child’s black-and-white thinking and intolerance. As parents of a certifiably formerly-strong-willed-child-turned-responsible-adult and the authors of Journey of a Strong-Willed Child, we would add a few more qualifiers to that definition. These are found in our book, co-authored with our son. Here are those qualifiers:
• A strong-willed child appears confident.
• A strong-willed child can be both charming and defiant.
• He or she is very persistent and is even willing to take punishment to win.
• A strong-willed child is generally gifted in manipulation and ready, willing and able to cause an emotional upset if it’s a means to gain control of his life.
• A strong-willed child does not necessarily want to control everyone else; he simply does not want to be controlled. Yet, he will strive to control someone threatening to control him.
Who typically is the person “threatening to control” the strong-willed child? That’s right! It’s you, his loving parent. His parent who might be wondering why this child is so difficult and so opinionated—so “right” all the time.
There is one more describer that should be noted and is perhaps the most baffling:
• The strong-willed child who is straining, striving and battling for control actually wants you to be in control. It is a paradox.
In the weeks ahead, we’ll be unlocking some of the mysteries of a strong-willed child and sharing practical, biblical insights for parenting your child.
Do you recognize any of those descriptions of a strong-willed child? Do you have any to add?