A mom writes a letter to her “difficult” child that will have plenty of parents nodding in agreement
Parenting a strong-willed or “difficult” child can prove to be a huge challenge and also, an immense privilege. Because what parents of this kind of child know that others might not is that the traits that make a kid “difficult” can also make them amazing, dynamic human beings.
Bunmi Laditan, hilarious mom and creator of Honest Toddler, wrote a letter she posted to Facebook addressed to her very own “difficult” kid, and it’s spot-on. She opens with, “You’ve always given me a run for my money. Parenting tactics that worked on your siblings don’t work on you. Where they’d give in, you’d push back. Where they’d say “I’m sorry” you’d say “I hate you.” My parenting self-esteem has taken many hits as you challenge me over and over again.”
Preach. My son is most definitely of the “difficult” variety while my daughter is easy like Sunday morning. She’s our first child and when he didn’t bend to our will as quickly as his sister had, we were left wondering what in the hell to do with him. He’s almost seven now and some days, we’re still kind of wondering.
Laditan writes of the fortitude it takes to effectively parent a child who doesn’t just nod their head “yes.” Spoiler alert: it’s fucking hard. She admits, “Some days I feel like I’m failing you, but I refuse to give up. Why? Because you’re mine and I know that one day you’ll move mountains.”
Echoing what so many of us have felt while parenting our strong-willed child she says, “I’ve had to dig deep to parent you. I’ve had to follow through and be stronger than I’ve ever been before. To be honest, you exhaust me mentally and emotionally. You’ve embarrassed me in public more times than I can count.”
Oh, the public embarrassment you’ll feel while trying to consistently parent and discipline a strong-willed kid. I once snapped at a stranger at Target for giggling at me when my son was having a toddler tantrum instead of letting me put his coat on — he wanted to go look at the DVD selection and we had to leave. I mean, it was kind of funny, but at the time, I only wanted to disappear. Being in public with this kind of kid is no picnic when they’re having one of their moments — you know everyone is judging and staring. It’s beyond stressful and as Laditan says, exhausting in every way.
But what those people who stare don’t know is that for all the exhaustion, embarrassment and self-doubt that a parent with a tough kid will encounter, there is also a whole boatload of amazing. She says, “I know that if I can just help you channel that steel will into something good, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. You’re fearless. You’ll move mountains. You’ll defend the silenced. You’ll shape the future. You’ll breathe fire.”
As my son has gotten a little older, the benefits of his strong-willed nature have become more and more evident. Yes, his early years were tough, but now that he can communicate in a way he couldn’t as a toddler, we understand that he never meant to be difficult. He’s not an angry kid. He’s not a “bad” kid. He never intended to drive us that nuts. He just didn’t know what else to do with the strong feelings and emotions he had. And now that he can tell us? We never want him to stop.
He’s passionate, intelligent, HILARIOUS and has more energy than 10 kids combined. In a good way. My husband and I joke that he will one day be a CEO who’s read the entire Wall Street Journal and fit in a workout before 7 am. He’s ambitious and creative and we can’t wait to see what he does with his life.
Laditan feels the same saying, “As you sit in time out, finally calm after screaming and yelling, I want you to know that even though you think I’m the enemy, I’m your biggest cheerleader. You may look in the mirror and see a tear-streaked child with messy hair, but I see a powerhouse. I see a game changer. I see a leader.”
Once you “diagnose” your child as strong-willed, it can be easy to see what they could one day become. That child who simply won’t give in — the one you have to put back in time-out over and over and over. The one who fights you and won’t concede if he believes deeply in what he’s saying. If you don’t squelch it and in Laditan’s words, instead choose to help them channel it into good, it can be an amazing thing.
Laditan closes telling her child, “Keep doing you, sweetheart. I know you have fire burning inside of you. It’s my job to make sure that you don’t let it consume you but instead use it to burn a path in the world one day.”
Parents of strong-willed children need to read these words and embrace the gift they’ve been given. These kids could one day do great things and it’s up to us to help them navigate the world with that fire burning bright. It might be the hardest thing we’ll ever do, but no doubt, the most rewarding.
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