11 Benefits to Having a Strong-Willed Child

by Jenifer DeMattia
Originally Published: 
A strong-willed child in a blue shirt with his hand over his mouth

As my son was approaching three years old, I began to discover that his behavior was a little different from most children in our circle of friends. He was extremely emotional and had difficulty being still. He was very defiant and had absolutely no regard for boundaries no matter how we altered our parenting style. As he grew, so did his defiance. We thought pre-school would make a significant difference but he acted the exact same there as well. We have sought outside opinion and support to arrive where we are today. We are the parents of a very strong-willed, energetic little pain in the ass who has taught us more about life than any Internet search ever could. Here’s why these children make us question everything and bring us to the conclusion that we are better people for knowing them…

1. They improve our self-care. I can’t tell you how many times I have been out in public with my son (chasing him no doubt) that I have had someone say, “Wow, if only I could just bottle up that energy”, or, “Gosh, I’m tired just from watching him”. I answer back with my teeth grit together and a little laugh, maybe a, “Ha, yeah really.” But they are right. And because my son is on the run, I started running too. I wake up feeling better in the morning and he no longer runs away from me looking back with his tongue hanging out and that rabid look in his eyes. Because now I’m too far ahead, taunting him relentlessly as he tries to catch up.

2. They clear the path to self-discovery. We recently started seeing a play therapist with our son. He had begun hitting himself among other things when he became frustrated or upset and we were concerned. The one thing that stands out the most from the experience is when I was asked not so much about my son’s behavior during a public tantrum but about my anxiety when it was happening. The astounding realization that I may have made the situation worse because of what I was feeling inside. They say you are a mirror for your children, but it works both ways. They are a mirror for us as well. And it’s amazing what you can learn about yourself when you take an honest look.

3. You always have an excuse for an exit. Taking a strong -willed super hyper dude to a birthday party is quite the experience. Many public outings can go south quickly and in fact they have. I can try to prepare him the best I can. Set limits and rules. But sometimes I don’t always notice that the chocolate brownies were within his arm’s reach and he consumed the entire plate sitting out on the table. Then the fun starts. Total meltdown. Then comes the impossible round up of the child as the partygoers look on. On the bright side, when there is an event you need a quick exit for, this always does the trick. They probably don’t want you there anyway with your crazy kid and you’re over it, so it all has a way of working out.

4. They inspire a search for balance. When you have a high-energy child, some days just aren’t like a Pamper’s commercial. My son can have a day of non-stop high-speed fun until it ends with a fiery crash. You need balance in your universe to get you through. I never really understood yoga until having my son. During a pre-natal yoga class I referred to it as an activity called try not to fart in a tiny room full of people. But now I get it. My son’s wild side forces me to seek out the amazing power of nothingness. I certainly don’t have time for a yoga class any more but I do have time for a hot lavender bath. For a facemask and some soft music. Even lighting candles through my house at night makes me feel calm. I no longer feel guilty about doing nothing.

5. They provide plenty of material for their older years. There will be a day when my son is too old to climb the display at the store. When he will no longer fit under the clothing racks. And believe me, right now I am definitely taking notes. Not to make him feel bad necessarily, but more to have something to talk to him about. I want him to know who he was because it completes the puzzle of who he will be. One of the best pieces of advice for making it in this crazy world is that if you can’t laugh at yourself, then basically you’re in trouble. At 4-years-old I already have a huge arsenal of hysterical material to share with him one day. And yes. I won’t be sad if it comes with a, “I love you mom, you’re the best”. But I don’t need it. Because being allowed to spend his younger years with him is payment enough.

6. Because you wouldn’t want it any other way. How many times have we complained about our children or discussed difficult times with them and at the end added, “But I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Before children when I heard people say this I thought they were delusional liars because I knew for a fact their children were monsters. But it is actually true. We have been through so much with our son. Evaluations, therapy, tantrums, blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t matter. This is the chance we take with the decision to have children. We never know whom we will get. It’s the ultimate game show. And it’s exhilarating! I truly, from the bottom of my heart feel content with the complete understanding that I would not change one damn thing about my son if I had the opportunity. He is my beautiful mess who somehow makes everything more clear.

7. Because you don’t know how lucky you are. Oh my God! If I complained too much my husband used to always tell me we had no reason to complain because there are starving people, or homeless people, or people suffering somewhere. It used to drive me insane. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to complain. But there is truth in this. When you see life through this scope, it really puts things in perspective. There are children who can’t run around and be wild. While being realistic and knowing humans need to vent, we should all be grateful. No matter what any of us are going through, there is always someone out there who has it worse.

8. They take your ego down a few notches. How many of us were the perfect parent before we had children? I know I was. I do not parent in any way close to how I said I was going to before my babies came. And I had no idea what it felt like to live with a hummingbird. The child moves so fast I can’t even see him moving. And the embarrassment I have felt is beyond words. But what I have discovered is the world we live in thrives on our egos and less attention is paid to what is real. My son looks adorable on Facebook, but he has really bad moments. And what I have also come to realize is that all children have bad moments and that’s real. And living an authentic life is something we all seek. I try to remember that when I am hesitant to take my son to a birthday party or outdoor event. I always try to run over my ego as we pull out of the driveway.

9. Because we owe it to them. My son was not born thinking he was going to make my life difficult. Sometimes I question this, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I actually see my son struggle with his emotions frequently and I know it’s not what he wants to be doing. Emotions can sometimes just be too big to handle when a person is so small. But it drives me crazy how easily my son is set off. When he became angry the other day because his Legos were not staying together I watched him secretly from afar. He first threw his arms in the air searching for something to hit. He was yelling and grit his teeth together until his eyes met mine. As soon as he saw me he began to cry. My first thought was that he looked like the Panic Pete doll. The one you squeeze and the eyes bulge out. Then I thought, this is not easy for him. It is our job to help them navigate through the rough water, even if we nearly drown.

10. Because the payoff is better than a million bucks. I don’t care how messed up you think your life is we have all experienced it. That perfect day, where you connect with your child in a way you can’t express in words. I have had days with my son where I was so fed up I tried to give my notice. I was going to be leaving the job to look for something else that was more suitable to my needs. But just when you think you can’t handle any more, you have the perfect day. Feel it. Soak up every second and forget everything else because when you have a magical day with a child whom can be difficult, it makes every hard day make sense. Like there is a purpose to it and a realization that all the things you have been doing, and sacrificing are completely worth it.

11. They can strengthen your will. Our society is changing. We are pummeled with information about everything, some which is accurate and some that is false. Our world is competitive and tricky at times to navigate through. The personality that our children display will serve them well when they are adults. They are the creative ones, the people who are not afraid to try new things and enjoy life. They are not going to back down when someone tells them they will fail. What a minute. I am an adult now. I will often back down when I feel intimidated or if I get one answer I don’t like but I take it as a truth anyway. I need to start taking some advise from my wild son. Be who you are and find your strength. You may need it one day.

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