My Strong-Willed Child Just Might Kill Me

by Meredith Ethington
Originally Published: 
A strong-willed toddler in a purple t-shirt laying on the bed
PointImages / Shutterstock

Most parents believe at some point that their child is strong-willed, like when they are standing in the middle of the grocery store aisle while their child loudly tantrums next to them on the floor because they didn’t get the jumbo-sized candy they begged for. But that’s just a typical day being a parent.

When you really have a strong-willed child, you realize that all you thought you knew about parenting goes out the window pretty fast. And those strong-willed children you thought you had were actually pleasantly compliant in comparison.

I’ve been there.

My first two kids and I had a battle of wills from time to time, but my third child practically came out of the womb letting me know that it was his way or the highway. As a barely walking 1-year-old, I knew.

I just knew.

I knew that he would give me a run for my money. I knew that he would test the limits, and I knew that I would have to rethink everything I thought I had learned thus far about parenting.

Because if something wasn’t his idea or if he decided he wasn’t going to do something, he just simply wasn’t going to do it.

He’s 5 now, and I realized the other day that my strong-willed child will either make me a better parent, or kill me. The jury is still out.

The other day, he woke up happy as could be. He had been talking about swim lessons all weekend, and on our way there, he was chattering in the back seat, carefree and content. But when we arrived at swim class, he turned to me and said, “I don’t want to do swim lessons today.”

I groaned inside. I asked why, and he told me “just because.” We got out of the car because I still like to pretend that I can sway him to see my point of view sometimes. We sat there for 15 minutes watching the other kids swim in the lesson that I had already paid for. I felt helpless. I can’t force him, but I was angry that he had no valid reason for not wanting to go. He even admitted that.

He just didn’t feel like it that day.

I calmly explained that if he skipped his already-paid lesson, he would lose his privilege of screen time that afternoon. He was so determined in his stance that swim class was just not for him that day, that he did. not. care. about the consequence. He’s just that stubborn.

That’s what it’s like raising a strong-willed child.

You can beg and plead and reason all you want, but if your strong-willed child has made up his mind, you might as well figure out a plan B — and quickly.

Strong-willed children are so unyielding that they are willing to suffer through consequences just to prove they are right.

They do the opposite just because they can.

They test you, and retest, and test you again to see if you’ll budge.

Strong-willed kids have a knack for wearing you down, wearing you out, and finding the loophole.

They will teach you that you actually know nothing about parenting, and you will be forced to get creative.

You’ll learn how to trick them into thinking it was all their idea.

They will teach you how to take deep breaths, have more patience, and be willing to compromise more than you ever thought possible.

Your strong-willed kid will bring you to your knees with their fierce love for you, but also bring you to your knees while pleading with them to do something simple like put on some pants.

They will find joy in going against the flow, smelling the roses just so they are in control of your time, and creating their own path.

They define the word stubborn and personify the word relentless.

They will add to your gray hairs and make you laugh daily at their headstrong ideas and determination for all things their way.

They will force you into a fetal position after a long day of showing their strong willpower and remind you that being so resolute about life is actually a gift.

They will excel at things they make up their mind to do and crumble under an agenda that is not their own.

They will make you believe that you could not love another human being more while simultaneously reminding you that loving a strong-willed person just might kill you.

But what I love most about my strong-willed child is his fierce determination to love me unabashedly. He may not show his love by bending his will to my own, but he gives me the gift every day of learning to be flexible, firm, and patient in teaching him that life can’t always be his way or the highway.

He may send me to an early grave with his strong-minded ideals, but I guarantee that I’m grateful for all I get to learn along the way.

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