Disclaimer: I've written about this before, but for all of my friends out there that are dealing with a strong willed child, I think it's encouraging to read this type of thing (I wish I knew more people that went thru this a few years ago when I was dealing with this, it's good to know you have company).
I share my story about raising a "strong willed child" all the time with people. Because people comment a lot on how well behaved the kids are, or how they always use manners and I always feel the need to explain, it took a LOT of work to get like this, especially for my strong willed child. And then some days the kids go bananas and are WILD and no one says anything about how well behaved they are. ;)
But I can tell you, from having a very strong willed child- if you have one- you know it. I have 2 kids who are (or appear to be in Vivi's case) "normal" kids, normal acting out, normal testing of boundaries, by no means perfect, just easier kids to raise & discipline.
Judah - you could just see it in his eyes, was a STRONG willed child. He was sweet & amazing & happy & funny, but he was strong willed. He was two years old and could size you up in 15 seconds to know who was in charge- you or him. He knew he was in charge of all the kids in his daycare class and most of his teachers. He knew if another kid had something he wanted he would get it, no matter what he had to do to get it. He knew he was going to see if you meant business every single time you told him not to do something. Which at 2 is all day, every day. Whether it was pressing buttons on the electronics by the tv, on my phone, or even having a meltdown. He was testing you. And testing you. And testing you. I felt like we had a battle of wills for 2 years.
I felt like God had given me the right child because I would fight that battle all day, any day and win that battle. But it got exhausting. I needed encouragement from my very good friend who also went thru many days of major discipline and also my parents who were my biggest cheerleaders to fight this good fight.
The thing is, we never, ever backed down. We could be disciplining him for the tenth time that day and at my wits end, but Guillermo & I would do it all over again (btw, the form of discipline we administer models Dr Voddie Bachaum's from his book Family Driven Faith- which is just biblical discipline, with LOTS of love and communication surrounding swift discipline, different discipline for different scenerios, but direct defiance is always the same discipline).
I am very far from a perfect parent and I know I do a lot of things wrong, but in this, I needed to get this right. I knew a defiant spirit would follow my precious little boy into adulthood and his life would be miserable and so would everyone else's life around him.
Even writing this now, I can't even believe I am talking about Judah. It's like he's a whole different kid. Frankly he's my BEST kid now! At 6 years old, he is the most obedient, kind, loving, smart child and he adores his parents. Discipline did not destroy his spirit into being a compliant robot, it has made him blossom into the best version of himself because now he's confident that he does not have to be the boss, he is confident and comfortable in his role that he does not have fight to be in charge of us as parents and other authority figures. He's still bossy, like his mama & a normal first born. :)
I had an epiphany about raising kids this month while on a recent outing. I've been lucky enough to be in a leadership class and do different things each month, this month was - history of Berkeley County. First of all, I never, ever knew there was so much history in Berkeley County and so many plantations! Secondly I was blown away at the beauty of it all. We visited 6 different sites, including several plantations, Mepkin Abbey, a church and church ruins.
Everywhere you looked were the most majestic oak trees.
I was looking out this window of this plantation home at the grandeur of the "avenue of oaks" up to the house and it hit me. When the builder of this home (back in the late 1600s/early 1700s) built the home, this was the window he looked out of, but he didn't see this avenue of oaks. There was no perfect line of oaks lining his driveway, he planted those oaks and all he ever saw in his lifetime was small to average size trees- if that. Isn't wasn't until long after he was gone that there was the grandeur of these unbelievable oaks sprawling over the driveway and lining his courtyard.
Someone decided to invest time and money to plant dozens of oak trees that wouldn't mature for decades. In those days the life expectancy in rural Moncks Corner wasn't great (probably average around 30? from looking at the tombstone dates) with yellow fevers, and other diseases so the person wasn't even planting these majestic trees for his kids, maybe his grandkids could see. But he was making decisions for the future no matter the cost in the present.
And it reminded me of what we went through with Judah. It is HARD work to consistently discipline a child. Most of the time it's easier to give in. Most of the time it's less embarrassing to just let it go on than have to leave the event, or at least leave to go discipline a child properly. But you can't think about the moment, or the day. And how you're too tired to discipline one more time that day, so you'll let this one slide.
You have to be strong and consistent and think about the little tree in front of you that if guided the right way will flourish into a grand oak, with deep, strong roots.
If this is you, I encourage you, at first you will be in the fight of your life- at the 2-3year old age, but after a while they will realize that you are the boss, your word goes and you will find yourself disciplining less and less and then a few years later you barely remember how hard it was!
And if anything is worth every single bit of blood, sweat, tears, it is this.
My pastor gave a great sermon on parenting the other day and had a very meaningful illustration about how a lot of parents try to do it. See the "wrong" illustration. When your child is very young you give them lots of freedom and you see that giving them lots of freedom causes them to misbehave and make bad decisions. So you start pulling back on their freedoms and they are now used to these freedoms (and think they are in charge because you've given them these freedoms) so they start pushing back even harder and make more bad decisions and misbehave even more, so you pull back even more on their freedoms (at the triangle closes more and more as they get older). And they resent you because of this.
Instead at a young age, they have very little to no freedom. The parent makes the point of guidance and obedience (and discipline in a Godly manner). As the child gets older and is obedient you start purposefully giving them ways to have more freedoms. And praise them for doing well while no one was around to watch them making good choices. As they get older you slowing increase their freedoms. When they are old enough to go off on their own, you have taught them how to be independent and how to handle freedom while being obedient to authority, to you & God's word. And to make good decisions when no one is around. What a victory as a parent!
Look at this amazing church. It's called the Pompion Hill Chapel. It looks really big, but it's actually a fairly small room, with the best view in the whole world.
It's like you opened your door to the most amazing landscape painting ever!
At the end of the day it's all about grace. Grace as a parent, grace from Jesus to become a better parent, grace towards your children, grace to become a better spouse. Giving each other grace when we mess up. You fight the good fight, you consistently do what you need to do, you show grace, you emulate grace, and everything will work out. Those 2 years with Judah were hard, but at the other side of it, there is so much joy. And peace. And grace.
I know with all kids, the hard parts are never over, that's just part of parenting, but in that test, for those years, we all won. Thank you God. :)