Do you have a strong-willed child? If you have to think about the answer…that would be a solid, “No.” If you have one, you know it! Now, every child is capable of strong-willed moments. (We adults are too!) But a true strong-willed child leaves no doubt that they are one.
My daughter, “Sixteen,” was definitely an SWC (strong-willed child). It was really only an issue from about age two to fourteen. You laugh. Ha! The hardest part about dealing with the SWC behavior all those years was that it was most often behind closed doors, which led me to feel like I was losing my mind. She was a perfect child in public. School teachers loved her, Sunday school teachers, kids at school…she was liked by all. But at home, if I wanted her to do something she didn’t want to do…watch out! World War Three took place in my kitchen. Now I am glad she wasn’t difficult in public, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I wanted her to act up in front of others. But the private, “behind closed doors” nature of our conflicts left me feeling desperately alone. Can you relate?
Her will was amazingly strong. My life would have been so much “easier” if I had just let her win the battles. She wasn’t a “bad” kid. She wasn’t mischievous or conniving. She just wanted to be in control. But as her mom, I couldn’t let her control the situation. An eight year old shouldn’t be allowed to run the show. So we battled. It was a battle of wills and it was exhausting. It wasn’t every day…but it was often enough that it colored my world in shades of black and gray.
A friend once told me that God gave my daughter to me because he knew I wouldn’t give up on her. I tried to take comfort in that. He knew I was the right one for the job. Because she is really an amazing person. I always said she’d be an amazing adult if I let her live that long. (If you don’t have a SWC you may be appalled by that comment. It’s okay…mothers of SWCs learn early on not to take it personally when others misunderstand them. If you do have an SWC, you know exactly what I mean. When she’s in her twenties we are going to write companion books about her childhood. Mine will be called, “Some Days I Hate My Daughter,” and hers will be, “Some Days I Hate My Mother.” That’s the plan, anyway.)
So during those dark days I did a lot of praying. I needed God’s strength to get through most days because I didn’t have the strength to be kind, patient and loving on my own. I could be sarcastic, retaliatory and angry without help…I had that down to a science. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to do the right thing…to be the right thing. I wanted to be the mom she needed. And I didn’t want my struggles with her to infect my other kids or my marriage. Some days, I was able to totally rely on God and on those days, regardless of how she acted, I knew I handled myself well. But on other days, I just acted out of sheer exhaustion. On those days, I felt so defeated. But I kept pressing forward. Kept asking for God’s help and slowly (very slowly) things started to change.
Everyone talks about the scary teen years. I say, “Thank God for the teen years!!” See, she always knew that she needed to have more self-control but for so many years, she just didn’t know how to make that happen. But as she matured, she began to figure it out. I can say that now, at almost 17 years old, she is one of my favorite people. She loves God and wants to serve him. She does very well in school. She works hard at her job and volunteers in the community and at church. She is one of the people I laugh with most. She has many friends and seems to be well liked by everyone. In the home, she is a different person than she was as a kid. She is helpful, generally doing whatever I ask her to do. She makes a great effort to be a good big sister and help her brothers. Of course, she’s not perfect. I’m not either. She’s still strong-willed but she balances that with more self-control. We still have days that we can’t stand each other. But those days are now the exception, not the rule. (Thank you Lord!) God is not done with either of us yet, but the older she gets, the better our relationship gets. Words can’t describe what a victory that is. And it’s something I’m so incredibly thankful for.
So if you have a child who challenges you constantly, take heart! It won’t last forever. It’s taken many years for me to get to the place where I can honestly encourage you, but I promise things will get better if you don’t give up. Keep being the parent God made you to be. Keep loving your child even when they seem unlovable. Do you know you are not alone? If you have an SWC, leave a comment. Let’s encourage one another.
P.S. I asked Sixteen to read this before I posted it. I didn’t want to hurt or offend her. She knew my purpose was to encourage other moms out there so she said she was cool with it. That’s proof right there…things will get better!