Last Updated on March 12, 2024

God has not given me any children who take life lying down, which is good, you know, because if one of them did, the other ones would mow the poor kid over. But this latest installment, my one-year-old, takes the cake.

So far, aside from being very independent and one-year-old-style busy (I brought you the toilet brush all the way from the bathroom again, Mom! [insert sound of alarm] … Thanks, buddy.), the kid is our most strong-willed yet. One of the ways he exercises this is via eating, for example — bringing a whole new definition to picky. Among his list of “throw off the highchair” foods (another behavior I get to confront): strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, bananas, meat of any kind, any and all vegetables, and even the recently-attempted Chicken Nuggets (no, I did not count those in the “meat” category). Seriously. Have you ever seen a kid turn up his nose at Chicken Nuggets?

He also likes to refuse to sleep (including at 6 a.m.), prefers shrieking at the top of his lungs to get my attention for the vast menagerie of situations that are not to his liking, and toddles around with an immobilizing hold on my clothing, whining for me to pick him up. I have found that he can, at times, be patient … particularly when he waits for me to leave the room to do something I’ve told him not to do. (Ever seen those kid shirts that say, “Hi! My name is ‘No-no’”?)

Yes, these are issues that we address with him, but no, our efforts have not completely succeeded in perfecting my little boy’s attitudes (surprise, surprise). Typically, whatever we’d like him to do is what he would prefer not to do and would prefer to let us know. Add this to the fact that he now knows what he wants but can’t yet express it in words, and you have one very exasperated toddler and an even more exasperated mother. A handful of occasions in a day find me sputtering his name in a tone that says, “Are you kidding me?!”

I slumped to the carpet the other day, leaning against the wall with eyes closed in mental conversation with God: Lord, a strong-willed one for our fourth child? What am I going to do? And where am I gonna get the energy to do it with?

But I think in that moment, He helped me to visualize my son 20 or 30 years from now. What if my grown-up boy channeled that energy as, say, a lawyer defending the unborn, the impoverished, or others who didn’t have a voice, without relenting (like the way he disobeyed me now)? What if he was an elementary school teacher and didn’t give up on a kid who’d been neglected by everyone else?

My son’s maddening stubborn streak could, in God’s hands, be something remarkably powerful. After all, I’m guessing Jesus had to have some stick-to-it-tiveness to stand up to Satan when He was tempted in the desert after 40 days with no food … or when He went to the cross for me.

Now, it’s not like a kid wailing and attempting to roll off the changing table translates into “man who can change the world.” I, um, have several steps from “strong-willed child” to “great man.” But at least now, I’m seeing a way to connect the dots.

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  1. YES! Strong willed kids will keep you on your knees. (You are either laughing or crying…NO in between!)But train them in the Lord and they will be amazing at what they do, because NOBODY can knock them off track! Our first born is strong-willed and there has been more than one challenging day in her childhood. Seeing her go off to college this year I could not be more proud of who God created her to be. One of my ALL time favorite books for moms with Strong-willed kids, "You Can't Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded" by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias. I love your post and it brings a flood of memories back. It is also all too real as I have for sure one other Strong willed child and we may be looking at child #8 as one too! YIKES!

  2. I so needed to hear this. I have an extremely strong willed 2 year old. I have been struggling with patience and how to discipline and guide him into making this a positive characteristic. Not easy! It's so nice to read other moms going through it too and learn from their insights and experience. Thank you!

  3. Janel Breitenstein says:

    I just bought that book, Shannon–great recommendation. It's been great for learning to really maximize what God's given him without crushing his spirit (or losing my mind). And thanks for the forward glance to one going off to college, too. When I start to despair, I look at my sister, who was a strong-willed child and survived to be a really strong woman who loves the Lord with her life. She also tells me her secrets of the stuff strong-willed kids attempt that I'd never dreamed of…