I was what people call a 'strong willed' child. I knew what was expected of me and would behave appropriately in public (most of the time). At home however, it was a different story.
My poor parents. I know that many of their gray hairs have my name on them. They told me when I was out of college that they seriously wondered if I would survive to adulthood (yep, that bad).
The ironic part of all of this is that I am now raising not one, but two strong-willed children. Each one has their own strong-willed tendencies. This doesn't mean that they are bad children. They have definite leadership potential. They are loving, sensitive, creative kids. Thankfully, the battles they each pick aren't the same ones. Usually, they aren't at the same time either.
The funny thing is, at the end of a day full of battles, my kids aren't the problem...I am.
Being a former strong willed child, part of me wants to pull on the gloves when I sense conflict. I think the word that my mom used to use for it was being 'ornery' or 'contrary'. You say yes? Well then, my answer must be 'no'. Try to back me into a corner decision wise...I'll come out fighting.
I know, it makes no rational sense and is completely juvenile. In most adult situations, I can mentally talk myself down from this mindset. With my kids however, I have the added piece of 'Hey, I'm the grown-up here. Just obey me now, okay?' My kids know exactly which buttons to push to get me going. The last thing they need is a mom who is playing a headbutting game of wills over ridiculous things, just for the sake of having my own way.
So, what's a parent to do?
I've narrowed it down to eight things for myself.
1. Admit that I have a oppositional streak. Ask myself "Is it really the kids picking the battle, or am I just in a 'mood.'"
2. Take a break. Don't discipline until I can do so calmly and rationally.
3. Look back to look forward. I was a strong-willed child and I turned out okay. I just need to work the rest of my strong willed 'kinks' out. What did my parents do to help me turn into a successful adult.
4. Make a research project out of it. I've been trying to figure out what things are triggers for me, and what my children's triggers are. If it helps to avoid conflict in the long run, it's worth it.
5. Laugh a little. Talking to other formerly strong willed children (and parents) helps a ton. Not only does it help me to be able to laugh a little at my struggles, but suddenly I no longer feel so alone in this journey. Plus, most of us have at least one strong willed child so we have a lot a stories to share.
6. Take care of myself. The better I eat, the more I sleep, and the more I move the better I parent. Remember how crabby you would be the day after Halloween as a kid when you were coming down from your sugar rush and had gotten to bed too late? Enough said.
7. Admit defeat. Sometimes I will be wrong. I will make the wrong decision. I will jump to the wrong conclusion and I need to tell my kids those two words, "I'm sorry." It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength and it's something that my children need to see me model.
8. Pray for wisdom and discernment. God will point out to my flaws and weaknesses if I ask him. I might not always like what I discover but it's worth it.
Becoming a parent didn't mean that I automatically had all of the answers. Boy, was that disappointing to discover! But, being a parent does mean I need to be the best that I can be so that I can help my children become their best. To do that I need to take care of my strong willed tendencies, so that they don't raise their ugly head during the sometimes stressful journey of raising two amazing human beings.
I think I am up for the challenge. Remember...I'm kind of strong willed. ☺
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