I’d like you to meet my strong-willed child

By: John and Kendra Smiley

“This is my strong-willed child.  The one I was telling you about.”

When you read those two sentences it is very important that you get the right voice inflection.  We want you get the message being sent not only by the words but also through the tone and body language. Imagine this parent’s words delivered in a manner reflecting a cross between totally exasperated and wondering what she had done to deserve this challenging child.

Strong-willed children can, indeed, be very challenging.  In fact simply defining the category “strong-willed,” is difficult.

Let’s begin that process with a quote from a well-respected source, Dr. James Dobson.  In his book, The Strong-Willed Child he writes that a strong-willed child “seems to be born with a clear idea of how he (or she) wants the world to be operated and an intolerance for those who disagree.” (p. 24)

That generally summarizes the strong-willed child’s black-and-white thinking and intolerance. As parents of a certifiably formerly-strong-willed-child-turned-responsible-adult and the authors of Journey of a Strong-Willed Child we would add a few more qualifiers to that definition.   These are found in our book, co-authored with our son.

  • A strong-willed child appears confident.
  • A strong-willed child can be both charming and defiant.
  • He or she is very persistent and is even willing to take punishment to win.
  • A strong-willed child is generally gifted in manipulation, ready, willing and able to cause an emotional upset if it is a means to gain control of his life.
  • A strong-willed child does not necessarily want to control everyone else; he simply does not want to be controlled. Yet, he will strive to control someone threatening to control him.

Who typically is the person “threatening to control” the strong-willed child?  That’s right!  It’s you, his loving parent. His parent who might be wondering why this child is so difficult and so opinionated—so “right” all the time.

There is one more describer that should be noted and it is perhaps, the most baffling.

  • The strong-willed child who is straining and striving and battling for control actually wants you to be in control.  It is a paradox.

Do YOU have a strong-willed child?

Do you recognize any of those descriptions of a strong-willed child?  Do you have any to add?

 Photo: Flickr

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