I have a strong-willed daughter. I often joke that she came out fighting (see previous posts about her condition at birth), and she never stopped. My daughter and I share many interests, but our personalities I admit are rather different. Where I was the child that aimed to please, my daughter has no qualms about demanding things go her way. Where I would get in line if my parents simply looked at me the wrong way, my daughter has to have directives firmly delivered. Where I was the bookworm content to play on my own, my daughter thirsts for stimulation through new experiences and activities seemingly without limit.
Recently a series of events occurred that opened my eyes to a few things. One being that I may not be the only person intimately challenged by her personality type. Secondly, that as a whole I believe society likes to label strong-willed kids and ultimately, greatly misunderstands them. I would know, for I am chief among those still trying to unravel the mysteries of the strong-willed child. I am certainly no expert, but these are a few lessons I’ve learned from my brilliantly passionate first born daughter.
Willful Does Not = Bad
Personally, I feel like there is a dark shadow that looms over the label of “Strong-Willed Child.” Generally, they are looked at as kids who are rebellious, difficult, demanding, and troublemakers. Where there are many circumstances these children may exhibit some of these tendencies, this personality trait is also known for integrity, passion, honesty, and character. A strong will is a gift, one many of us must cultivate throughout our lives. It takes a strong will to be disciplined, to achieve a goal, and to stand up against peer pressure.
Willful Children’s Demands = A Craving for Respect
Certainly, all children need to be heard and validated. In the willful child’s case, this is particularly true. I find that many times my daughter simply wants to be heard, and acknowledged. It can be challenging, especially when giving instruction or, more importantly, trying to keep her safe. With a strong-willed child, you have to earn their respect as much as they have to earn yours. I remember asking my four-year-old daughter one day, “do you trust me?” To my dismay, she honestly answered “No.” She likes to see for herself. If you tell her a snack is gone, she will look in the closet to double check. It’s not that I lie to her (because I don’t), it’s just that she must know herself. I call her my “Show Me” girl.
Willful Children = Influencers
This can be especially challenging. As a parent, I stand up a little straighter to hear my daughter called a leader. However, that label is not always a good one either, especially if her example is not always the “perfect” one. Encouraging my daughter to be a good example takes time and practice. She just wants to be a kid. She isn’t aware that her passion and enthusiasm rub off on those around her. Watching her I’ve realized she is not really trying to be the leader–it’s more that her personality is so infectious she just naturally influences the environment around her.
Willful Children’s Energy = A Lust for Life
Recently my daughter’s intentions have been grossly misunderstood. She has been called out for behavior normal in other kids and accused of having bad intentions. Perhaps it’s the emphatic nature of her social interaction or the acute comprehension she has, I’m not 100% sure, but what I do know is she is just living life. She is not privy to the way adults read into behaviors, and frankly, she doesn’t even care. The energy she embraces life with can be draining us as we guide her through life, but I’m so proud that this kid lives life to the fullest and never holds back, not one bit.
Willful Children = Stronger Parents
For me understanding my daughter is of extreme importance because it is so easy to react based on what I think I already know about her personality. I am definitely not perfect, but stepping back in the heat of the moment and asking myself what is it she is trying to tell me helps bring clarity to challenging situations. My daughter makes me a better, stronger mother. I’m tested daily and learning constantly. Many days I feel so inadequate–but those are usually the days she shows me her incredible capacity to be loving, and thoughtful.
If you think you have a strong-willed child you should know… you have a gift. Like all children, they are gifts given to us to show us more about ourselves, and the world. These kids are built to move mountains and change worlds.
So consider yourself blessed if you, like me, have a strong-willed kid.
A few articles I’ve gained insight from: