The Strong Willed Child Part 2
Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Just over a week ago I had the privilege to teach a beautiful group of women at a training retreat. What made this retreat so special for me was to be there with my 17 year old daughter who had been asked to lead the worship sessions. I was humbled by her heart of worship and often throughout the weekend I thanked the Lord for His faithfulness in her life even with the countless times I failed as her Momma and lost my patience by responding to her with a harsh word instead of responding with His heart. This blog is meant to be an encouragement to all of you Mommas training up a strong-willed child! May the words that follow spur you on in the calling on your life to train them and help mold them into who God intends them to be. The child in your life has the heart of a leader who will stand for truth no matter the consequence.
Our daughter Ellie was our second strong-willed child. She was daughter number seven. Even with the additional eleven years of parenting experience since my first strong-willed child, Eleanor Jane brought a whole new level of “Strong-Willed” into my life. It was not long before I realized this was going to be a whole new level of learning how to rely on the Lord and listen for how to train up this child He had entrusted to us. As Ellie approached her second birthday I prayed every day asking God to help me be ready to win the battles ahead with His wisdom and strength.
I know it is easy to grow weary as you parent the relentless strong-willed child. But I want to encourage you to memorize Galatians 6:9, which tells us to not grow tired of doing good, for at the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. The story of my daughter Ellie, who now is a worship leader, reveals the promise of this very verse. God created our daughter with her strong will to fulfill the calling He placed on her life.
I want to encourage you with that thought as you train up your strong-willed child. The challenge is to be patient in the waiting. Pray daily until God gives you a glimpse of the calling on your child’s life. This was another one of the lessons God patiently waited for me to learn. God drove the point home one morning as we began our home school day. Ellie was just 12 years old and she knew she was to begin her day with her math lesson. Yet every morning I found myself saying to her, “Get off the piano and go do your math!” Finally in my desperation to make her listen, I cried out to God. I hoped for some profound words that would make her obey. What He gave me that day was not what I expected. That very day as I stood over the piano demanding once again she stop playing and singing and go and accomplish what I thought was more important, God revealed to me Ellie’s heart of worship. Even though I knew her skills needed to be sharpened, God gave me a vision of her leading worship. I could finally see exactly what He created her do. All of the years of daily prayer for her heart and this day made it all so clear. My strong-willed daughter was turning into a leader, one who would use her gift of worship to lead others into the presence of the Lord. It was her strong will that kept her focused on her music instead of her math each morning. It was in this moment I realized the new role my husband and I would play in her life as we helped her fulfill her calling. Not only would we support her by providing additional voice and piano lessons but the most important part we would play was in the power of our words and prayers over her.
This was the most important lesson I learned as I trained up our second strong-willed daughter…the power of my words. Initially in the early years of our daughter’s life I found myself responding from a heart of frustration that often led to an angry response. Moms, I understand how easy it is to yell at the child who will not back down, who gets fixated on what they want instead of listening to your words of instruction and/or correction. I have been in your shoes. I knew I needed help with my tone and my often sharp reaction to my daughter, so I confessed it to the Lord and then began to search His word for wisdom. What began to change my reponse to Ellie was my decision to memorize specific scriptures written as instruction to help me train my strong-willed child with His heart. Proverbs 15:1, became a life verse for me. It says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. I asked God to help me respond as He directed. I asked God to help me speak words of blessing and life over our daughter, especially in the most challenging moments. But as I began to pray this prayer, God began to show me that I must work on my attitude toward my daughter. There were days when it was hard for me to like her. I told the Lord I would always love her but it was SO hard to look forward to each new day. As I confessed this to the Lord He began to change my heart and help me to lean into parenting this child instead of dreading each day. I memorized another verse during these parenting years that has become a foundation of my faith. Proverbs 4:23 taught me to “guard my heart with all diligence, for from it come the wellsprings of life”. I realized my bad attitude due to the challenges of parenting a strong-willed child were affecting how I parented. I was not thankful for the opportunity, but found myself whining and complaining instead of being grateful for this gift of life He had entrusted to us. This was a turning point in my relationship to our strong-willed little girl. It was a word of truth that set my heart free from weariness to one that finally realized God never intended I parent alone. In fact, God gave me this strong-willed child to teach me more of His heart. It wasn’t about Ellie at all but about the work He was doing in my life. As I surrendered to that, I began to walk in His Holy Spirit power, allowing me to hear His still small voice in the most challenging moments of parenting each day. It was then I began to see small breakthroughs in our Ellie’s heart as well. Her heart began to soften and she began to respond more quickly with a good attitude. Of course there were daily moments when her strong will came out… but now I began to see them with God’s perspective.
When our first strong-willed child began to challenge me, I committed to read the Proverbs and take note of every verse that had words of instruction for parenting. One verse that immediately spoke to my heart was Proverbs 16:24. This verse revealed an area of weakness in my life that I wrestled with each day as the parent of the strong- willed child. The weakness was the words that came out of my mouth. Proverbs 16:24 told me “gracious words were like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”. This meant my parenting tactic to use harsh words to correct my strong-willed child would NEVER work. I confessed my struggle to the Lord and asked Him to transform the way I responded to my daughter. Not only did God begin to change my heart as I parented but He revealed my need to respond to my husband the same way! WOW, what a hard word… but what a life giving word.
Speaking gracious words means to speak words that are courteous, kind and pleasant. The scriptures tell us that Jesus spoke only gracious words(Luke 4:22). I wanted that to be my heart as well. This became a daily prayer request before the Lord. I asked Him for words of wisdom and kindness as I spoke to my husband and kiddos. It was then I searched for other resources to encourage me along my way. This is when I found an amazing book called, The Blessing, Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, by John Trent and Gary Smalley. The main idea within the book addresses the power of the spoken word that impacts the hearts of our children. Our words have the ability to demonstrate unconditional love and life to our children or they can be words that are negative and critical, robbing our children of that unconditional love God extended to each one of us. The book was so popular that the authors then published a Mother’s Daily Devotional called, The Legacy of The Blessing. I encourage you to read them both.
Finally, as we parent, God calls us to more. More patience, more understanding, more wisdom, more kindness and more of His heart so we are able to demonstrate His character before our children.
Are you willing to change the way you respond to your strong-willed child? Our responses will impact their hearts for a life time. Our encouraging words and prayers over their lives will mold them into the young men and women God is calling them to be.
Photo by Manna Church