Abbie, who is 18 months old, is very much a mama’s girl. She wants to be near me at all times, preferably riding on my hip. She is very sweet and very shy, but can pitch the fit of a lifetime at the drop of a hat. She’s very smart and you can see the wheels turning in her head, but she has no interest in using actual words.
Addie Grace, who is four, is the complete opposite. She’s silly and fiercely independent. She talks to everyone (actually, she talks CONSTANTLY) and never meets a stranger. She spoke in complete sentences at 18 months. She is one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met and I swear she is four going on fourty.
As many differences as these sweet girls have, they have one glaringly obvious commonality: they are RIDICULOUSLY strong-willed. Frustratingly so. See some of the crazy things I’ve said to them
For the first three years of Adeline’s life, she was so easy to handle. She rarely pitched a fit, she just went with the flow, and life was good. Then, BAM. Three hit. And life as I knew it disappeared. She became belligerent, unyielding, and pretty much did the EXACT opposite of what she was told while she pitched a screaming fit. There has been foot-stomping, door slamming, and heaven knows what else. (At the time, we had had a new baby, moved cross-country and were staying with family, and lost our grandfather in a two month span.)
Abigail, on the other hand, has been a spitfire since birth. When she doesn’t get her way, she likes to kick, scream, stomp, hit, bite, and has been known to hit her head on the floor or walls just to get her point across. Yeah….
After many tears (mine) and not having a clue what to do, we have finally settled on something that has worked incredibly for the past 5 months.
Turns out, consistency is key.
In case you’re in the same boat as we are with sweet, but strong-willed kids, here is what we have found works with our girls (at least with Adeline since Abs isn’t old enough to really “get” it.)
The Lord revealed something to me in writing this post, so I thought I’d share it first:
The attributes that make parenting a strong-willed child are the same attributes that will make them a successful adult: dedication, focus, leadership, strong will. The goal is not to BREAK their will, but to DIRECT it and teach them how to direct it.
Ok… here it is. We have five rules. That’s it. I’ve found they pretty much encompass what I want to teach them. Each one has an accompanying Bible verse and its own specific consequence. When the rule is broken, We get out the Bible, read and discuss the verse, and enforce the consequence.
Rule 1: Love God and Each Other. Bible Verse: John 13:34-35, Consequence: Do one act of kindness.
If little isn’t showing love, she must do one act of kindness. It shows them HOW to love instead of them having to figure it out on their own.
Rule 2: Listen and obey the first time. Bible verse: Collossians 3:20 Consequence: spanking.
Perhaps the most important rule, this rule has the most severe consequence. It is imperative that our little mind us. If they don’t mind, there are many situations in which their safety is at stake. Think if you yell “STOP!” in a parking lot and they keep walking. We explain to Addie Grace that God asks us to obey our parents because he is teaching us to obey Him. And that it is dangerous when she doesn’t listen and obey THE FIRST TIME.
DISCLAIMER: Yes, we spank our children. No, they’re not abused. They’re well-adjusted and happy and love Jesus. Don’t like it? Fine. Don’t spank your kid. Come up with a consequence that works for your family. 🙂
Rule 3: Use nice words in a nice voice. Bible Verse: Ephesians 4:32 Consequence: Say three nice things to/about the person to whom you weren’t nice.
Again, this teaches her to be kind and watch the way she says things. I struggle with the way I say things. I’m AWFUL at vocal tones. I often mean something one way and say it another way and don’t even realize it. Yikes.
Rule 4: Always be honest. Bible Verse: Proverbs 12:22 Consequence: Think in your room for 5 minutes.
This is a glorified time-out. We do not tolerate lying. We are always trying to teach her how to be honest, but kind. If she continues and doesn’t tell the truth when we ask her to, we revert back to rule 2.
Rule 5: Clean up after yourself. Bible Verse: Psalm 51:10 Consequence: Mommy takes your toy. Short version: I’m not the maid. If you don’t clean it up, it’s mine. Now, at four, when the room is a disaster zone, I don’t expect her to spend 30 minutes in there alone and not get distracted. So we leave the door open and each time I walk by, I give her another task: “Put the clothes in the laundry.” “Put the shoes on the shelf.” “Put the toys in the toy box.” “Make your bed.”
Consistency is the most important thing here. When we started implementing this, it took about a week and I saw a big difference in her behavior. We are still just as strong-willed as ever, but I definitely feel like that is a POSITIVE thing that can be trained now and I NEVER want to break it. Just redirect it.
Love to my loves,