Archive | October 2014

Loving the Strong-Willed Child Without Losing One’s Mind, Part 5: Biblical Perspective

The Strong-Willed Child: Biblical Perspective

            God’s word is the blueprint for life. People often say, “Too bad kids don’t come with an instruction manual!” God provided His instruction manual – the Bible. Throughout the Bible, God directed parents on how to raise children in a way that honors Him. God’s word also contains several recollections of strong-willed children and their parents; some events had happy endings, and others ended in tragedy. Point being, God is the foremost Authority in parenthood.

Parents who are obedient to God in child rearing are not guaranteed a life free of struggles, but they are promised the Lord’s blessings. One of the most-noted verses surrounding God’s promise to parents is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (New King James Version). This does not mean that children of Christian parents will not go astray. Each person, young and old, has the gift of free will. Everyone must make his or her own choices in life. This verse assures parents that the seeds they plant within a child, whether spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally, will remain with that child forever. Those seeds will influence a child’s life; therefore, they need to be a reflection of God the Father’s parental guidance of His children.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1a, NKJV)

“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1a, NKJV)

There are a variety of parental accounts within the Bible; the following show drastic differences in parenting styles and the results of each. In the second chapter of First Samuel, the record of Eli the priest and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, was told: “Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12, NKJV). The story goes on to reveal the abominations committed by Eli’s sons, his repeated warnings to them about what would happen should they not repent, the sons’ continued disobedience, and finally, God’s wrath upon the family. God was not just angry at Eli’s sons for their disobedient and ungodly behavior; He was angry with Eli for allowing them to continuously dishonor Him. In a prophecy revealed to Eli, God said, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?” (1 Samuel 2:29, NKJV). The very first of the Ten Commandments is, “I am the LORD your God … You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3, NKJV). By allowing his sons to go undisciplined, not only were they committing grievous sins against the LORD, but Eli was putting them above God and breaking God’s law. This would no longer go unpunished; God allowed both Hophni and Phinehas to be killed by the Philistines on the same day, and immediately after receiving the news, Eli fell off of a wall and died. Parents must consider the spiritual consequences of allowing children – even strong-willed children – to remain undisciplined. God not only holds children responsible for their actions; He holds the parents accountable.

In the book of Luke, a second narrative of a disobedient child is told. In “The Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son,” Jesus described a grown son who does not wish to wait for his father to die before gaining his inheritance; he demanded it, and the father granted it. One may be lead to believe that the father was too permissive. However, to read the entire account paints the picture of a wealthy, intelligent, industrious and well-respected man. In Luke 15:17, the son had lost everything and recalled his father’s character: “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’” (NKJV). This father was fair, not only to his kin, but to those who served him. It must be remembered, too, that there was a second son who obeyed his father and did not squander his fortune, as described in Luke 15:25-31. Therefore, the prodigal son appears to be the typical strong-willed child; in spite of his father’s loving yet firm discipline, he demanded his own way. His father allowed him to find his way in the world, and the son failed miserably. Lesson learned. The son recognized his foolishness, repented to God, and headed home to ask forgiveness of his earthly father. Godly parenting was mirrored perfectly when this rebellious young man’s father not only forgave him for his disobedience, but he celebrated his return and showered him with love. Parents would be wise to heed this example when children seek forgiveness. Yet this is not just the story of a father’s loving forgiveness. The fact that the son wanted to go home and knew he could go home provides another key about how well this father parented his son. In the face of adversity and defeat, this young man sought proximity and closeness to his father, felt that Dad was a safe haven, was sad at the possible loss of a relationship with his father, and although his explorations proved disastrous, knew his father would be there for him when he returned home. The relationship between this wayward son and his father demonstrates the role of attachment in angry and defiant children (AACC, 2006). This father had rules, but because he had a strong, loving relationship with his son, the young man was able to eventually accept discipline, even if learned the hard way.

Parents who embrace the word of God in their lives and instill His teachings in their children can gain strength in knowing they are never alone. The apostle Paul instructed the Ephesians with these words: “And you, fathers (or parents), do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NKJV). No parent has ever been or will ever be perfect, with the exception of our heavenly Father. There are genuine, solid, practical measures that can be applied to parenting the strong-willed child, or to parenting in general, that will promote a healthy, happy home. However, God’s word stands true, and in the words of the psalmist, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1a, NKJV).


References

American Association of Christian Counselors (2006). Angry, defiant, and violent kids (presentation). Available from Liberty University Online.

Bernstein, J. (2014, February 26). Five anxiety-lowering strategies for children [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog.liking-the-child-you-love/201402/five-anxiety-lowering-strategies-children

Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1998). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Crabb, L. (1977). Effective biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dobbs, J. (2004). The new strong-willed child. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Flaskerud, J.H. (2011). Discipline and effective parenting. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 32,82-84. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.498078

Karreman, A., de Hass, S., van Tuijl, C., van Aken, M., & Dekovic, M. (2009). Relations among temperament, parenting and problem behavior in young children. Infant Behavior & Development, 33, 39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.10.008

Meeker, M. (2010, May 4). Staying sane with strong-willed kids [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-matters/201005/staying-sane-strong-willed-kids

Strong-willed. (n.d.). In Cambridge dictionaries online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/strong-willed

Turner, E. (2013, June 24). 4 tips for managing parenting stress [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-race-good-health/201306/4-tips-managing-parenting-stress

Loving the Strong-Willed Child Without Losing One’s Mind, Part 4: Parental Coping Mechanisms

The Strong-Willed Child: Parental Coping Mechanisms

            Any parent actively involved in a child’s life is going to experience stress to some degree. The parent of a strong-willed child is going to experience stress to an even higher degree (Turner, 2013). The battle of the wills cannot occur without taking a casualty now and then. In Caring for People God’s Way, the authors point out that it is the response to stress, not stress itself that causes emotional and physical damage (Clinton, Hart, & Ohlschlager, 2005). In order to properly care for anyone else, parents must take the time to care for themselves. Stressors are not going away; how one responds to stress can make a difference in how well one can manage parenthood and life in general.

A starting point for stressed-out parents of strong-willed children is to aim for a healthy thought process. For example, it would not be uncommon for such a parent to set a goal of making little Johnny behave. The idea behind this goal is that in order to be considered worthwhile as a parent, the child must be well-behaved. Rather than equating worth with how someone else behaves, the parent should change that thought to, “I am worthwhile as a responsible child of God” (Crabb, 1977). This does not mean neglecting parental responsibilities as discussed previously, but it does mean accepting that our worth is in Christ, and Christ alone. Additionally, although being a follower of Jesus does not exempt anyone from the pressures of life, it does guarantee His presence when dealing with those stressors.

It would stand to reason that not only do parents feel the stress of raising a strong-willed child but that the child would also feel the stress of day-to-day life. In fact, Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein noted that “escalating anxiety in children can be expressed as defiant behavior” (2014). Suggestions to assist both parent and child with anxiety management include practicing deep, controlled breathing with them, tensing and relaxing different muscles, and imagining a serene place in order to relax the mind (Bernstein, 2014). Thought replacement is also helpful in children; negative ideas of not being good enough or not being able to successfully complete a task can be traded for positive thoughts regarding getting better with practice (Bernstein, 2014). It is important to promote optimism in the child; a parent can teach the child to look for the good in each day, even when it seemed that all went wrong (Bernstein, 2014). Teaching children healthy means of managing stress could reduce their outbursts of defiant behavior, and in turn, reduce the stress of the parent.

In turn, parents who have higher levels of stress are more likely to display their tension in their interactions and discipline of their children (Turner, 2013). This can create a vicious cycle of reacting to the negative behavior of each another. It is a parent’s responsibility to herself and to her child to find healthy practices in reducing or managing her reactions to stress. One suggestion offered by Dr. Meeker (2010) is to avoid taking on every fight all at once. Strong-willed children want and demand their own way. It is likely that every situation could pose a battle, and that alone is enough to wear a parent down and out. Parents should choose one or two “offensive behaviors” to pursue correcting first, allowing less important battles to wait until later (Meeker, 2010). Once the child is obedient in those areas, parents can move on to the others.

Sometimes you need to take a break - whether literally or in your mind.

Sometimes you need to take a break – whether literally or in your mind.

Although the previous suggestions involved interaction with the strong-willed child, parents should also pursue measures toward stress management on their own. As hectic as life may be, Mom and Dad need to aim for a healthy lifestyle in order to be at their best. Eating well-balanced and nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and praying are all beneficial in battling anxiety (Clinton, Hart, & Ohlschlager, 2005). Parents must make time – and take that time – for themselves (Turner, 2013). Taking a break may seem nearly impossible when any child requires extra attention and effort; however, it is actually therapeutic for both parent and child to spend time away from one another (Turner, 2010). Personal time can involve practicing a favorite hobby, getting therapeutic massages, or spending time with friends. Friendships and solid support systems are crucial to handling parental stressors. Having someone dependable to talk to, as well as someone trustworthy to care for the child in order to provide self-care time for the parent, is extremely valuable. In addition, support systems can provide recommendations on what techniques work with their children (Turner, 2013). The pressures of raising a strong-willed child can steer a parent toward depression; isolation is not the answer and is discouraged (Clinton, Hart, & Ohlschlager, 2005).

When parents need someone to talk to, seeking a counselor or therapist can be beneficial (Turner, 2013). Not only can a counselor assist the parent in stress management, but the therapist may also be qualified in helping the strong-willed child and other family members. Professional psychologists can offer parents resources on handling problem behaviors, and they will have information that can help the child diminish those same behaviors (Turner, 2013). Christian counselors will offer biblical wisdom and prayer in addition to psychological guidance.


References

American Association of Christian Counselors (2006). Angry, defiant, and violent kids (presentation). Available from Liberty University Online.

Bernstein, J. (2014, February 26). Five anxiety-lowering strategies for children [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog.liking-the-child-you-love/201402/five-anxiety-lowering-strategies-children

Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1998). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Crabb, L. (1977). Effective biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dobbs, J. (2004). The new strong-willed child. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Flaskerud, J.H. (2011). Discipline and effective parenting. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 32,82-84. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.498078

Karreman, A., de Hass, S., van Tuijl, C., van Aken, M., & Dekovic, M. (2009). Relations among temperament, parenting and problem behavior in young children. Infant Behavior & Development, 33, 39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.10.008

Meeker, M. (2010, May 4). Staying sane with strong-willed kids [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-matters/201005/staying-sane-strong-willed-kids

Strong-willed. (n.d.). In Cambridge dictionaries online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/strong-willed

Turner, E. (2013, June 24). 4 tips for managing parenting stress [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-race-good-health/201306/4-tips-managing-parenting-stress

Loving the Strong-Willed Child Without Losing One’s Mind, Part 3: Guidance and Discipline

The Strong-Willed Child: Guidance and Discipline

No matter what temperament rules a child’s being, parental guidance and discipline are essential. Adults must parent with a purpose, as explained by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their book, Boundaries With Kids. The authors point out that parents must consider more than the present when raising children – they must think about the future of their kids. When reflecting upon every aspect of parenting, the following must be remembered: “A person’s character is one’s destiny” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). A child may be born with a strong will, but it is a parent’s responsibility to help mold that child’s character through a loving relationship and effective discipline.

Before addressing specific discipline techniques, it is important to explore building the relationship necessary for any type of success in parenting. Throughout their presentation, Clinton and Sibcy stated that “rules without relationship lead to rebellion” and “the quality of your relationship will determine the effectiveness of your discipline strategies” (AACC, 2006). If a parent does not appear to care about a child, adolescent, or teenager, then why would that child have any desire to respect the boundaries set by that parent? Clinton and Sibcy expressed this idea by stating that, “Boundaries make sense when given in love” (AACC, 2006). Parents can tell their kids they love them all day long, but any parent will agree that children believe behavior above spoken words. There is a tremendous amount of effort needed on the part of any parents who are truly dedicated to building a trust-worthy relationship with their children. There is no room for laziness or excuses. Perfection is not required of any parent, but love and care are absolutely necessary.

There are a variety of methods shown to build a healthy relationship with one’s child. According to Jacquelyn H. Flaskerud, RN, PhD, FAAN, of the University of California – Los Angeles School of Nursing (2011), maintaining a certain family environment is more fruitful in encouraging positive behavior. This environment includes the following: a positive emotional atmosphere, affection and compassion from the parents, regular schedules, and treating children with respect (Flaskerud, 2011). Flaskerud (2011) and Clinton and Sibcy (AACC, 2006) encouraged “special time,” which consists of being a participant in an activity of the child’s choice for fifteen to twenty minutes per day. Special time does not include questions, prying, or commands; it is a time to simply engage in play (AACC, 2006). This is an occasion to just relax, let the child lead, and show genuine interest in that child’s individuality (AACC, 2006). Another important aspect in guiding one’s child is listening. Young children are not capable of expressing their emotions with words, so they use behavior. By listening carefully, parents are provided a chance to assist children in learning words to express how they feel (Flaskerud, 2011). In addition to special time, Clinton and Sibcy promoted “floor time” (AACC, 2006). This can be taken literally when a child is small; it involves getting down on the floor and interacting with them. As they get older, floor time equates to quality moments when the parent shows a child interest, engagement, and interaction (AACC, 2006). Creating consistent habits such as breakfast together or car-pooling can develop chances for open dialogue between parent and child (AACC, 2006).

In addition to open communication, children need the ability to have safe communication with their parents (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). Children of all ages withhold conversation from their parents out of “fear of loss of love and fear of reprisal” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). Rather than strengthening those fears, parents need to put their children at ease. This can be done by believing, and letting kids know, that “all feelings are acceptable, and expressing feelings is a good thing” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). Children need empathy, connection, and acceptance; they also need structure and self-discipline, all of which should be found within and promoted by the parent (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). A parent must show gentleness and love combined with strength, and even if conflict arises, warmth should be displayed afterward to reassure the child (Cloud & Townsend, 1998).

In spite of implementing these strategies, there will always be children who determine that their way is the only way, questioning their parents’ authority and testing the behavioral boundaries. The parents of strong-willed children will often find themselves thinking the unthinkable: they may love their strong-willed kids, but they honestly do not like them (AACC, 2006). Kids do not understand the difference and may believe that Mom and Dad do not love them anymore. An unfavorable outlook of the child can develop, causing a breakdown in communication (AACC, 2006). This negativity is known as “CNN Syndrome;” no matter what good is within the youngster, the parent does not see it or reinforce it (AACC, 2006). Parents seeking professional counseling at this point may wish for the therapist to “fix” their strong-minded child; however, they must come to a place acceptance of this child instead. As Clinton and Sibcy (2006) explained, “These parents need to decide at some point whether they are going to accept their child’s uniqueness, however challenging it may be, and commit to building the relationship.” This does not mean complying with unacceptable behavior; it means putting forth the extra effort it will take to lead that child into adulthood.

For some kids, a firm word is all it takes to bring out the tears - like with my grandson.

For some kids, a firm word is all it takes to bring out the tears – like with my grandson.

Because the behavior of a strong-willed child can be frustrating, parents must make the distinction between discipline and punishment. Clinton and Sibcy explained, “As parents, we are not punishing wrong behavior when we discipline; we’re shaping character” (2006). While discipline corrects and teaches a child, punishment can degrade and cause emotional harm. Punishment comes as a reaction to the behavior and from a place of anger within the parent. Quite simply, punishment is never appropriate. In addition, using corporal punishment out of that place of anger can cause emotional and physical damage to a child. Spanking a child is a topic of debate, yet even experts who promote the appropriate use of spanking condemn doing so when emotions are high (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). Punishment destructs; discipline constructs.

How, then, does one appropriately discipline the strong-willed child? The specific techniques vary depending on the age of the child. Even a strong-willed baby cannot understand a swat on the behind for doing what babies do, like crying in the middle of the night or wiggling during a diaper change (Dobson, 2004). Infants should not receive direct discipline; however, it is healthy for parent and child to establish a “balance between giving your baby the attention she needs and establishing her as a tiny dictator” (Dobson, 2004). In other words, as long as the child is safe, it is not necessary to pick her up every time she cries; otherwise, the parent is reinforcing that behavior (Dobson, 2004).

As the child grows, disciplinary measures will change. With toddlers, distraction and persistence are effective (Dobson, 2004). Once a child is old enough to understand consequences of behavior, discipline should involve an explanation of those consequences – and the fortitude to enforce them. This may mean lecturing, corporal discipline, time-out, or a loss of privileges (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). Discipline will definitely involve experimentation, as every child is different. The following are healthy, effective steps in disciplining children: creation of an environment for moral growth, establishment of clear rules and limits, teaching a child the reasons behind the rules, discernment between intentional defiance and childish irresponsibility, avoidance of making impossible demands upon the child, teaching virtues that strengthen and guide behavior, and above all, allowing love to guide the parent while correcting the child (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). Parents, especially those of the strong-willed child, must have the “courage to be hated” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). Even if children do not like the rules or the outcome of breaking those rules, parents “need to be able to contain the protest, stay connected, not strike back, and remain the parent” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). The expression “kids have enough friends; they need parents” rings true. In my personal experience, if a parent shows loving, consistent, firm discipline while the child is growing up, then the child will transition into becoming a friend upon adulthood.


References

American Association of Christian Counselors (2006). Angry, defiant, and violent kids (presentation). Available from Liberty University Online.

Bernstein, J. (2014, February 26). Five anxiety-lowering strategies for children [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog.liking-the-child-you-love/201402/five-anxiety-lowering-strategies-children

Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1998). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Crabb, L. (1977). Effective biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dobbs, J. (2004). The new strong-willed child. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Flaskerud, J.H. (2011). Discipline and effective parenting. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 32,82-84. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.498078

Karreman, A., de Hass, S., van Tuijl, C., van Aken, M., & Dekovic, M. (2009). Relations among temperament, parenting and problem behavior in young children. Infant Behavior & Development, 33, 39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.10.008

Meeker, M. (2010, May 4). Staying sane with strong-willed kids [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-matters/201005/staying-sane-strong-willed-kids

Strong-willed. (n.d.). In Cambridge dictionaries online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/strong-willed

Turner, E. (2013, June 24). 4 tips for managing parenting stress [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-race-good-health/201306/4-tips-managing-parenting-stress

Loving the Strong-Willed Child Without Losing One’s Mind, Part 2: Causes of Behavior

The Strong-Willed Child: Causes of Behavior

It is not unusual for parents to, at some point in their journey, question their abilities to raise their children properly. As a parent, I have looked back upon the lives of my two grown daughters and counted endless mistakes that may have adversely affected them as children and now as adults. When it comes to the strong-willed child, from where does this behavior stem? It is true that children are little sponges who learn many behaviors throughout their lives. Likewise, different situations will affect a child’s behavior. When it comes to temperament, however, each child comes into this world with his or her own unique individuality (Dobson, 2004). In a study regarding temperament, parenting, and problem behavior in children, temperament was defined as, “constitutionally based individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation, as seen in the emotional, motor, and attentional domains” (Karreman, de Haas, van Tuijl, van Aken, & Dekovic, 2009). Karreman et al. (2009) further explained that “constitutionally based” means that “temperament is biologically based, but influenced over time by genes, environment, and experience.”

pregnancy_photo

According to the AACC (2006), ten to fifteen percent of children with a difficult temperament are born that way. Studies have shown that seventy percent or more of personality is inherited (Dobson, 2004). Having at least one strong-willed child is not unusual. In fact, compared to easy-going children, there are nearly three times as many tough-minded kids (Dobson, 2004). Headstrong boys outnumber girls by five percent, and birth order is not a component (Dobson, 2004). Because children are born with their temperament, it is not surprising that parents may detect tenacious behavior early on; one-third of parents recognize the strong-willed child at birth, two-thirds become aware by the child’s first birthday, and ninety-two percent know by time the child turns three (Dobson, 2004). Because personality is, in part, inherited, it makes sense that if both parents are strong-willed, then they are more likely to give birth to a strong-willed youngster (Dobson, 2004). Genetics may explain temperament, but being born a certain way does not permit a lack of boundaries as one matures. Dr. Dobson touched on this truth when he wrote, “…heredity provides a nudge in a particular direction – a definite impulse or inclination – but one that can be brought under the control of our rational processes. In fact, we must learn early in life to do just that” (2004).


References

American Association of Christian Counselors (2006). Angry, defiant, and violent kids (presentation). Available from Liberty University Online.

Bernstein, J. (2014, February 26). Five anxiety-lowering strategies for children [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog.liking-the-child-you-love/201402/five-anxiety-lowering-strategies-children

Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1998). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Crabb, L. (1977). Effective biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dobbs, J. (2004). The new strong-willed child. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Flaskerud, J.H. (2011). Discipline and effective parenting. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 32,82-84. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.498078

Karreman, A., de Hass, S., van Tuijl, C., van Aken, M., & Dekovic, M. (2009). Relations among temperament, parenting and problem behavior in young children. Infant Behavior & Development, 33, 39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.10.008

Meeker, M. (2010, May 4). Staying sane with strong-willed kids [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-matters/201005/staying-sane-strong-willed-kids

Strong-willed. (n.d.). In Cambridge dictionaries online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/strong-willed

Turner, E. (2013, June 24). 4 tips for managing parenting stress [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-race-good-health/201306/4-tips-managing-parenting-stress

Living a Life of Acceptance

Words of wisdom straight from a young woman dealing with depression.

Learning to Conquer Depression

I am not someone who has ever “blogged” or followed a blog, but recently, I have been seeing a fair amount of posts about the topic of depression. These links and sources have provided me with a plethora of valuable information, and through my own journey, I have come up with some ideas and knowledge of my own that have granted me more peace than I have ever known. I do not claim to be a psychologist or a doctor of any sort. I am simply a human being who has faced (and to this day, still faces) the terrors of depression. I am a single female, so a lot of what I write may come from that approach. Hopefully I will still offer some useful information for anyone who reads.

Depression, and anxiety along with it, is an absolute monster. I have faced suicidal thinking, self-injury, harassing thoughts, jealousy…

View original post 1,764 more words

Loving the Strong-Willed Child Without Losing One’s Mind: Part 1, Characteristics

I recently completed a research paper for my Christian Counseling of Children class at Liberty University.  I feel the content is worth sharing with parents; therefore, I will publish this paper as a 5-part series.

Abstract

When parents bring home their newborn baby, they are filled with hopes and dreams of what the future holds for that child and their family. If the season comes when parents realize they are raising a strong-willed child, those hopes and dreams may become filled with battles and tears. This does not mean the situation is hopeless. There are measures parents can take to lovingly and effectively guide strong-willed children toward healthy relationships within the home, which will, in turn, steer them toward becoming healthy, well-adjusted adults. In addition, parents have resources that will allow them to find relief from the extra stressors involved when raising strong-willed children. Above all, the foundation of a truly successful family life is God. When parents exemplify Him as they raise their children, kids will develop a positive attitude toward God and a strong relationship with Mom and Dad. When these factors are combined, peace and balance can replace the chaos and frustration of raising a strong-willed child.

My strong-willed granddaughter, whom I adore!

My strong-willed granddaughter!

Introduction
As a child, one may have heard it. As a parent, one may have said it. In the midst of anger, frustration, and maybe even tears, those infamous words surface: “I hope one day you have a child who acts just like you do!” Although there is no scientific evidence to prove this, chances are those words are rarely, if ever, uttered during loving moments or toward a compliant child. “The curse” is directed toward the strong-willed child. What characterizes this child? What causes such behavior? What, if any, are the effective ways to guide and discipline the strong-willed child? Just as importantly, what measures can parents take in order to manage stress and simply not give up while raising this child? Finally, what instruction does the Bible provide regarding child rearing in general, but more specifically, regarding children who require extra effort? Delving into each of these questions will allow us to better understand these determined children, their potential for greatness, and how to help them reach that potential without losing all sanity – and a loving parent-child relationship – along the way.

The Strong-Willed Child: Characteristics
Stubborn. Determined. Rebellious. These adjectives paint the picture of the child we describe as strong-willed. According to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, the English definition of strong-willed is, “(of a person) determined to do what is wanted, even if other people disagree or disapprove” (n.d.). What is often referred to as the “terrible twos” continues into the threes, fours, and beyond, making childhood a struggle over authority and the teenage years a battle with rebellion. In her blog on the Psychology Today website, pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker described strong-willed kids as follows: “They cry more. They sleep less. Their first, second, and third words are: no, no and no again” (Meeker, 2010). Licensed psychologist and marriage, family, and child counselor Dr. James Dobson wrote, “As toddlers, their greatest delights include painting the carpet with Mom’s makeup … As older children and teenagers, they are irritable, defiant, and seemingly bent on challenging all forms of authority” (Dobson, 2004). Strong-willed children have excessive energy; they are commanding and like to march to the “beat of their own drum,” or in other words, “my way or the highway” (American Association of Christian Counselors, 2006). Furthermore, kids who have a difficult temperament tend to be more cantankerous, more reactive and impetuous, more emotional, and experience greater difficulty with transitions (AACC, 2006).

Although these typical characteristics of strong-willed children can bring out the anxiety and frustration in parents, the core determination is not a negative feature. These kids may push the limits of authority, testing to see who is in charge, and they may dislike being inhibited; however, parents need to set healthy boundaries, provide appropriate guidance, and develop the solid, enduring confidence within strong-willed children. As noted by Drs. Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy, “this same trait of having a strong will, while viewed with derision in childhood, is honored and valued in adulthood” (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). Parents should not want to destroy the will of the child, rather, they should desire the type of relationship that will allow the best qualities of this child to flourish.


References

American Association of Christian Counselors (2006). Angry, defiant, and violent kids (presentation). Available from Liberty University Online.

Bernstein, J. (2014, February 26). Five anxiety-lowering strategies for children [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog.liking-the-child-you-love/201402/five-anxiety-lowering-strategies-children

Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1998). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Crabb, L. (1977). Effective biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dobbs, J. (2004). The new strong-willed child. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Flaskerud, J.H. (2011). Discipline and effective parenting. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 32, 82-84. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.498078

Karreman, A., de Hass, S., van Tuijl, C., van Aken, M., & Dekovic, M. (2009). Relations among temperament, parenting and problem behavior in young children. Infant Behavior & Development, 33, 39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.10.008

Meeker, M. (2010, May 4). Staying sane with strong-willed kids [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-matters/201005/staying-sane-strong-willed-kids

Strong-willed. (n.d.). In Cambridge dictionaries online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/strong-willed

Turner, E. (2013, June 24). 4 tips for managing parenting stress [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-race-good-health/201306/4-tips-managing-parenting-stress