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The Challenge of Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child

  • Michael Smalley, M.A. The Smalley Relationship Center
  • Updated Aug 07, 2007
The Challenge of Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child

I hate to share this story, but I know, or at least hope, that I am not alone. Here's how the day played out.

I was talking on the phone with a friend. My daughter, Reagan, came out of nowhere, obviously very frustrated, and hit me on the knee.

I hung up the phone and looked at Reagan.

"Are you allowed to hit daddy?"

She took a moment to think, then looked at me with that strong-willed child glare and nodded her head in a positive motion.

"No ma'am!"

I quickly picked her up and headed for her bedroom with Reagan screaming at the top of her lungs, "NO! I don't want a time out!"

The struggle began. If you have a strong-willed child you can relate. This is the time when your child is not going to budge.

I put her in the crib for a time out and left the room. After two minutes, I returned asking one simple question: "Are you allowed to hit daddy?" Guess what her response was? A slow nodding and affirming yes!

So I gave her another time-out, and the same thing happened. I came back into the room and Reagan again nods, affirming that she is allowed to hit. I couldn't believe it!

I start to escalate as much as my two-year old. For 30 minutes Reagan and I battled it out. I yelled and became more frustrated with every affirming nod. At this point, I thought things that the Division of Family Services would definitely not approve of, and she was not responding any better - not even close to what I wanted to hear from her.

I got so frustrated I literally fell to my knees in prayer, begging God to give me some direction. In fact, hoping God would set something on fire in the room to grab Reagan's attention, and then announce to my rebelling daughter, "OBEY YOUR FATHER, FOR HE IS PERFECT AND WORTHY OF YOUR PRAISE!"

Of course, sadly enough, that did not happen. Instead, during my moment of prayer, after an hour of dealing with my daughter, God clearly said to me, "You know … You're no better than your daughter." Whoa! I wasn't the one rebelling, but God wanted me to know that I was yelling and not treating my daughter the way God commanded. I began to realize my attitude was escalating Reagan even more than she already was. I wasn't helping the situation by being equally upset and equally unruly.

Even if we have a strong-willed child, rebellion or misbehavior never gives us the right to mistreat our children. We are commanded to treat them with respect and to guide them in the ways God encourages. Peacefulness, love, kindness, sacrifice, patience, good will, and other traits are important to teach our children, and the best way to teach them is by modeling the correct behavior. The next time your child makes disciplining difficult, remember to ask God for guidance in maintaining the proper attitude.

As for Reagan, it took over two hours to get her to admit and take ownership of why she was in trouble. I had to remain consistent and patient. Remember, especially with a strong-willed child, consistency and sticking with it are two of the most important rules. Even when it takes over two hours, the dividends will pay off when your child grows up to become a loving and mature adult.

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