How NOT to Parent the Strong Willed Child

No two families — and no two children — are alike. And, that shows some of God’s best creativity. From the musical to the environmentally conscious, our children inspire us and keep us humble. But, what do I do with my strong willed child?

Doing It The Wrong Way With My Strong Willed Child

“That’s it! Don’t say another word!” I shouted in a tone and volume that made even me cringe. Before I allowed conviction to mellow my tone, I crescendo-ed, “You are done, young man! If you cannot think of One. Nice. Thing. to say to the members of your family, go sit by yourself on your bed. I have had it!” (Did you notice how I told him to talk nicely while speaking very un-nicely? Yes, one of my finer moments.).

My precious little strong willed child marched himself into his room and slammed himself on his bed, and lay in a state of stock-still “defiance-obedience” – my word for exterior compliance combined with interior resistance.

The cherry on top of my gold-medal parenting was when I stormed into his room, handed him a Bible, and ordered him to memorize Ephesians 4:29, “so that you can learn how God wants you to speak!”

For the record, Ephesians 4:29 states, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (NASB)

Oh the irony.

It had been a bad day. A. BAD. Day.

This strong willed child of mine had argued with me, berated his sisters, blamed his brothers, complained about school, and argued about chores. He had stepped on my last nerve hours ago. Since then every act of defiance and complaint had been salt in the wound. I would ask God to help me, think of the “right” way to respond, and then re-enter the fray. But with each incremental infraction, my resolve weakened, my agitation rose, and my volume increased.

Then…..I lost it. Royally.

When the blow-up occurred, the entire family was affected by collateral damage. The other kids disappeared- probably running for cover. Realizing Mom had reached the point of no return, they concluded it wisest to avoid contact until normalcy reentered the home.

Finding myself alone in the kitchen, I slammed bowls around and threw food on the counter- because families still expect dinner, even when there is a crisis. Chopping vegetables never felt so good, though my fingers were in mortal danger. I started praying out loud. The kids already saw me act crazy- what was yelling to the Lord in the kitchen going to do, confirm their suspicions?

“What do you expect Lord? What am I supposed to do? He wants to be in charge. He deserves to be punished. He deserves 40 lashes and walking the plank. You are going to have to show me how to parent this strong willed child, because military boarding school is my only idea!”

Gently, my Lord soothed my ruffled feathers. His peace began seeping into the edges of my spirit. His thoughts filtered into my thinking and opposed my faulty reasoning.

Do I give you what you deserve?” The thought startled me. I deserved death and hell. Yet God gives me forgiveness and life every day, even the days when I am at my worst.

When you deserve to walk the plank, what do I do for you?” I wasn’t sure if that was my own thought or the Lord’s, because I had never heard God sound like a pirate. But the question was valid. When I defied the Lord in stubborn rebellion, He often used Scripture, just as I had given to my son. But He never harshly sent me to my room and required me to get truth in my head and fix myself. Instead, His Spirit sat beside me, filled my heart with truth, working conviction and change in me through His love.

My hand slowed and I stopped murdering the poor, defenseless vegetables. I sank to the floor, crying and asking for forgiveness. And guidance. I needed guidance on how to right this ship and get back on course.

Susan Macias
Susan Macias
Susan Macias, a wife of one and mom to seven (some of which survived to adulthood and still love her!), blogs at She writes to encourage women to join her in the quest to pray more, love better, hope longer, believe deeper, and on the really bad days, just keep going. Check out her website, and be encouraged! You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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