Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Feeling Cheated? Why We Need to Change Our Attitude Toward the Challenging Child

Have you ever wondered why God gave you this child? 


That question has weighed heavily on my mind lately as I reevaluate my expectations as a Mom and try to figure out the best ways to train our strong-willed children.

When you go out to dinner as a family, do you notice that the families around you have young children who sit in their seats with their hands folded, politely eat their meals making minimal mess, and talk at a normal volume while their parents are enjoying a real conversation?

Are you one of those families? {If so, what is your secret? I will pay big bucks for this information.}

Or are you the family whose kids are climbing out of their chairs, spilling full glasses of juice, and pitching a fit because they want to get down and run around the restaurant? Do you laugh at the thought of carrying on an adult conversation because you're too busy trying to keep everyone in line?

My husband jokes that we usually order our food and ask for the check in the same breath, but it's true. We leave the restaurant frustrated, upset that we couldn't enjoy the meal we paid hard-earned money for, and suffering heartburn because we shoveled our food down so fast.

Change the venue to church on Sunday, the grocery store, or even the park, and a similar scene will unfold. It doesn't matter if our kids have napped and eaten first; they will still generally make our experience less than pleasant because of their need to resist authority and pursue their own course. The strength of their will absolutely refuses to comply with their parents' wishes. They have a desperate need to assert themselves even in the most minute things. 

As I work through these challenges and prayerfully consider the Lord's will for me as a parent, I can't help but feel cheated, even a little resentful. It seems like everyone I know has quiet, well-behaved children but us. Of course I know that isn't the case, but often it sure seems to be true.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward."

Psalm 127:3 

Still, in spite of my disappointment at times, I honestly believe that God gives us our children for a reason. We may not understand why some parents have compliant, easy-going children while others have terrors who continually wage war with them. But there is a reason.

God gives each of our children to us, not to punish us for some past sin, but to accomplish something in us--His children--to grow us in ways that only having and raising a child will do. 

For me, that means learning patience and gentleness with my strong-willed girls. I don't understand their need for power and control, but God has shaped and formed them in this way. They are made in His own image. It also means teaching my girls how to control their will: to reign it in when it becomes unruly but also how to wield it for God's glory in useful, productive ways.

Instead of viewing our children as a source of frustration, consider them an assignment given to us by our Great Teacher. An opportunity for our own growth and development as Christians. A method for testing and refining our patience, gentleness, and other Christian virtues.

Instead of dwelling on the difficulties our children present, consider the blessings that they have on us, transforming us into the Christian women God wants us to be.

Despite the difficulties of raising strong-willed children, we are promised by our heavenly Father that He will be with us and help us fulfill the tasks He sets before us, no matter how cumbersome. He will never give us more than we can bear.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, those who are called according to His purpose."

Romans 8:28

Do you ever feel a little resentful at times about the children God has placed in your care? If so, does it help to see them as opportunities for personal Christian growth?

I would love to hear from you!

Praying God's richest blessings on you as we grow in His glory,


Other related posts:
Parenting Isn't for Cowards: Training Strong-Willed Children
Are You Suffering From Parent Burnout?

For comments or questions, contact me at: growinginhisglory@gmail.com

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  1. Hi Keri,

    Okay, lady...you brought me to tears lol.

    You spoke my heart!

    There are days, many days, where I say to God "how is motherhood a BLESSING?!!!"

    When my mom says something like "remember, Children are from the Lord." My reply is usually "well so aren't mosquitoes."

    I have a strong willed 7 year old and my youngest (almost 3) was colicky beyond belief. It was horrible! He is still cranky.

    I notice other's kids all the time. We don't even bother going out to eat at all. If we do, we order take out. I don't go to other people's houses unless they have small children and it's baby proofed.

    I totally relate to this!!

    And as for the part about God using them to change us....oh yeah...so true.

    My biggest weaknesses are handling interruptions, lack of patience, and can't stand having people around all the time. Well I'm a SAHM so there is ALWAYS someone around lol.

    Not only that, God gave me a man who is a natural born leader/boss and is naturally controlling. When I got married, I was a wimp, I never stood up for myself or said how I really feel. Well God has definitely changed me there.

    So you are definitely right about God using them to change you. My mom came to visit me recently. I'm A LOT like her (she lives out of state). And spending time with her for a few days showed me how much *I* have changed. She's still just about the same, so I know God is using them to change me. I'm more patient than my mom (I used to be just like her), I'm more laid back and more easy going than I've ever been!

    So I totally get your post.

    New follower - I hope you come check me out :-)

    I host a linky party on Thursdays

    1. My husband says that having children is one of the best things to have happened to me. It has really changed who I am...in a good way. I think God knows the areas in which we need the most work and gives us children to help refine us in them. I'm glad you are able to see the fruits of mothering your children. That is great!

      I'm so glad you stopped by. I really like your blog and am a new follower too. Will be checking out your linky party. :)

      Blessings to you!

  2. I've learned to be more patient and understanding with my children, but what drives me nuts is when parents of "those" children try to step in and discipline or correct my children to "show me the right way." Although, it usually blows up in their faces as my children refuse their efforts, too.

    1. That's hilarious, Kate. I get annoyed too when parents act like they would handle my children. It seems like some parents with only compliant children think they've got parenting all figured out, as if their children are the way they are because of something the parent did. better than I do.

      Glad you stopped by!

  3. Remembering that God has a purpose helps me, too. Glad I'm not the only one... I think I heard 3 sentences of the sermon on Sunday (my 2year old wanted to "run fast" and I wanted to make the least disturbance possible!) And the whole service, there was another little boy sitting Perfectly still! It makes me wonder, Am I doing good enough in disciplining? :)

    1. Paige,
      Doesn't that just irritate you? Some children just seem to have a natural disposition to be still and quiet while others--like our kids--are inclined to be here, there, and everyone. And don't TRY to contain me!

      But you're right; I always second guess how well I am disciplining my kids when I see other kids who behave so perfectly. I have to remember that our children are a work in progress and not expect them to have perfect behavior instantly. It just doesn't work that way. I also have to remember that their outward behavior and how well they act in public may embarrass or irritate me because I'm so concerned with what people think, but what really matters is their hearts and what is in them. That's what I am trying to focus on now: their hearts.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. I battled this for a long time. I finally realized that every child is different and he gave me my kids for a reason. I used to be ashamed of their behavior and I think it made it worse. I've learned to love them just the way they are--and the way God loves me. I loved this post!

    1. Christina, I think you are right on! I am trying to adopt that same way of thinking with my kids. I don't understand their behavior at times but instead of letting it embarrass me, I need to embrace them for who they are and love them just the same. Great thoughts!

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have those incredibly active, high-maintenance children as well! Just today I read a blog entry that really got me riled up about how baby-proofing your home is taking the easy way out and you should just teach them better.

    I fully believe that a lot of things that our children do are personality related. Yes, your child may be naturally docile, but mine is not. And, yes I still need to teach him to obey, but my children are very active and strong-willed. It's very frustrating when parents of the docile children just assume that those of us who have more active and strong-willed children must just be bad parents.

    That is probably the most challenging part of it for me because I really don't think their being strong-willed or hyper is a result of bad parenting and I resent it when other parents imply that it is.

    Thank you for this post. After reading the other post I read today, I really needed it!

    (and for the record, my kids are good kids, and well-mannered, just a little high strung)

  6. I hate to say I disagree. We had 3 (2 of them being 2 year old twins) foster children whom we adopted. When they came to us they were terribly behaved. So to say they are strong willed is an understatement. We have worked and trained them it has been hard very, very hard. To be honest I have depression because of all the trauma that has happened to me after bringing the kids into our home. I am not saying they are perfect by any means and we still have our issues with behaviors when we are out and about. However they know what we expect. Our oldest was being a brat not wanting to sit still and wanting to run around at a restaurant. So I took her out until she stopped and when we went back in I put her in a high chair (she was 4) She hasn't done it since. If they misbehave they know we will take them out to the car and that is where they will stay (with a parent) until they can behave or we leave. Which can mean they aren't getting to eat at the restaurant. And yes we have strangers tell us how well behaved they are...that didn't used to be the case.

    Yes, our kids may be compliant (sometimes) now but that isn't the way it has always been. It took us 2 months of putting our 2 year old back into his crib so he would stay as he kept peeling the paint off the walls. But now he stays in his crib.

    As for sitting I have the kids sit and I read to them for 20-30 min. They have to fold their hand and not move around. But we can take them to a movie theater and they sit fairly nicely for 90% of the movie and the last 10-15 we hold them on our laps.

    Bottom line is compliant kids don't usually just happen...they are formed.

  7. First of all, you have offered some great child training advice that has evidently proven successful for you. I have never considered taking the child who misbehaves out to sit in the car until he/she can behave. We usually take them out for a talk, then a spanking. That's an idea we'll have to try though.

    Secondly, I agree that training and discipline is especially critical for a strong-willed child. My post may not have mentioned it, but we are pretty strict at both. And I think the key that you mention is that the child knows exactly what you expect. When my children and I go to the grocery store or library, we always review Mommy's expectations before we go inside, and our eldest will rattle off the do's and don't's. They definitely need to know what you expect from them.

    However, I disagree with your conclusion that compliant kids don't usually happen but are formed. Yes, we train our children to obey and comply with authority, and they are learning slowly but surely to respect those in charge. However, their personalities will never be classified as "compliant" in my book simply because that is not who they are. They are independently-minded, stubborn, persistent, and bullheaded, and, honestly, I don't want them to become compliant. I want them to comply when necessary, and my husband and I work hard to teach them how to reign in their strong wills without squelching them. But I am compliant by nature--I was born that way--and I can see the advantages our children will have later in life if they learn how to use their unique personalities for the greater good.

    Thanks for your comments!