Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

I’ve learned so many lessons from parenting a strong-willed child. Most have been by mistake or through trial and error, but they were lessons learned nonetheless. Like the time, after I cut my hair, that I told J I had an important meeting that day and needed to hurry home to get ready. “Okay Mommy. Well, have a good day,” she yelled as she exited the backseat, “And don’t forget to put your weave on before your meeting.”

:::Insert me dying of both laughter and shame as I drove away:::

Aside from “be sure to tell them what’s appropriate to say and when,” here are a few other lessons I’ve learned from parenting a strong-willed child.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

No conversation will ever be quick and easy. 

Sometimes I feel like Tina Turner when J and I converse:

“You know, every now and then
I think you might like to hear something from us
Nice and easy
But there’s just one thing
You see we never ever do nothing
Nice, easy”

Yo, my daughter has the mind of a scientist, a legal scientist. She will gather all her data and present it to you piece by piece, slowly building a case for her point. Eventually, she’ll hit you with that okey doke and leave you sitting there like “Did I really just get bested by an 9 year-old?” At first it’ll hurt–that blow to your ego from someone a quarter of your age–but then you’ll be proud. Because critical thinking. Because the ability to create and present a position. Because well-informed, well-researched, thoughtful opinions are so very needed in this world right now. Because you know she’ll stand up for something (even if it’s ice cream) and won’t just fall for anything.

Parenting a strong-willed child will expose your insecurities. Children, in general, are very honest little beings. It’s not until they develop tact and empathy, that they learn how to reign that honesty in and present their opinion and the truth in a less crass way. Up until that point, however, everything and everybody is fair game. A strong-willed child will expose your insecurities and then take it a step further by making you question your own insecurities! And this is a good thing. I can’t count the number of times J has made me check my own faulty thinking, my own fears. It’s been a great experience thus far, albeit unsettling at times. 

My job is not to change her opinions, but help her form opinions that are well-informed and true to her. This has honestly been my biggest struggle when it comes to parenting a strong-willed child. Because I am a control freak, I have a tremendously hard time allowing her to form her own opinions based on the values we’ve tried to instill in her. I want things to be done my way, the way that I know is right. Or that I think is right. But that’s not my job. As a parent, my job is to guide and give her room to think and form her own ideas as they make sense to her. My job as a parent is to give her all the information and all the experiences she needs to develop a well-informed opinion. Nothing more.

I have to accept her for who she is without conditions. What I haven’t mentioned up until this point, is that I was also a strong-willed child…until I wasn’t. Eventually, after years of feeling like I was only worthy of love if I was perfect or presented myself as perfect, I stopped being strong-willed. I became compliant and insecure. I’m sure my parents didn’t do it on purpose. Hell, I know they didn’t. In their effort to shape me, protect me, grow me, it happened.

I cannot allow that to happen to my child. I am constantly assessing and checking myself on the way I interact with J. Why am I telling her no? Is it because it’s something I wouldn’t do? Or I am feeling pressure to “perform” motherhood like my peers? How can I build her up while still giving her boundaries? These thoughts are always swirling around in my head because I want to do the absolute best that I can at the most important thing I’ll ever be tasked with doing.

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