The gift of a willful child

Sometimes I watch other parents with their kids and wonder at how docile they are.  Some kids just . . . obey.  It’s entrancing.


And I want to ask “HOW did you DO that?” as if their child’s personality is somehow the doing and making of the parent.  But let’s all say this together: My child is not my report card.


There is no intangible parent figure going to rain down punishment on me for my child having a bad day.  God is not going to hold me accountable for their behavior or compliance.  That’s part of the beauty of Christianity.  It’s one of the few religions where I answer directly to God and not through or to anyone else.  There IS accountability, but always and only processed through grace.


So anyway, when I’m standing there gazing at some beautiful little child coloring quietly while the parent finishes a conversation (or cup of coffee, or sermon, or whatever) and my child is literally running circles around me quizzing me on baptism (or elephants or trains or why the temperature drops when the sun goes down) I often find myself questioning their parenting to mask my questioning of my own parenting.  I alternate between wondering what the other parent must be doing right and what they must be doing wrong. I mean, you must beat them or something right? And maybe all my flailing attempts to be kind, gentle, respectful, and all the rest are really fruitless and going to mess up both the kids, my family, my marriage and society.


But I know my kids.  I know them especially well because I see so much of myself in my daughter.  My parents tried to lay down the law.  They were the dictators, I was to be obedient.  If I did X, I would be spanked.  If I did not do X, I would be spanked.  Do as your told.  All of that.  You know what?  It got my parents no where.  It destroyed our relationship and did major destruction in my head.  But in the end, that abuse becomes a sick, weird silver lining because I KNOW that will not help my daughters.  I know that they are too smart, too strong, too passionate, and too beautiful to be broken down by my own insecurities.  I could spank them in an effort to look in control to other parents, but my girls would only fight harder.  And in the end, they’re the ones in control of that relationship.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if you are in a power struggle with a 2 year old you have already lost that battle.


What’s more I know God does not give these qualities out to just anyone.  Not all people have this perseverance, this genius, this glow.  My girls are destined for something incredible.  I can see it in the gifts they’ve been given.  Breaking those gifts tries to usurp God’s authority in their lives and does nothing for any of us involved.


So I’ll answer the questions about baptism and elephants and trains and why the temperature drops when the sun goes down.  And I’ll run in circles with them and chase them when they dash off in the store.  I’ll get them exercise so they can finally rest and go to the library to find answers to all of their questions.  I’ll respect them physically, emotionally, and spiritually and respect God by doing so.  It’s obedience to God.  God loved me enough to give me these children, and I will not defy him by destroying these gifts.


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4 responses to “The gift of a willful child

  1. Pingback: When Gentle Discipline Fails | Why Not Train A Child?

  2. Awesome reminder! I still find myself comparing my kids to others and finding fault with my parenting. So much of what we see is personality, not necessarily the results of any parenting style.

    Although as a mom to both kinds of children, I’d like to say that the quiet ones are often the deep thinkers, processing life in their heads. When they get an idea, it’s a BIG IDEA! Then, they are smart enough to get the willful child(ren) on board, who gets everyone else excited, which helps bring the idea to fruition. :o)

  3. Handsfull

    I was talking to a woman the other day about kids (hers and mine) and she said she was lucky because both of hers were easy. I was a little jealous, because out of 4 kids, only one of mine could remotely be described as easy – the other 3 have far too much personality and will-power to ever be described as easy!
    I think a lot of how kids appear in public comes down to personality – some are quite happy to do what they’re told most of the time, and be seen and not heard, while others are born with a strong desire to fight to the death over every single decision/request… and we don’t get any say in which type of child we get. Although I suspect strong-minded parents are more than likely going to get strong-minded children 🙂

  4. Beautiful post. Thank you for this.

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