Five Reasons My Strong-Willed Child is a Blessing


5 reasons my strong willed child is a blessing. Some great perspective for parents who are struggling to parent a "firecracker kid."

I’m currently in a pretty large women’s Bible study filled with moms. What I’ve learned from listening to moms in all stages–some with their first infant, to some with kids in college–is that most families have a tough kid in the batch. We’ve finessed it down to calling them our “firecracker” kid. Some have more than one and some have somehow managed to breed an easy-peasy offspring. But I think it is safe to say that on average, each family has a little strong-willed rascal.

While both of my kids do not fall into the “chill” category, I’ve found that one in particular has the ability to make me laugh, cry, smile, yell and want to give up all in the same day. I also find it easy to lament to my friends and family about this child’s recent shenanigans and how hard it is to parent such a fierce personality. It’s so much easier to complain about the hard kid than to acknowledge the GOOD in this child and the blessings that they bring me as a parent and to our family.

So here I am. Taking a stand for my firecracker kid. And yours too.

Their presence is invaluable and the shockwaves of their personality are still unmeasured. Our family would look entirely different without my strong-willed child and I wouldn’t want anything different. (Please don’t ask me to confirm that statement at 5pm though).

Here are just a few ways that I have seen my strong-willed child BLESS not only me but my family as well:

Blessing #1: Their Hearts are on Displayperson-girl-cute-young-large

My little gal has BIG feelings. Her joy and excitement is contagious and can ignite a room. Celebrations are big. Books and toys are deeply loved. People are welcomed with exuberant hospitality when they walk in our door. She has her favorite people and they know who they are. Her passion, love and joy cannot be overlooked. She can make anyone feel deeply loved.

And yes, as you can imagine, the big feelings can go either way at any moment. I mean. Wow. I’m pretty sure my neighbors think we are raising a herd of velociraptors. I have chapters of great stories I’m tempted to share but they would distract from the point I’m trying to make.

Here is the beauty of a firecracker kid–you can easily see their hearts. You know what makes them exude joy or what hurts them so badly that all of the bones in their body melt away. When they are struggling and need encouragement, you know. When they need to be left alone, you know. When they need discipline, you know. There is no guessing how they feel. Their hearts are on display to speak truth into and to nurture. There’s no boxing up of emotions because they are simply incapable of it.They aren’t afraid to feel big things. There is a beauty in the vulnerability they show.

Blessing #2: As a Parent, I Compare Less

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As any parent quickly learns, comparison is the thief of joy. Especially in motherhood. As floundering new moms, the only means we have to figure out if our kid is developing “normally” is by comparing. As dismayed mothers of toddlers, we quietly assess how other mothers deal with tantrums and fits. As busy moms of preschoolers, we quickly notice the skill sets of other children around us. I can only predict that this tendency will grow as kids get older and into school.

I mean, comparison is just something we do, right? We’re human. We can’t help ourselves. While I am not even close to being free from its grip, I can credit my firecracker kid to slowing down the knee-jerk instinct to compare her to others. See, I used to do it all of the time. As a result, I was continually discouraged because, well, she’s a firecracker. She slept less, fussed more, had stronger opinions, didn’t respond to certain types of discipline… you get the point. What worked for most kids just didn’t work for mine.

Slowly, over time, I have come to realize that my daughter is who she is. She does not fit the typical mold and there is no reason to become exhausted sweating over this. I’ve played the comparison game and lost far too much to want to keep playing. Having a strong-willed child has blessed me in that I have given up my game of figuring out where my child lands in comparison to those around her and just embraced that God has made her with the perfect DNA in his eyes. It is my job as a parent to embrace that and do my best to parent who He has wired her to be.

Blessing #3: My Husband and I Have to Operate as a Teamteam conner

For those who haven’t experienced the blessing of a firecracker kid in their family, allow me to illustrate what happens. They will test-test-test, push-push-push, smell blood and move in for the kill. It’s not uncommon for my husband or me to say to one another, “Need a break?” or “Want to switch kids for a while?” We have been through this enough to know when one parent is starting to lose their bearings. If both parents aren’t on the same page on how to handle the firecracker or have vastly different parenting philosophies, just go ahead and hand the house keys over to the child because they will quickly own you.

I’m obviously exaggerating a bit but an unexpected blessing of a tough kid is that my husband and I have grown to operate well as a team. We have learned the best timing to tag-team. We have had hundreds of conversations problem solving, discussing parenting philosophies, dissecting what works and what doesn’t and simply encouraging each other. We have learned how to have conflict yet maintain a united front in the parenting department. Even though it hasn’t always been a peaceful joyride, we’ve grown closer together through navigating rough waters.

Blessing #4: I’m Less Judgmental 

Before I had kids, especially my firecracker kid, I resembled something like this when evaluating parenting around me.

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Now…

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Moms, before I had kids, I judged you. Like, real bad. I vowed to never let my kids do “that” or act like “that” or dress like “that.”

I apologize. Deeply.

I have eaten my humble sandwich and am still licking the crumbs off the plate.

I honestly do think that one of the reasons God has given me strong-willed kids is because I would be prone to judge others. If my kids were compliant and easy-peasy, I honestly think I would be patting myself on the back while offering advice to parents behind and even before me.

In fact, I’d probably be writing posts quite different than this one and likely discouraging and even harming struggling moms even more. I’m so thankful that my children have put me in my place. Similar to comparison, judging is hard to break free from but I can confidently say that I look at the moms and their kids through an entirely different lens. At this point, no act of behavior in public surprises me and when I see you struggling, I just want to come give you a hug and tell you I understand. I’m rooting for you, mamas!

Blessing #5: I Have Learned to Choose My Battles

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Learning to pick your battles is nothing new to parents. This is pretty much a universal piece of advice no matter what type of kid you have.

However, when you have a strong-willed kid on your hand, this is even more critical to the sanity of everyone involved. Something as small as, “put your shoes on,” has the potential to snowball into an epic battle between parent and child. In our house, this is what often unfolds: a small request isn’t observed which results in a warning. The warning might be ignored which will result in a timeout. The child might try to exit timeout prematurely which results in even further disciplinary actions. This will likely result in the child becoming extremely emotional. Strong emotions turn into hurtful words or a even a physical response (the curtain next to timeout might have been torn down 3 times–not exaggerating). Now, you’re not only dealing with the shoe issue but all of the acts of defiance leading up to this point. Something so small can so easily blow up into a ridiculous drama that no one wants a role in.

What my strong-willed child (or children for that matter) have taught me is to pick my battles on the important things and to simply let the other small stuff go. I’ve learned that experience is their best teacher–not timeouts. So sometimes this means that their toes need to get cold outside after refusing to wear boots instead of flip flops. They need to lose or break a toy because it wasn’t cleaned up. They need to be a little hungry after refusing to eat or even experience a little isolation after refusing to share or be kind to a friend.

Please hear me. There ARE things worth going to war for. Do not give up your parental authority. These kids NEED that.

However, there are minor things that I’ve simply learned to let go of. Matching clothes–preferred, but optional. Picking up worms–gross, but not worth the battle. Sleeping with a huge plastic horse in your bed–whatever helps you sleep through the night, little one. Eating food off the kitchen floor–again, gross, but whatever. Stomping in mud puddles–I’ll start the next load of laundry.

The wars over these small, insignificant things are not worth fighting in my opinion. If I’m going to suit up and go into battle, it is going to be over something that matters. While I would prefer that my child not draw on their stomach with markers, it’s just not something worth dueling over.

Join Me in Being Thankful

Writing this post has been SO good for me. My heart has softened towards my little rascals and I have found things to be thankful for that I have never acknowledged. If you’ve got a firecracker kid on your hand, I’d encourage you to take a bit of time and articulate reasons you are thankful for them. Dwell on their good qualities and dream about the potential they have in the future. These children are one day going to be really awesome adults.

There is a good chance that these kids are going to be leaders. They are going to be the movers and shakers. They are going to the ones who stand up to bullies, become presidents of clubs, have a huge influence with their peers, ask the hard questions and not be afraid to stand alone when it is the right thing to do. These strong-willed personalities are a blessing to our society and we need them. We don’t want to squash who God has wired them to be. As parents we are in the tricky business of coaching them and teaching them how to filter their fierce personalities in the right direction.

Now only if we can make it through the first five years of their lives…


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Comments

  1. hickorynut says

    this post is exactly what I needed. Out of 3 boys, my oldest is my firecracker. My prayers now routinely add a line asking for help on parenting him in a way he will respond and grow. What works for my friends kids does not work for him, and I’ve been working so hard to find other positives to his behavior. I plan to share this with my husband, because we have had several nights where we felt defeated on how we are raising him. Instead of wishing he would be “easier” like other kids, I’ve been working so hard on embracing him just the way he is. Your list has really put this all into perspective for me. thanks for being honest about this. A lot of parents have no idea what it is like to have constant battles, and you probably will still be judged by some readers that she is that way because of how you parent. Thanks for not worrying about that, and instead putting yourself out there to help those of us who know what it’s really like and are hanging on by a thread. A thread that a firecracker tries to cut EVERY SINGLE DAY. But, God only gives us what we can handle, and when we can’t he also gives us wine. 🙂

    • Polly says

      I’m so glad to hear this was helpful! I for sure still have my bad days and some seasons really are harder than others but it is always encouraging to not feel alone in the craziness. Hopefully this will help the parents of firecracker kids far and wide. 🙂

  2. Gabi says

    I laughed because it is so well written and so true!great job putting it into words! In Slovakia where Im from nobody talks about strong willed children. Others mostly look at me like Im not doing good job raising my two little ones and they have no idea Im barely alive many days because of exhaustion the challenges with them bring. I see how God gave me just the children I needed to shape me and not to be prideful. Lord help us be the parents you want us to be!

  3. Angela Lane says

    I loved this post. It is how I feel about my daughter! It had me laughing because it’s so true how the “get your shoes on” things can turn into huge nightmares that just keep getting worse! Also she does wear her heart on her sleeve and she will definitely let you know when she is happy and when she is not and that’s something that I admire about her and wish I felt more confident showing others -my true feelings. What I love and am thankful for in my daughter is that she is so inquisitive about everything and loves to learn, (well as long as it’s what she wants-not something boring like writing haha). Thanks for the post, it made me even more thankful for her spunky, crazy attitude.

  4. Danette Robb says

    Thank you for putting in to words what I try so hard to articulate to others. While my son is very strong-willed and I feel emotionally exhausted some days, he has the ability to light up my life life few other people can. Keep writing, I love your perspective!

  5. Lori says

    My strong will child is 27. His strong well has made him a leader in a career where many men don’t get a chance to lead until they are much older. He is steadfast and unmovable in the things that count. He loves fiercely and deeply and is a loyal friend. While I can still cringe when I think about his public displays of strength and character as a young boy, his strength and character on display as a man gives me reason to smile. While I never won an argument that he drug me into, I won the jackpot when God gave me Tomas as my son. Ladies, you too will reap what you have sown as you stand back and marvel at your strong child grown into an adult. Persevere!

    • Rachel says

      Thank you for your perspective and wisdom, Lori! We need this!

  6. Sherry Ruddell says

    Great article! Makes me wonder what Donald Trump was like as a child. LOL

  7. Bethany says

    THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for writing this! I laughed and cried all at the same time. My daughter is an only child and she is definitely a firecracker. I am mentally exhausted most days and most probably think that I have it easy because I only have one. But let me tell you…my daughter is like three kids all rolled in to one. But I love her and know that God has big plans for her!! Thank you for reminding me that she is a blessing over and over again.

    • Polly says

      I get it, Bethany. One tough kid can take the energy that three easy kids demands. Fight to see the good in her. Make yourself praise the qualities you admire. Remind yourself of what an incredible young lady she will one day be!

  8. Liz says

    Love this Polly! We are all such good moms BEFORE we have kids 😉 I thought both my big girls were “strong willed” at ages 18 mo-3.5. But they have mellowed out tremendously. Now my third is in the range and what do you know, she seems to be the strongest willed child yet. In my experience, so much of it is that age. I’m clinging to this hoping my third comes out of it on the other side 😉 Thanks for the awesome words of encouragement, whether it’s a stage or not!

    • Polly says

      Good to hear, Liz! Stage or not, it’s still safe to say that some temperaments are tougher than others, yes? As a child, I know I was always the “challenge” of the three kids. Yes, I matured a bit but have still always been the stronger personality in the group. Hope you’re right in that growing up a bit will help temper the big feelings. 🙂

  9. April says

    Love this post! I was laughing at the flip flop vs boots example because my little firecracker insists on wearing her flip flops to daycare everyday no matter what the weather. It was really chilly a couple weeks ago and I first tried to talk her out of it but then I thought, you know what, she needs to see how cold it is so I let her wear them and put her tennis shoes in her bag. She ended up asking for her tennis shoes in the car, but even if she hadn’t, it’s not like those little toes were going to get frost bit or anything. I realized there was no good reason to not let her wear those flip flops other than what other parents would think of me. She even wore her flip flops in her fall daycare picture which didn’t match her pretty little dress but I can always look back at that picture and remember how she adored her flip flops.

    • Polly says

      Good job, April! It’s hard to let go of others’ expectations. In fact, today my daughter went to preschool in “fruit pants” which are a pair of pajama paints with an extremely loud fruit pattern. To go with it was a clashing bright colored shirt. But heck-she felt great so why try to object!?

  10. Rhonda says

    I can completely relate to everything you have written!
    My mom always called me strong-willed, I thought my son was strong-willed…then I had a daughter 12 years later. I call her strong-willed, spirited, and my new one is “joyfully defiant.” 😉
    Yesterday as her dad was ready to head out the door with her she decided she didn’t like the way her socks felt. So as my husband waited, not so patiently, I ran to get her different socks…then shoes. I couldn’t hold back a little smile as I laughed inside.
    Thank you for making me feel a little closer to “normal” and helping me, along with the other parents like me, see the true beauty that these firecrackers bring into our life!

    • Polly says

      Haha-joyfully defiant is a nice way to phrase it! So you’re telling me that they don’t grow out of it by 12? 🙂

      • Rhonda says

        Not really by 15 either ? but it gets so much easier!
        Luckily I did something right and he’s a great teenager. I am however, terrified of a strong-willed teenage daughter!

  11. Cynthia says

    Hi Polly,
    Thank you SO very much for sharing so authentically and transparently from your parenting experience. My 5 year old son is certainly a “firecracker” and has challenged me daily in ways I never expected. God has used my son’s difficult personality to grow & stretch me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Though it’s tough and sometimes very emotional, I realize that he has also brought great, wonderful things into my life & home. I could not agree more with points #4 and #5. And for me, your first point really got me thinking…I had never thought of him quite that way, but now that you mention it, I suppose that is the case. Thanks for reminding me (and all your readers) to see the good in our strong-willed kiddos!!! This was definitely a reminder I needed to read today 🙂
    Warmest Regards,
    Cynthia

  12. Sara says

    Thank you for writing this, and for sharing this with all of us. I needed to read this tonight. My eldest daughter will be 3 in just a few weeks and my infant is 7 months old. I thought I had everything figured out before the birth of our second child. We had read books about becoming a big sister, etc. But once the baby came, I didn’t know how I was going to be! With hormones all over the place, little to no help around me (except my super supportive husband who went back to work just days after the baby came), and a toddler wondering why mommy’s attention was on the baby all the time. Fast forward in time–last November–I had a friend suggest to me that perhaps my eldest might have a behavorial problem. I almost began to believe this, until I prayed about it. She is a strong willed child–she will tell you what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it. She lights up the room, is a big star in our neighborhood esp with the elders–I could go on and on. I just didnt have the vocabulary andor support to know my child is normal and is strong willed. So thank you

  13. Heidi says

    I’m not sure how I missed this when you posted it back in October, was probably busy trying to win one of those shoe battles. 😉 But God knew it was just what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing openly, honestly and humorously. I’m right there with you!

    • Polly says

      Awe, thanks Heidi! I need to re-read this post and apply it to my three year old boy who shall not be named… Glad it was helpful to you, friend.

  14. Julie says

    I needed to read this. Thank you 🙂 My toddler is SO strong willed/stubborn/high-needs/intense/a dragon – whatever you want to call it.

    • Rachel says

      Ah, so glad it was an encouragement to you!