I just finished reading James Dobson’s Parenting Isn’t for Cowards. For the second time.
Yes, we’ve been having a bit of trouble with our girls lately. Maybe it’s the new baby. Maybe it’s the fact that the bigger girls are now roomies. Maybe it’s their ages. Or maybe it’s the fact that they’re both so strong-willed.
Whatever it is, their whining, blatant disobedience, temper tantrums, and continual meltdowns have left their daddy and me desperate. Seriously, if there were such a thing as boot camp for toddlers, they would be on the first bus.
So, after the third week of frustration, I pulled out Dobson’s book looking for a little advice on how best to handle their behavior. I needed some Godly counsel on what to do with our two “angels” because with strong-willed children, you want to reign in that determination and zeal for power and not entirely squelch it. It’s a fine line.
Here are some of Dobson’s suggestions for dealing with strong-willed children:
1. Take charge of a strong-willed child during the early years of his life. Don’t be harsh or stern but confident and steady in your leadership. If you believe you are the boss, then so will your child.
I really struggle with not being too hard on the children. At times–especially when I’m tired–I am too tough on the girls and tend to be a bit authoritarian. Good behavior and respect for authority often become more important to me than the content of their hearts. Their external behavior is reflective of what’s in their hearts, and my focus should instead be on filling those hearts with God’s Word.
2. If a child “is allowed by indulgence to develop ‘habits’ of defiance and disrespect during his early childhood, those characteristics will haunt him for the next twenty years” (75).
Disrespect is a pet peeve of mine. If one of our children does not treat an elder with the honor and respect he or she deserves, then she will be quickly reprimanded and punished. Defiance is also not tolerated. However, I have noticed that I am a lot more lax with the younger sibling than her big sister and need to really work on being more consistent and fair.
3. Overlook childish behavior and irresponsibility but never ignore direct challenges to your authority as mother or father.
This suggestion is another aspect of mothering that I struggle with because I tend to expect too much from our children. My lofty expectations are unrealistic and unjust at times. For example, I should not expect a three-year-old to watch her sister and then get mad at her when little sister draws all over her bedspread. I have to remember our children’s ages and maturity levels and if they are not directly defying my authority, then I need to let it go.
However, when our 19-month-old tells me, “No,” she is going to get a little swat on the leg. Direct challenges to authority will be met with appropriate punishment depending on the child’s age and maturity level.
4. Pray fervently for your children.
This is something I do daily and on bad days sometimes hourly. Who else but the God of all Creation can give me the wisdom and direction I need to lead our children where they need to go?
So what else did I take away from Parenting Isn’t For Cowards?
In addition to the four suggestions I listed above, there were five items that I learned:
(1) Stay on your kids, especially when they’re little. Consistency is key.
(2) Be firm but loving and nurturing in your discipline.
(3) Teach your kids about God, and instill in them faith.
(4) Don’t be too tough on yourself as a parent. Remember that your children are their own individual people and will make their own choices despite how you have raised them.
(5) Know when you are facing parent burnout and find ways to recharge.
Because I have been feeling burnout a lot recently and Dobson’s chapter really resonated with me, I intend to touch on #5 more in-depth in a post later this week.
How about you? Do you have a strong-willed child? If so, what have you found are the best ways to discipline him or her?
Blessings to you!
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