Letting the Little Things Go…What I’ve Learned Parenting a Strong Willed Child



Not long ago a friend and I were talking about children of ours that were just “harder” to parent than our other children. We laughed and shared wild antics of shenanigans that have gone on without littles. Sometimes we’d succeeded and sometimes we’d failed, but one thing we could both agree on is that we’ve learned a LOT along the way.

If you too are parenting a strong willed child along with an agreeable, somewhat passive sibling, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s not that we love them any less, it’s just that parenting them requires us to think outside the box a little to bring out the best in our driven children. It’s a wonderful thing really, because how boring would motherhood be if it didn’t stretch us at all, right?

This is where you need to meet my children to better understand a bit of what I’m talking about. Note the facial expressions here. I had asked for a quick fourth of July pic and one met me with an instant smile and one told me without any words that it was not happening that easy!


Tanner is six and Quinley is five. They are full of life and keep us laughing. They are so much alike and so very different at the same time.

Quinley is independent but compliant and passive at the same time. She’s a people pleaser if I’ve ever seen one. While parenting her now is much like a breath of fresh air, I know that later in life is when I’ll be writing blog posts about her. Because I can already tell that peer pressure isn’t going to be our best friend.

Tanner is, you guessed it, STRONG WILLED, challenges everything, smarter than a fifth grader (no pun intended) and isn’t ever afraid to voice an opinion. I have no doubt that by the time he reaches high school he is going to have a strong sense of who he is and where he’s going with his life. So I don’t really worry as much about negative influences later, but it’s just getting him there. (It might just kill us all. Well, not really. But seriously it might lay us flat of our backs at times.)

When Tanner was born into our family, he was the first grand child on either side. Neither my husband or I had any close relatives with babies either. So to say that our experience was nigh to nothing is quite the understatement. Had it been otherwise, I think we would have picked up on a few warnings early on like flashing neon signs at midnight blaring THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY PEOPLE.

For instance, you know those cute little battery powered swings that swing, rock, vibrate and sway all sorts of positions these days? Well, I had spent a small fortune on one because in my naive head that was where I was going to lay my sweet bundle of preciousness down while I got a few things done those first few months of his life. I remember the first time we laid him in it. My husband buckled and strapped him in probably to nearly the point of lost circulation and we both stood there just watching him like he was some sort of ticking time bomb that was about to go off at any second.

You guessed it, he did.

We let him cry for all of about thirty seconds and then it was on to the next thing. And the next. I’d venture to say that he spent less than fifteen minutes of his entire life in that swing. Or any other apparatus that was made for infant entertaining.

And such has always been with Tanner. It’s one thing with him and then quickly onto the next. He always keeps me on my toes. Just this week he was mimicking what he’d seen on American Ninja Warrior and as you might guess that didn’t go well. He managed to pull two pieces of trim down in the bathroom. That’s no lie.

Here’s the neat thing about his little personality and mine and the things we’ve worked through though…I wouldn’t change one ounce of it. Even if that were possible and I could, I wouldn’t change it or make any part of him easier because it is who he is.

I have learned some helpful things along the way though and fellow mamas going through some challenging days, hear me when I say, “I’ve got your back!” In no way, shape or form am I an expert – but I have learned a thing or two through trial and error and they are as follows:

1) Foster their spirit and uniqueness as much as possible

Listen, I know that it is so easy with a strong willed child to say, “No,” and “Because I said so and that’s good enough,” 872 times during a day. Some days, it’s just a battle of the wills and indeed I do know – a parent must win. I do believe in showing a child who is boss (and I don’t think it should ever be the child). However, sometimes and lately more often than not I find myself just saying yes. Yes to things I would rather not. Not harmful things or rude behavior, but just little every day details that make my little boy who he is:

“Yes you may eat the same thing for breakfast lunch and dinner.” (As long as it’s sustainable and healthy).

“Yes you may ride your bike through the mud puddle as long as you’d like.”

“Yes you may stay up past bedtime and watch American Ninja Warrior.” (Although, I will admit that after the bathroom incident I’m rethinking that one).

And although I’m not the best yes mom out there, I just don’t want to crush his little spirit and have him grow up remembering that mom always said no. Bottom line.

2) Discipline through discipleship

I remember when we were taking foster care classes there was a statement made about the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is a price you must pay for a wrong done. Discipline is from the root word “disciple” which means a follower or student of a teacher. And because I am a Christian I like to think of Jesus and the way that he taught his disciples. He took them under his wing and showed them by his own example how they must act, reach out to others and behave in general. And what I take from that is that I can spout off a mouth full of dos and don’ts all day long but what it all boils down to really is how I act myself. Because that’s what my littles are going to mimic.

Be it right or wrong I also want to add that I’ve taken my oldest with me to jail visitation before. We were visiting someone dear to us and it just happened to make the groundwork for a good teaching opportunity. Because now I can say things like, “If you don’t learn to obey mom when you’re little you’ll have to obey the police when you’re older.” A little harsh? Maybe. But, truthful none the less. I’m not above a little reverse bribery if I think it’s going to benefit my children’s behavior.

3) Let the little things go


This, in my mind, has been the biggest learning curve for me in parenting a strong willed child. It’s not about letting a child run over you like a train and standing up for nothing. It is about choosing your battles wisely and knowing what’s worth fighting for.

So if you saw my family last Sunday and wondered why my son was in a dress shirt, with jeans that had grass stains and black and white tennis shoes…please know that he just wanted to wear that himself. And in my mind an outfit is not worth fighting for.

And if you drive by my house today and see him running through the sprinkler in his pajamas and think we’ve lost our minds…well, just know that pajamas and the wearing of them while running through said sprinkler is not on my list of battles today. Nor will it ever be.

And if you hear me walking through my house singing the theme song from Frozen…you guessed it. I’m singing it more for me and my boy, rather than for the little princess in our house. Some things you just have to learn to let go of.

Do you have a strong willed child? Do you have any parenting tips you’d like to share?


  1. Hi, I was wondering if you’ve found an extra-curricular activity that your SWC has enjoyed? We keep jumping from one thing to another because ours just won’t pay attention.


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