Dear Mother with the Strong-Willed Child: An Open Letter

Dear Mother with the Strong-Willed Child: An Open Letter February 28, 2016


Dear Mother with the Strong-Willed Child,

I saw you at the library the other day, Sweet Mama.  I saw your precious little boy, in his super hero t-shirt and confident as ever, shouting out his favorite book titles while skipping along through the aisles.  I saw the librarian hushing him, and you quickly responding to the situation by sweetly reminding him of what you had gone over with him…two or three times…in the car.

You’d told him that the library is a “quiet place” where he needs to “be good”.  You’d been trying to find a book for yourself that was close by, but like many days, it was cut short due to your bright-eyed, energetic little boy being a little too loud and rambunctious…and insistent on finding his own book.

I could see the frustration in your exhausted eyes and that your mind was probably riddled with thoughts like:

Why can’t there be just one day when he will just do exactly what I ask him to do?

Why does he have to be so difficult.  All. The. Time?

Did I do something wrong as a parent?

Why does he have an opinion about everything?

I can’t take him anywhere!

Then, I saw your little boy get up on one of the couches and start to bounce a little with a huge smile on his face.  Then, he made himself at home and cuddled up into a corner of the couch and proudly opened the book he picked out all by himself.  You quietly told him to put his feet down.  He didn’t.  I could see your blood boiling.  You told him he had to listen or the two of you would leave, and he eventually backed down.

You look relieved and proceeded to try and find that book you’d been looking for.  Then, you turned your back for a minute and he was back at it gain–feet propped up on the couch and book in hand.  But this time, the library assistant took notice,walked over to your little boy, and frustratedly said, “Stop!  You can do that here!”.  Then, you apologized and grabbed your little boy’s hand while reprimanding him for his loudness and inconsiderate behavior.  I watched as you scanned the room for onlookers.

You didn’t see me, but I saw the tears filling your eyes.  It broke my heart.  

Your little boy started screaming and crying and saying that he didn’t want to leave.  So, you picked him up and quickly exited the library. Defeated.  Frustrated.  Feeling like a failure.

I’ve been there too, Sweet Mama.  I know this embarrassment and frustration too.  

Thoughts like,

Why do I even try?, 

Library?  What a terrible idea!  What was I thinking?, and

I’ve had it with his strong will.  Will this ever get any easier?,

probably filled your mind as you fastened him into his booster seat that day.

You just wanted to do something fun together…expose him to educational resources…meet other kids and moms.  But, this.

This was a train wreck…in your eyes.

Sweet Mama, I write this letter to you, because I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle, AND your brilliant, strong-willed kiddo is not a bad kid.  

Don’t let the looks fool you.  Most of us look only because we know what YOU must be feeling when your kid makes loud statements or when he rejects your commands and and throws a fit.  It’s so frustrating and humiliating, but it doesn’t define you as a mom.

You are hanging in there, and doing your best to raise your little one to respect and follow the rules.  But, strong-willed children see the world differently.  They want to MAKE the rules and chart their own course.  They are our future leaders and big thinkers.  They are the Albert Einsteins and Steve Jobs of this world.  They don’t fit in a box, and this is the struggle when you try to take them places–like libraries–where fitting in the box is necessary.

Sweet Mama, don’t let this stop you.  Keep taking him and guiding him.  He will find his way through your loving patience and redirection.

Don’t believe the lies that you are failing as a mom because your child throws fits in public.  He is a child with a strong will that he doesn’t understand yet.  He wants to lead but needs to follow right now.  And, your consistent discipline is helping him to see this.

I know that you sometimes long for a day when he will just sit down and color for hours, but it just won’t cut it for him.  He isn’t wired up to sit for long.  This isn’t a bad thing–rather a different thing.

Keep on celebrating his unique strengths, and don’t worry about what others perceive.   He feels more intensely, laughs harder, and fully embraces life more than the average human being.  What a blessing it is to see life through his eyes!

I hope I run into you next week, Sweet Mama.  I’d love to give you a hug and say, “It’s okay.”.  You are a great mom.  Your loud and happy little boy is precious, and he brought a smile to my face that day at the library.  I’d love to tell you in person that you are not alone in your struggle and that it gets better.  So, keep up the good work, Sweet Mama.  You’re raising a future leader, inventor, and innovator.  How cool is that!

Be blessed,

A Fellow Mom with Strong-Willed Children

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  • Truthis

    I read a book once entitled “The Strong-Willed Child”. I did my best to follow the parenting tips and when the advice failed, I felt as though I had failed. All kids have their own unique temperament and you just don’t know what’s in store for you. My children, I was convinced, were the most stubborn, wild, loud, and unruly kids ever. Turns out they both have high functioning autism! No wonder my rigid rules and super vigilance didn’t work. They are both born leaders and now we’re going through some contests to prove which is the highest rank. I no longer care so much what other people think of all the wildness or my parenting style (I used to be very hard on myself), my judgment toward myself and others flew out the window about a year or so ago. Now when I see a struggling mom or dad, I say something like “It’ll get better.” Sometimes, even a sympathetic glance can make all the difference.

  • Lynn Ray Davis Gilbert

    *Strong-willed* children are so because they’ve learned that momma does NOT always mean what she says. They have learned momma can be worn down at times and it is worth the effort in case they can wear her down THIS time as well. If you tell your child to do something, EXPECT him to DO it. His world STOPS until he obeys. Teach your child that obedience to you is not an OPTION.

  • Truthis

    Sometimes that’s the case, and before I was a parent, I thought I KNEW that unruly children are so because of parental inconsistency or just not following through; I learned a great lesson when having my own kids. You can hold on like a pit bull and demand obedience like I did (I never wore down), and still end up with children who absolutely cannot comply. I no longer judge moms/dads of children who run through the grocery store yelling “Vagina Vagina Vagina Vagina….”. Not only does nature often trump nurture in personality types, there are other considerations such as neurological differences to be considered. If one doesn’t know the child or the parent, he/she should probably cut some slack. I once was blind, but now I see!

  • Lynn Ray Davis Gilbert

    There is always the exception, but my experiences have taught me what I originally posted. I raised 5 children, have 17 grandchildren, have fostered 48 children and was a preschool teacher for 6 years. I stand by my post.

  • Truthis

    Well, you certainly know kids very well and are extremely blessed! No doubt in my mind that many parents lack firmness. My personal experience is limited to only two little ones.

    Autism is on the rise, but only recently has it taken a GIANT leap. It could be that some children are mislabeled, and that autism is the syndrome of the day, but I’ve seen it in so many of their classmates, as well as their cousins. Maybe something’s in the water?

    Anyway, “Acting out” could be extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or a myriad of other reasons. Looking back on my own personality as a child, I see autism. Stubbornness/strong-willed might just be rigidity or inability to screen out senses. All I know is that the cruel, disgusted, judgmental looks from onlookers (I used to be one of those) only adds to the stress and fatigue of raising these special kids. Only one unknown person has come up to me and said “Don’t worry, it will get better”. I hang onto those words when my kids take apart clocks, picture frames and disassemble furniture for the umpteenth time. This article seems to be about empathy and encouragement. Many need to hear this message. In my opinion, it’s better to err on the side of kindness.