Do You Have a Strong-Willed Child?

The conversations usually go something like this:

“Sweet Cheeks, you may eat a bagel with cream cheese, or oatmeal. We are in a hurry this morning. Please choose one.”
“No. I want an omelet.”
“I’m not fixing omelets this morning. Please choose one of the other choices you’ve been given.”
“No, if I don’t get an omelet, then I won’t eat breakfast.”

**Enter stomping of feet here. And then the arms are crossed. **
{Flopping like a cod-fish, as I call it, is optional for this 5 year old.}

Yes, I have a strong-willed child. Some would describe her as stubborn, but I think there is a difference.

What is a Strong-Willed Child?

Webster’s defines Stubborn as: refusing to change your ideas or to stop doing something; difficult to deal with, remove, etc.; unreasonably or perversely unyielding. These are negative definitions. Being stubborn is not a good thing. Think – “Israelites” as they wandered in the desert. Moses and God called them “Stiff-necked People.” They constantly complained. At times they adamantly argued that they needed to return to Egypt. Some were convinced that Moses was not a good leader and tried to take over. Stubborn.

Being Strong-Willed is different because, while this trait can be seen as negative, it really is quite the opposite. Cynthia Ulrich Tobias in her book, You Can’t Make Me [But I Can Be Persuaded], describes being strong-willed this way:

“Strong will, in and of itself, is a very positive trait. A strong-willed person is not easily daunted or discouraged, holds firm convictions, and doesn’t often accept defeat. A person using strong will in positive ways is fiercely loyal, determined to succeed, and often extraordinarily devoted to accomplishing goals.” (page 9)

Strong-willed children, individually, are as different as any other child, but they do have similar traits. Let’s go back the the conversation from above and how it could probably be resolved with my child…

“No, if I don’t get an omelet, then I won’t eat breakfast.” [Enter stomping.]
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I cannot fix omelets this morning. Now what I CAN do, is fix an omelet for you for lunch. But for now, I need you to choose one of the other options.”
[Stomping stops as she considers.] “Can I help you cook the omelet and crack the eggs?”
“We might be able to do that.”
“Ok. I’d like a cheese bagel please.” [Happiness returns to the household.]

Negotiation. Cooperation. {Aren’t those good traits to grow and practice?}

The Purpose for a Strong-Willed Child

So why am I dwelling on the topic of strong-willed children today? Because they are necessary and I think God is doing an amazing thing.

When I was a kid growing up in the mid 70s through 90s, we had temptations and social evils that surrounded us, but usually it was hush-hush. As I’ve been “meeting” old friends on Facebook and swapping school stories, I am amazed at how clueless I was.

Our children do not live in that type of world. Everything is “in your face,” so to speak.

Take a good look at your strong-willed child. Don’t you want a child who has been taught God’s Law and who is not easily daunted or discouraged, who holds firm convictions, and who doesn’t often accept defeat?

Mom, Dad, I think God is raising up an army. I don’t have proof of this, but as the last days become closer there will be more persecution of God’s people. I have no idea what type of world my 5 year old will encounter when she is 16, 25, or 45 years old. But I want her standing on the Word of God and having the will to stand for Truth and Righteousness.

What Do I Do With My Strong-Willed Child?

So parents, how do we help our strong-willed elementary children to stand firm in Truth? Some days it is HARD, EXHAUSTING, and DEFEATING to teach a strong-willed child.


2) Pray that God would give your child a love for His law early in life.

3) Be Jesus to him.

4) Communicate with your child. Ask “What was your favorite thing about today?” or “What was your least favorite thing about today?” Understanding the likes and dislikes of your child will show you his heart.

5) Tobias tells parents to make sure you can always answer this question for your strong-willed child: What’s the point? Always make sure you have a point for everything. If there is no point, is it worth the fight?

Why must I obey you? What’s the point?
We are sinners. Jesus lived, died, and rose again to take our punishment for those sins. Now we can have a relationship with God through belief in Jesus and serve Him.  He tells children to obey their parents so they can practice obeying Him.

Why do I have to do school? What’s the point?
Everything we do and learn MUST be compared to the Truth of Jesus. That includes knowing why the world is the way it is, how it works, and what God is doing around us. We are to never stop learning.

Why do I have to get a job? What’s the point?
We are to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus and disciple them. Everyone who serves Jesus has a job to do.

I truly believe that the strong-willed children of today are the event coordinators, child advocates, missionaries, charity founders, and CEOs of the future. They are people who can’t help but change the world around them. It’s how God made them.

I know. I am a strong-willed person.

If you have a strong-willed child, what are the favorite qualities you see in him or her right now?