Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Strong-Willed Child

"Strong willed" is probably a misleading description.  One thing that drew me to Charlotte Mason immediately was her insistence that the child wasn't strong willed--the child had a weak or untrained will.

Better than the term "strong willed" I think is the term "spirited," because that gets more to the heart of the matter.  Spirited kids are intense, in many different ways, and their intense tenacity is what gets them the label "strong willed."  But just trying to bend their will to yours does not help them to manage their intensity--that intensity is given to them by God and can be an asset, but not until it has been brought under management by their wills.  Perhaps they have those intense wills because they will need them to manage their other intensity!

"Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka provides the best insights I have seen into the spirited child.  She helps you know whether you have one, what is going on inside of them, and how you can best work with them.  Effective strategies for a child who is not spirited will often backfire with a spirited child.  Many times, you can tell a child is spirited from infancy.  Both of my highly spirited children clearly were spirited from birth--there was no avoiding that reality.  Trying to work with them using conventional parenting methods has not worked at all, and anytime I fall back into those methods (often because other parents intentionally or inadvertently make me feel like I'm not doing the right things) we have disaster.

Sometimes people suggest food sensitivities as a contributing factor.  Certainly, if you think food sensitivities could be an issue, you should investigate that, but it isn't necessarily an either/or situation.  Spirited children often are more sensitive to the world around them, so that they might be more strongly affected than other people by certain foods does not come as a surprise.  Avoiding those foods may help tremendously, but if they have other spirited characteristics then other strategies will be needed too.

Parenting a spirited child is exhausting, but your efforts are well worth it.  The characteristics that make our job so hard also, when channelled constructively, can be tremendous assets.



    This blog post has encouragement too.

  2. Loved your post. The difference I've noticed btwn my spirited and non-spirited child is, I can talk one down off the ledge; the other I can not. And sometimes I've decided (as long as safety is not involved), not to exert my energy to TRY to talk spirited child off the ledge; perhaps this is Holy Spirit's work in his heart that must do this? Still learning my role. Were you at park day when I told the other ladies "This parenting gig is a long road; I think I'll go buy me a new nailpolish color?" LOL!

  3. Who has time to paint nails? LOL!

  4. Thank you for this post and the reminder that spirited children can actually have a weak or untrained will. My oldest can be very intense and spirited and I find that I don't always hold her to the same standard of obedience as her brother because I just dread her reaction so much. Now that I've recognized this, I'm trying much harder to help her develop better habits.

    I recently reread parts of the book you mention and one part that stuck out to me was when the author says not to add your own intensity to your child's. And I think she also says not to leave your child alone during those times. Well, when my daughter is throwing a fit like she does, I have to leave or adding my own intensity becomes unavoidable. :) If I can step away for a few minutes and have a chance to pray mightily (!), I can usually being objective enough to then rejoin her.

    1. I hear that! I bought this book on kathy's recommendation and it is a great one! From what I can tell, this whole "strong-willed" thing is often closely aligned with sensory processing disorder (this is all fairly recent, and its not in the medical manual yet as a recognized issue). I've also learned that the different forms of SPD all come from having not effectively stimulated the inner ear. Its fascinating! So get those gets active with lots of spinning and hanging upside down before trying to focus their attention and see if that helps :)

  5. I was told as a child that I'm "strong willed" and I often had a hard time to Ame decisions, so something didn't makes sense. Now my dd has a similar temperament that I do.And my ds is spirited or spunky in a different way.I have to finish reading this book.....Thanks