“Strong-willed children are the ones that change the world.” I heard these words said to a room full of moms on the campus of a Midwestern university during a mom’s conference several years ago. The speaker for the session was a woman named Kendra Smiley, the author of a book titled Aaron’s Way: The Journey of a Strong-Willed Child.
The book had been written with the input of her grown son reflecting on their experiences as they journeyed through life.
The book has received mixed reviews over time, with some critics noting that the book is not based on science, rather one family’s experience.
That is not the important part to me. The important part to me was that at that moment, and throughout that session, my entire parenting philosophy was shifted.
I never fully bought into the theory behind children being seen and not heard.
I grew up working with, training, and showing dogs and horses. Some people have the belief that you must “break their will” in order for the animal to perform at it’s best. I disagree. I subscribe to the school of thought that the bond between animal and owner is more of a partnership.
I feel it is the same with children.
Many people who find themselves toe to toe with a seemingly defiant two-year-old have the desire to “break the will” of the child, in order to gain compliance.
Instead, the challenge, and the part that is more difficult is to teach that child to harness their stubbornness. To teach that child when to fight, and when to comply.
Strong-willed children are the ones who will stand up to bullies.
Strong-willed children are the ones who spot injustice around them.
Strong-willed children grow into strong-willed young adults and adults who see the wrongs around them and stand up against them.
The world needs more strong-willed children, who have been taught when to stand up.
The challenge is that to the strong-willed child, every conversation is a cause they feel they must undertake. They are viewed as argumentative, as defiant, as a problem. They can then begin to see themselves through that light as well.
As parents, we have to come along beside them, to develop that partner attitude. We have to be the examples of compromise when it is needed. (Not arguing with the teacher over a grade that was handed out that was deserved would be a good example.)
We need to also be willing to be the example of when to argue. (Asking the teacher politely to explain the grading to ensure that everything was just, for example.)
Strong-willed children can be exhausting to parent. They feel deeply. They are walking passion.
As toddlers, this can be exhausting due to the fact that they may not possess the vocabulary to express what they want their parent to know.
As middle school-aged young adults, the exhaustion comes in a different form. The emotions are too much. The pressure to fit in rages against their need for justice. Their pursuit of right vs wrong pushes at that them from every angle.
Moving into older teen years adds a small amount of relief as they step into who they will become as adults.
Stay strong parents. The task of raising kids to be successful adults is a difficult one. Raising strong-willed kids to be successful adults is not for the faint of heart.
Find your reassurance that “Strong-willed children are the ones that change the world.”