Mom Diaries: Raising a Strong Willed Child is H.A.R.D

This goes out to all the moms raising a strong-willed child. Anyone who has a sweet, kind toddler, who sits quietly in a restaurant coloring or plays alone while you get things done will probably not understand this at all and will most likely think I am a horrible mom.

But, I’m willing to lend my sassy pants beauty over for a trip to the grocery store in case you’re curious. Or just go to my google search history and see how many times I’ve typed the words, “activities for a strong-willed child” and maybe that will give you some insight.

Moving on...

It’s funny. We say “strong-willed” because calling your own kid an expletive that starts with an a and rhymes with shmashole is frowned upon in society. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little human so much it hurts.

I would never try to coerce her strong-willed character out of her. I know that it will make her into an assertive, brave, and confident young woman one day. But that doesn’t mean I am oblivious to how much she will test my human will on her way to becoming that strong young woman.

To begin, there’s consistent use of the word no. I’m not talking about the average toddler use of the word no. I’m talking about this being my child’s favorite word. A word that is used hundreds of times a day in defiance. A word that is said with brute force, attitude, and bellowed at a decibel that once again makes my neighbors (and anyone in public really) question my ability to parent.

If you are a parent to a strong-willed child, you know exactly what happens when you try to win the battle of “no” and challenge them to do something they have clearly indicated will not be done. I like to follow up these challenges with a bottle of champagne.          

Then there are the facial expressions. Little miss thang has a WTF face that literally makes me slightly afraid of her. It’s like she’s flipping you off with her eyes. It is even a running joke in my circle of friends that Mack is going to need Botox soon because the wrinkles between her eyebrows will be so deep from frowning by then that she’ll have no hope by the time she’s 30.

You receive this look anytime you try to initiate a conversation within 30 minutes of her waking up. When you get her juice-to-water ratio wrong. If you ask her to climb down from something or hand over a sharp object. If you try to stop her from eating dirt, marbles, plastic, legos, or prevent her from licking the sliding glass door. Or simply if she doesn’t like your face. Want to know what goes along with those facial expressions? Reread the paragraph above this one.  

No one is exempt from her attitude...most especially her big brother. My kids could not be any more opposite and what she possesses in sass, my son carries equally in sensitivity. He’s the boy you’ll want your daughter to marry when she's older, but right now he’s just an easy target.

Mack knows exactly which buttons to push and spends her day antagonizing him by stealing whatever he’s currently holding, pulling his hair, kicking him in the face from her car seat, and my personal favorite, lying on the ground fake crying when he’s having a meltdown. No, not for attention. But because at 2, she is making fun of him by mimicking him.    

Mack is also fearless. To date, she has climbed the refrigerator, walked into my room with a butcher knife which she retrieved after scaling the cabinets with her toes, jumped off of every tall surface in our house, tipped the dining room chairs over a dozen times as she tried to tightrope walk across the backs of them. Fallen off the trash can. You get the idea. Daddy also had to build her a special frame on the floor for her crib bed to sit on because she could crawl out before she was a year old.  

The research you say? Yep, I’ve done that. I’ve read tons of mommy blogs and online articles. Basically, the most consistent advice for not losing your mind is to put your seatbelt on, hold on for dear life, and harness patience from Tibetan monks. Oh, and love them like crazy, because one day that strong will is going to serve them abundantly in life. Until then, I will find the joy in watching her chug her sippy cup of “appy juice” and then hurl it to the ground like a Viking warrior.

Because there is also an incredibly sweet and cuddly side to baby girl. One that melts your heart and leads you to cover her chubby little cheeks in kisses. She loves exclaiming that she loves you at random times, with as much gusto as her exclamation of “no!”. She loves when you read her books. She loves to share her snacks (on her terms)...meaning shoving bits of pre-chewed food into your mouth. She loves to be rocked to sleep and while this can sometimes take up to an hour at night, I relish this time. Because in those quiet moments, when she’s snuggled in my arms, all is right in the world.

I remember that the years when she will be too big to sit on my lap will come fast and furious, just like her current attitude. I remember that even though she came at me with a right hook when I tried to put her hair in a ponytail, one day we will do all the things I still love to do with my mom. And even though I am married with my own children, my mom is still my best friend. I hope Mack looks at me that same way too.

So if you have a strong-willed child, I see you. I understand you when other parents try to give you the advice you’ve already tried, or tell you that it’s a phase, or that all kids are this way at some point. Side note, they’re not. I see the expression you make when people say, “just bring them with you, they’ll be fine.” I’m with you, eating at home because restaurant trips are like the odds in Vegas. Not good. I feel your pain when you get looks of disapproval from strangers...because why yes, perfect stranger, I absolutely train my child to have epic meltdowns every time they come in contact with other humans.

One day, we’ll all sit back and smile when our strong-willed children become CEOS and professional athletes. The one thing I know for sure is that when people ask me if I am having any more kids.

My answer is one word.



Megan Rix

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  • This made me laugh out loud for real! I was this kid and I have one of my own. I turned out just fine and I know my son will too. Your daughter will be a wonderful strong and passionate lady some day. Your article is perfect for adding some humor to parenting a strong willed child. No one is perfect nor should they be- it’s what makes life interesting! Keep being a great mom and keep writing! You rock

  • This was on the nose!
    Love it. Write on, girl! Thanks for the laugh and the understanding! And ADB-get off your high horse. What a boring and ugly response (add eye roll).

  • To ADB,
    Next time you read an article you “disapprove” of could you please just keep scrolling! No mom deserves any comments like this! This was a light funny article and you made it so negative and awful!!

    Angela Fay
  • I really needed to read this article today and to know I am not alone with my crazy little 3 year old with an attitude of a 13 year old! You were so on point with everything you said about our strong willed children! And yet it did make me see that yes they are incredibly difficult but also so amazing and one of a kind! So again thank you for this!

  • Dear Mom of the Strong Willed,
    I had to smile reading your post, it took me back thirty years. My 33 year old daughter was one of THOSE! I knew those attributes would come in handy some day. I couldn’t have been more right! You Will get through these days and believe my they pass all too soon. My baby has 6 of her own now. Her English degree allowed her to be a wonderful middle school teacher for several years before she decided to be a stay at home mom for now. I would add one bit of advice. Pray for your kid’s mates every night. I had served my daughter well, and I knew he would have to be one heck- of – a – man, one that could put up with her and stand his ground at the same time. Every hard day is worth the struggle. Be kind to yourself, ignore negative people and posts and let Christ be the only example you need. Love to you and your family.

    Donna Hepp

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