Tips for Teaching Strong-Willed Kids

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4)

In his book, The Strong-Willed Child, Dr. James Dobson writes, “Let’s begin by acknowledging that rearing boys and girls can be a difficult assignment, especially today when the culture is battling mightily with parents for the hearts and minds of their kids. To bring them up properly requires the wisdom of Solomon and the determination of an Olympic champion. Admittedly, the job looks much easier than it is in reality. Overconfident parents, particularly those who are new to the responsibility, remind me of a man watching the game of golf for the first time. He thinks, ‘This is going to be simple. All you have to do is hit that little white ball out there in the direction of the flag.’ He then steps up to the tee, draws back his club, and dribbles the “little white ball” about nine feet to the left. ‘Maybe,’ he says to himself, ‘I ought to swing harder. That’s what Tiger Woods does.’ But the more he hacks at the ball, the farther into the rough he goes. So it is with child rearing. There are sand traps and obstacles everywhere for parents who are blessed with strong-willed kids. What those moms and dads need is a well-designed “game plan” for the inevitable challenges they will face at home. Without such a plan, they will find themselves muddling through by trial and error.”1

Dr. Scott Turansky, in his article, Strong-Willed Kids adds, “Children who make decisions with intensity tend to be labeled ‘strong-willed.’ At the end of the day, their parents feel as if they’ve been engaged in hand-to-hand combat and that the child often wins at the parent’s expense! Most parents consider a strong will a negative personality trait because it often creates resistance and frustration in family life. Yet, in reality, it’s the strong-willed kids who are often better equipped to succeed, be creative, and face adversity.

“Children with strong wills have the potential to become the next generation of leaders. They have their own ideas and plans. They know what they want. They’re persistent, confident, passionate, and determined to succeed at whatever they choose to do.

“Leaders have an agenda, look for ways to incorporate others into their plans, and have a high need for control in life. Balanced with graciousness, leaders become treasures because they make things happen, create organization out of chaos, and motivate people to action.

“Unfortunately, it’s hard to raise a leader. These kids tend to have their own ways of doing things and like to tell other people (including their parents) what to do. A strong will keeps a child moving in a certain direction in spite of obstacles. Often these children need bigger barriers or tighter limits to teach them that those boundaries are firm.

“Don’t be discouraged by the effort it takes to teach a strong-willed child which limits not to push. The strong-willed child accomplishes things in life, because the roadblocks that might hold others back are no match for this kid’s determination. Your job is to help him know the difference between obstacles to overcome and limits to live within.

“A strong will can be an asset… as long as the heart is in the right place.”2

As your church considers the spiritual needs of children, please remember what Billy Graham said: “Jesus’ final command to His followers has never been rescinded, nor will it ever become outdated or unimportant or irrelevant … This is why evangelism must be our continual priority, and this is why discipleship must be our goal.” Discipleship is the one thing we cannot neglect. From nursery, preschool and kindergarten to kids church, Sunday school and midweek, DiscipleLand’s family of Biblical resources forms a comprehensive Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational process designed to help you grow disciples for life.

Dobson continues, “When a parent refuses to accept his child’s defiant challenge, something changes in their relationship. The youngster begins to look at his mother and father with disrespect; they are unworthy of her allegiance. More important, she wonders why they would let her do such harmful things if they really loved her. The ultimate paradox of childhood is that boys and girls want to be led by their parents but insist that their mothers and fathers earn the right to lead them.”

Though parents and teachers are stewards of their children’s lives for a very short time, the teaching and training they provide has eternal consequences. According to the promise of Proverbs, a child who receives complete and systematic training in the “way he should go” will remain true to that way in this life and reap its rewards in the next.

1. Dr. James Dobson, The Strong-Willed Child, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Revised edition (March 20, 2007)
2: Dr. Scott Turansky, “Strong-Willed Kids” Web. July, 2012.

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  1. Raquel Davis August 7, 2012
  2. Tyeisha (Dee) Covington August 7, 2012
  3. Hnou August 9, 2012
  4. Mom of Strong Willed Kids now grown August 9, 2012
  5. D G August 9, 2012

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