The Blessing of the Strong-Willed Child
June 19, 2012Posted by pamela |
Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Melissa Lapides, Marin mom, licensed marriage and family therapist, and parent educator.
Nobody warned you when becoming a parent that there might be times, sometimes more than not, that your child can be unlikeable, maybe even plain-out excruciating to be around. This could very well be the case if you are parenting a strong-willed child. The whining, relentless demanding, and explosive reactions can be downright exhausting for a parent. This is not generally the type of reaction you imagine yourself having toward your child when you are pregnant or planning a family.
Feeling this way toward your child can be an awful feeling for a mother to have or share. The shame around it is horrific and humiliating to even imagine sharing with another mother. You may wonder if you are the only mother that has these feelings towards your children at all. It really does seem like every other mother is adoring and so calm around her children, right?
How terrible to have to feel this way and not be able to express it or even admit it to yourself without shame. The truth is that strong willed children can take mothers into these types of feelings because they are not easy to be around at all. The amount of patience that goes into parenting this type of child seems inhuman at times. Maybe the Buddha or Mother Teresa would have been a good parent to a strong willed child, but any other ordinary human could understandably loose their patience.
I believe parenting this type of child could be very similar to a spiritual practice because of the amount of patience and mindfulness it takes in order to maintain this somewhat difficult relationship. You constantly have to pause, join the present moment and really look at how you are going to respond to the relentless outbursts of your child.
Strong-willed children need strong-willed parents. They need constant rules and boundary setting. Sometimes they can be “testing the limit masters”, and they require a certain type of presence in order to respond to discipline. This takes work; it is like being in yoga class and holding that pose through the point where it feels impossible. If you come from a place of anger or emotionally charged response, it doesn’t really work at all. Strong willed children need clear and firm boundaries that come from a definitive place without an emotional charge.
So what if a strong willed child gets born to a non-assertive mother? That could be a recipe for disaster or it can be a great growing and learning experience for mom. Not all mothers are naturally strong willed and firm, but it is a good thing that mothering is a wonderful opportunity to grow and experience parts of ourselves that we may not even knew existed. You can grow as a parent by cultivating the qualities it takes to parent the type of child that you have. Kids can be our greatest teachers, as we can really see what we need to work on in ourselves through them.
If you look at your responses to your strong willed child as a learning process, it can be a sense of relief. This parenting thing is all a practice, and a very hard one. We need to remind ourselves that we are only human and the most important part is to try our best. Challenging children can be looked at as a challenge for parents to practice patience, boundaries and mindfulness, three very important life practices.
Melissa Lapides is a licensed marriage and family therapist, mother of three young children, and a parent and birth educator. Her passion is to empower and support parents, as she knows how challenging it can be. She is the founder of Parenthood Partners in Kentfield which offers family counseling, in home parent coaching, individual and couples counseling and parenting groups. Look for upcoming groups on "Finding patience for your strong willed child" forming over the summer. www.parenthoodpartners.com