My five year old is very strong willed and thrives on winning arguments at all costs, while I’m more laidback and cannot stand to fuss with people.
She is a potential future trial lawyer, while I’m more the diplomat type. If you think this causes issues in my ability to parent her without getting stressed out, then you are tee-totally correct!! I hate to be confrontational or aggressive, but there are many times that I must. She loves to win, but she has to lose on a regular basis for the good of all mankind. 🙂 She’s a future leader, but she has to learn to challenge those leadership skills in a healthy manner.
Because of the difference in personalities, I’ve learned that a big key to retaining my sanity is in choosing which battles to start with my strong willed child.
If I start a battle, I have to win it. With a child who likes to win, this means that starting a battle can potentially be a huge commitment of my energy and time. I have to think before I start “Is this a battle worth waging? Does it really matter? Will it make a difference in the kind of adult she will become? Could someone be hurt- either physically or emotionally- if I choose to let it go?”
If my daughter wants to wear a big pink straw hat, black striped shirt, red lady bug wings, purple pants, red lobster beads around her neck, and pink & purple butterfly boots with sparkly sunglasses to the grocery store….why say a word? It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about her clothing. She is clean, well cared for, ultra confident and happy, and doesn’t care about public opinion any more than her mommy does. If I were embarrassed by it, I still think it’s something better to just let go, but I’m not.
On the other hand, if my little monkey thinks it’s okay to use her bunk bed as a launching pad or monkey bars, we are waging war. She could seriously injure herself, and not following her safety rules is a non-negotiable point. She was informed we could take it away, and have no problem leaving her with just a mattress on the floor to sleep on. Since she loves sleeping in the “princess tower” she has made of her top bunk and knows that I don’t make vain threats, she decided this was not a battle worth trying to “win”. However, if she had tried… the princess would be brought down to earth with just a mattress for awhile.
When my creative soul was determined to “cook” using baby foods my son no longer ate that were still in date and other interesting ingredients and make a big sloppy mess, I let her have at it. She mixed up apple, strawberry banana, peach and pear baby foods with banana chunks, cheerios and saltine crackers, served it up for her brother and herself for an afternoon snack, made a HUGE mess….and they were so pleased with the disgusting slop that they gobbled it up and got it all over themselves, requiring a bath after their childish attempts to clean up the wreck they made and my finishing the process. Did I eat any? Nuh-uh! Was she happy? Yep! This made them so joyful & wasn’t worth fussing over, even though it was annoying to me.
Alternately, when she chose to channel that creativity into using my walls, doors and furniture as the pallette for her artistic
ventures, she lost the freedom to take her art supplies away from the designated art areas in the house that Mommy can supervise fairly well. I allow her to freely decorate boxes and and different items, as well as draw and color to her heart’s content, but I can’t have a rogue artist redecorating my whole daggum house to the taste of a sneaky stinker of a five year old!
When my daughter created an alter ego for herself named Peppermint Candy who was apparently a caretaker of all flowers and rocks everywhere she went, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. When I thought about it, though, she was just using her imagination and not trying to be defiant or cause trouble. I decided to just play along. She soon got tired of it, although she still creates alter egos occasionally, and it didn’t hurt anyone in the long run.
However, during that same phase she decided her little brother was the arch enemy of aforementioned alter ego, and would scream, yell at him and call him names for coming near or trying to play, I quickly put a stop to it. Her imaginary identity wasn’t going to be allowed to be mean to her real little brother and hurt his real life feelings. She waged war on this one, since she insisted he wasn’t really her brother, but an evil genius inhabiting his body. Mommy won, though. Life is not pleasant when you lose toys and movies every time you are mean to someone you are around 24/7. 😉
I have to make a side note about the importance of never, ever, evvvvverrrrr making threats you don’t intend to follow through with if you were blessed with a strong willed child.
A strong willed, intelligent child is NOT the person to tell you will stuff her in the trunk if she doesn’t stop screaming in the car. She is going to see if you will do it….and you won’t, if you’re like 99.99% of parents who make this kind of threats. It will be filed under “Threats mean nothing” and “If I push hard enough, consequences will go away”, and weaken any authority you may have had to begin with. You are better off to allow the screaming to go unchecked than to make threats you won’t follow through with, although it may not be ideal.
If you have a strong willed child- or any child- whom you find yourself arguing with all too often, maybe you should step back and think about what battles you are choosing and whether they are worth losing peace over.
Sometimes your child really is just being a child and an individual, and not trying to drive you crazy. Other times it’s an issue of respect, safety or long term effects. If you feel like you live in a war zone, try to think about what battles you are starting and which ones you could easily just let go without harm.