It’s hard to be a parent to my second child, Thomas. Thomas is five, just turned. In some ways, he is my favorite of the three. He is funny, energetic, spontaneous, creative, and loving.
But he can also be a real jerk.
As easy as the words of love come out of this mouth, other words of anger or even hate pour out as well. Like a fountain of emotion, he spews whatever is bouncing around inside of his head. And it varies from minute to minute, as his brain tries to stop and focus on whatever it happening.
It is bewildering.
Fighting with a child who doesn’t want to do ANYTHING I want or need him to do is really challenging. And I hate to admit this, but sometimes it really takes all of the enjoyment out of being his mom.
I’m not saying I don’t love Thomas. Because I do, more than anything.
But he is really hard right now.
He is SO SO stubborn.
I know his brain is immature. And I know it won’t always be this way.
But everything is a battle. Getting out of bed. Using the toilet. Getting dressed. Loading up in the car. Buckling up. Eating at the table. Getting out of the car at school. Holding my hand to cross the street. Going into school. And so on and so forth.
I feel like I am in an abusive relationship with him. In the morning, I struggle to get momentum to get him out of bed, because I know the struggle is coming. I dread having to figure out a way to get him into the shower. I know that he won’t pop up and follow me in there. In almost every morning that a shower is required, he stays in bed, and yells at me to go away. There’s a cycle I’ve noticed, where things are fine, then things get a little worse, then really bad, and then we sail through and things are good again for a minute. Before they go sideways again.
I don’t spank. Lord knows I want to sometimes, even if just to let the edge off of some of my own feelings. But I don’t hit him, I don’t call him names, and I don’t yell. Or at least, I try not to. I admit that my voice gets raised up sometimes. I try to be aware of it, and keep it in check. But as things get more absurd, the harder and harder it gets.
Parenting him right now just isn’t fun, not at all. It is not enjoyable to constantly have to handle someone who is constantly doing things to make life more difficult.
Sometimes I feel like giving up.
So how do I deal with this?
Primarily, I am doing everything possible to avoid getting to the place where the top of my head blows off with anger or frustration. If this means that I need to step outside and take a break, I do that. Sometimes this means that I have to let go of an activity that I planned, or being on time.
My middle child has an immature brain and a strong will. He has this urge to assert his will whenever the opportunity arises. He tries to wrestle control from me. I also know from my experience as a parent (and from a lot of reading) that children who seek to get control over situations like he does aren’t actually trying to get control. What they want more than anything and what they need is their parent to remain calm and in control over the situation. Children do this strange thing of trying to become the leader in the situation, with the purpose of the parent helping them get into their place and doing the leading.
It’s sort of like training a dog.
Kids feel best when they know where their place is in the family.
They are the most confident when they understand that the parent is in charge, and they are the kid.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t keep pushing limits and testing out the world. Testing is their job, and one of the ways they learn.
But for me as a parent, this means that I MUST at all cost do my best to remain calm in the storm. When my child is pushing me, I must respond in a calm and in charge manner. I can help guide him through the day, even if he kicks and screams the whole way.
But guys, I have to admit this.
I can’t always stay calm.
I’m trying my best but sometimes it is pretty darn near impossible.
I’ve committed to gentle discipline, but not to being a permissive floor mat. My kids need to learn that there is a right way and a wrong way. Respect is a real thing and we all need to earn it and give it.
I also want my kids to grow up confident, and assertive. They need to develop the skills to handle themselves, negotiate and argue, and to take initiative.
But there is a fine line between helping a child develop his confidence and assertiveness and letting them get away with too much.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not a perfect parent. I’m just going to put that out there.
But I’ve committed myself to my children.
Even if right now, things just aren’t very fun around my house.
Here’s what you can do if you have a strong-willed child who is making your parenting life miserable:
- Do what you can to let go of your own strong emotions. Frustration, anger, resentment, and negativity. Those emotions aren’t helping you and they aren’t helping your child. If you go into his bedroom in the morning dreading what is going to happen, you aren’t going to be in the best state of mind to help him through his morning routine. If you are already in a fight-aroused state (adrenaline and the rest) you are going to struggle to be the best mom version of yourself. Your child might hurt your feelings and make you feel bad, but if he is young, he doesn’t really intend to. He doesn’t even know what that means yet. Don’t take what he says or does personally, and if you feel yourself getting hurt inside by his words, stop yourself and put an end to those feelings right away. He is a CHILD. Not the dictator of North Korea.
- Find ways to connect with your difficult child. Sometimes difficulties (like limit pushing and testing boundaries) are the product of a child who feels unstable or unsure about your feelings for him. These insecurities can arise from all kinds of things, such as the transition from the car to the classroom at school, the sharp yelp you made when he pinched your arm skin, or sleeping in his bed alone. If you can find a few seconds to connect, even if it is through a small hug, meeting his gaze for a few seconds, an agreement on an activity, SOMETHING, you may be able to turn the tide on another bad day and move forward into a good day.
- Let him have his feelings. Much of the obstinancy he is exhibiting is probably connected to some other feeling he had or is having. He needs to let off the pressure of what has built up inside. Don’t try to end tantrums or crying jags. Let him cry it out all the way to the end before moving on. Those tears are coming out for a reason, and not because he wants to manipulate you.
- Don’t give up. Your children need you, no matter what they do or say.
And I think the rest of dealing with a strong willed child is just getting through the tough parts until they are a bit older.
Don’t believe the hype you see on Instagram or Facebook. Everyone with small children is suffering. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, and focus on the love and joy you can find in your own home. Even with a child who is currently turning all of your hair gray.
Like seriously, I get like 100 new gray hairs a day right now. What is that about?
You can find more posts from Emilia about her personal parenting journey here: https://momadviceline.com/category/emilias-parenting-journey/
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.