The best advice I’ve received on parenting a strong-willed child
Elly. My daughter. I wrote my very first entry on her. Sometimes words just aren’t enough to describe her. When I look at her I initially see hair. Just hair everywhere. Her golden locks are nearly always a tangled mess, they hang in front of her face, and she hates getting her hair brushed. Underneath that hair is this gorgeous, little round face with big blue eyes and a perfect little nose. She has beautiful skin… it’s nearly olive, but not quite. I’ve often been told she looks like Smurfette minus the whole blue thing. It’s totally true. Look at the picture of Smurfette and then look at the picture of Elly. You agree. Good. I think we can all agree that I enjoy parenting her too.
Underneath all of that external beauty is even more beauty. Her heart is massive. She truly is thoughtful. She has an incredible amount of empathy and mercy. She is nurturing to her very core. She loves to give, give, and give some more. She especially loves to give hugs and kisses. When she is upset and tells you she doesn’t like you, that actually means she wants you to hug her and kiss her until the cows come home. She is confident. I attribute much of her confidence to the massive amount of love her daddy gives her. She knows she’s beautiful and she’s proud of it. She is overwhelmingly energetic and therefore tends to be the life of the party, or so I’ve been told. Oh and she has a ‘tude. Her pants are sassy for sure, that’s why we call her sassy pants.
What I haven’t told you, but maybe you already know, is that Elly is a firstborn. Firstborns are A to the W to the E to the S to the O to the M to the E aka AWESOME. My firstborn sister and I are tight, so I generally have good experiences with firstborns. They are, however, bossy and can be very controlling. Are you a firstborn? Don’t be offended, you know it’s true. It’s totally cool though, Jesus made you the way you are and I embrace you. I’m a last born, the youngest of five, so sometimes I can’t relate (well not according to Ciaran, he sometimes says I’m bossy, I think he’s mistaken). So I think a last born raising a first born is interesting… it’s inevitable though.
I’ve definitely had my struggles with parenting Elly. She is generally very demanding and requires loads of attention. I’ve had to learn through trial and error how to raise her the right way (in partnership with Ciaran of course). I have never read a parenting book. I’ve asked people that I highly respect if they can recommend one to me and the going consensus is to avoid them like the plague. Instead I’ve watched mom’s around me that have amazing kids and I’ve intentionally sought their advice. I’ve also opened up my world to some mom’s and grandma’s and have given them permission to correct me in the arena of parenting. I’ve benefited in more ways than one. So I’d like to put some of that incredible advice out there for the world to read.
Pick and choose your battles:
We used to take our Advanced Missions Training students to Chobe National Park, a beautiful game reserve in Botswana, twice a year. We would have to wake up super early to leave so we could catch our tour guide bright and early and get the most out of such a phenomenal experience. I remember one morning being extremely cold and I had to wake the kids up to go to Chobe and they were grumpy. I got them dressed and made them a cup of hot tea. As we were leaving the house I told Elly to put her hoody/jersey on and she told me, “NO!” Naturally a BIG battle of the wills ensued. We argued for 10 minutes and everything ended in tears… I didn’t win because by that time we were running late and I couldn’t carry on. I told my boss, Sharon, the next day about it and she said, “Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles… and that was the wrong battle to choose.” Was it really so important for Elly to have her hoody/jersey on? Was she going to catch a cold or experience hypothermia as a result? Well, no and she ended up being fine. Now I don’t waste my time yelling at my children to put on their hoodies, if they’re cold they will tell me and I will help them.
Don’t give in and do it yourself (and be consistent):
A few years ago my friend Laurene came and surprised me in Zambia all the way from Holland. How amazing?! What a good friend. We caught it on video and I was shaking when she showed up at my door. All I remember was screaming and crying. So cool. She is an amazing mom and her kids listen extremely well. When she arrived I was a tired, broken mess and I had practically given up parenting in general. My kids were running the show. I didn’t feel good physically and it was manifesting in all areas of my life. Laurene kept witnessing a broken record… I would tell my kids to pick up their mess and when they wouldn’t do it, I would do it. One day Laurene had enough and she didn’t want to watch me suffer any longer. She stepped in front of me, told my kids to pick up their mess and managed all of the chaos as a good mother does. She said her hubby will sit in the middle of their kids’ room on a chair and point, saying, “Pick that up. Pick that up. Pick that one up.” You get my drift. I adopted this policy and now my kids pick up their stuff. Period. I had to be intentional and consistent about implementing this into our lives. I had to stop picking up the mess (because it was faster if I did it) and I had to tell them 100 times to pick up their mess and list consequences if action wasn’t taken on their behalf.
Don’t control them:
So this last piece of advice is something I read somewhere and I can’t remember where, but I love it. I think Ciaran may have told me about it. Elly loves to create. She loves arts and crafts and she also loves science experiments. She loves to create her own experiments. She used to say, “Mom, I have an idea. I need an egg, a bowl of water, some toilet paper, salt, and soap. I want to put it all in a bowl and see what happens.” I would respond with, “That won’t work.” I’m so embarrassed to admit that I said that. As all of these science experiment ideas started popping up Ciaran observed my responses. One day he approached me and said, “I read that in the Hebrew culture they would encourage their children to try things even if they knew it would fail. They encouraged their children to investigate an idea for themselves and make logical conclusions based upon their results.” So, I changed my responses. I felt really bad and told Elly how sorry I was. Now we do whatever experiment comes to mind provided it doesn’t burn the house down.
I’m really grateful for the honest, loving people that have spoken into my life about my kids, about my parenting. They had the courage to approach me and not worry about offending me. I listened and reaped the benefits of their advice. So this entry truly is a BIG thank you to all of the people that have sown parenting advice into my life. I’m forever grateful. If you have people that have helped you in this regard I encourage you to write them and tell them how grateful you are for their advice. I’m sure they would love to know how their small act of obedience changed your life.
Do you have people that you let speak into your life? That will hold you accountable in your parenting? Sometimes an outsider’s perspective is extremely beneficial. Maybe find somebody that you respect as a mother or a father and ask them for advice. What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever received? I’d love to know your thoughts. Or maybe you have read a good book on parenting…
Don’t forget to head over to the shop to purchase your 30-day gratitude challenge… it’s a printable journal and I promise you will love it. Thanks for all of your support faithful reader.
Until next time!