Strong-willed enough

The last few days have really made me question who I am as a parent and whether I am good enough and worthy enough to train up and lead a child to become who he is supposed to be.

My youngest, God love him, is the toughest of all three of my kids. He is extremely strong-willed and at times, his will is stronger than my resolve to stand up to him. After long work days or dealing with constant push back, sometimes I just want to throw my hands up, say “forget it” and let him run rampant and not deal with disciplining and directing him anymore.

About a year ago, I realized that Isaiah is the type that will give us a run for our money, as far as raising him goes. He has never been, and probably never will be, one to follow the crowd. Peer pressure probably won’t be a big issue for him. That’s actually an incredible trait, because we know that anything he does or gets into will be his idea. It is also extremely difficult to know how to balance raising him and disciplining him, while still helping him learn how to grow this strong will into something good. We don’t want to crush his spirit, but still need him to understand right from wrong.

So I was praying about it, hoping that God would show us a way to teach him without crushing his spirit. I didn’t want him growing up believing the lie that he is bad. I was out to dinner with my sister in law, and she used wording about one of her kids that I will never forget: he’s not being bad. He’s making bad choices. It hit me: the way we say things about what our son is doing can really change what he grows up thinking and believing about himself. Instead of saying he is being bad, or is bad, we say he’s making a bad choice or acted on a bad idea. Explaining that he is making a bad choice turns it back to being something he can change, something he has ultimate control of. Only he can choose what he is going to do about the situation.

This change in wording also helped to change my perspective on my son and how I view him. His strong will is actually an incredible blessing. Through his questioning and pushing back on every decision we make, and everything we say, I am learning how to enable him to evaluate all options and make the right decision. It seems intense for a three-year-old, but it is actually working (usually).

He is also, in some regards, an extreme picture of how flawed and imperfect we are as human beings. We are all sinners, and we all make bad choices. This doesn’t make us bad people. Once we have accepted Christ, we don’t stop making bad choices all the time, but by recognizing these decisions and realizing that we have the power to make the choice, we are able to make a better decision the next time.

God allows us to choose because He wants us to want to obey Him. Not out of obligation or guilt, but out of genuine desire to do His will. We can question His will, and we can even disagree with it. He won’t force us to see His side or go along with His plan. Eventually, however, once we realize the blessing that comes out of doing His will, we will begin to long to obey and trust Him.

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