as a portrait photographer, i deal with a lot of newborn babies. i have a bit of a thing for newborn babies, and i get a little excited. i seriously want to know everything about the delivery, the pregnancy, did they know what they were having, were they surprised, the list goes on. maybe i am a little nosy, but i think it’s mostly that i love to hear about their experiences, and i love to share my own experiences because they mean so much to me, and, if i am being honest, sometimes i miss them.
newborn sessions are always different. sometimes, babies are super sleepy, and others are wide awake, some move constantly and have no interest in being swaddled, some love being swaddled. so this question comes out of my mouth, “was she/he like this when you were pregnant?” always. one of the most amazing things i have come to find with all four of my kids, is that they all showed their personalities long before they were born. i could tell you my oldest would be pretty compliant, based on his pregnancy. i could tell you my youngest two would be easy going babies, just based on how mellow they were while i was pregnant. and, i could tell you, beyond doubt, that my second would be a stubborn little bugger!
from the time i could feel movements from him, i knew he was going to give me a run for my money. he only moved when he felt like moving. no amount of poking, shaking, or switching of positions would make him move unless he wanted to. obviously, i don’t know THAT is why he wasn’t moving, but let’s just say it goes with his personality. and, here we are today, and he is definitely our strong willed child.
here is a list of 10 things i have learned, raising a strong willed child:
1. if you choose to say “yes” to something, you’d better think long and hard about that answer. you will NOT EVER be able to change your mind. ever. i promise you. nothing my husband and i have ever agreed to has ever been forgotten, and it makes no difference what the circumstance is. it has become a common response for us to now say, “i can’t agree to that because if i do, and i can’t next time, you will be upset.” (in some form or another).
2. they tend to excel at things they want to do. when this strong willed child of mine decided he wanted to ride his bike without training wheels, he did. when he decided he wanted to learn to skate, he did. when he decided he wanted to build a lego set requiring a not-so-simple set of directions, he did. when he decided he needed to make his own hat for crazy hat day at school, he did. now, as his mother, i think he is one of the brightest little guys, i know. however, there is no part of me that questions the reason he was able to accomplish this short excerpt of a long list of accomplishments for a not quite seven year old. it really has less to do with his abilities, and more to do with his sheer willpower. if the kid wants it/ dreams it/ desires it/ envisions it, so it shall be. God-willing, this attitude is going to take him far in life.
3. if they don’t want to do something, they won’t. this has created a lot of work for us, as parents. there is nothing more irritating than trying to convince a kid that they WILL like something if they try, or sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. of course, i don’t mean something that will hurt him, and i don’t mean to imply that he isn’t allowed to have his own 6 year old opinions. there are times we all do things we don’t want to do though. at six years old, sometimes he is required to share with his brothers, or be patient and wait for a drink, etc. we have learned that how we approach a given situation when we know he isn’t going to be “happy about the situation” makes a difference.
(side note because i am pretty sure this particular one will be misinterpreted: i am definitely NOT saying there aren’t times he doesn’t get what he wants. believe me, this happens perhaps more than it should! i’m also not trying to suggest that we tiptoe around him. as a strong willed adult, i can tell you that my response to almost anything i’m not a fan of, can largely be predicted by the way it was presented to begin with, the only difference is i am almost 34, so i have learned how to behave like an adult. he is still a child).
4. no amount of begging or pleading, will convince them to “try” to go to the bathroom. clearly, i cannot force him to pee. so, unless he wants to, forget it. make no mistake, this does not mean they don’t actually HAVE to go, in fact, it actually almost guarantees they will ask to go 2 minutes after you leave the house. true story.
5. the tone of voice we have when suggesting something will make all the difference in the world. if i sing, “do you want to go to the doctor’s and get some shots??!!!” i will most likely get a better reaction than just saying it. okay, maybe not that specifically, but you get my point. there have been times when i have, unknowingly, made a big (happy) deal out of him cleaning his room, and he goes upstairs a day or two later and does the same thing. on the contrary, i have gone upstairs to a messy room, and gone crazy telling them to clean up, and he just looks at me.
(i’m pretty sure this one pertains to all children, strong willed or not. having said that, my less strong willed children, respond differently depending on the circumstance)
6. they can force themselves to never go to bed. ever. never, ever, ever, if that’s what they decide. at 2 years old, i told my doctor my dear son would not sleep through the night. now, i am sure there are those that would pick apart our bedtime routine, and claim these were his issues, but we have 4 kids, and only one of them has the willpower to force himself to stay up all night long if he wants to. seriously. it’s a God given talent. he will be the envy of his college roommates when he needs to pull an all-nighter to study (that’t the ONLY reason he would pull one…). i have never met someone that can force themselves to stay awake through an entire movie despite sheer exhaustion, just because they want to see the movie (even if they actually have no interest in it). ridiculous.
7. they can throw a tantrum like none other. if you are blessed with a strong willed child, there will most likely come a time when someone asks you, “is he always like this?” when your child is a toddler or preschooler. it happened to me… resist the urge to cry, and realize that they either have no kids, or their kids are perfect, which is something extra special. (that last statement is dripping with sarcasm). three out of four of my children have thrown tantrums in public, more often than i would like to admit. the only reason i am not saying four is because the baby hasn’t gotten there yet. there are times when i want to disappear into a corner, but, most of the time, i am not really bothered by it. it happens. of course, when my strong willed “diva”, as we sometimes call him, decides to throw a tantrum, look out! he does not care who hears him, and he can keep it going for a very long time. willpower. thankfully, as he has gotten older his tantrums have lessened, but that doesn’t mean he has lost that willpower.
8. they are usually not a fan of change. this one drives us crazy. the funny thing about it is, i am personally not a fan of change either. and, yet, it drives me nuts!! if we take baths before bed, there had better be a bath before bed. if we pass by dairy queen 3 days in a row after school, it is now part of our routine, and changing it will be work. we have learned to preface a lot of things with, “just because we are doing _____ today, does not mean we can do it every time.” again…see number 1. you are absolutely under no circumstances allowed to change your mind ever. as i said, i am not a fan of change either, i’m not knocking our SWC’s refusal to accept a mind change, i have trouble with that too.
9. they are independent. see number 2. when our strong willed child wants something, he finds a way to get it. this becomes more and more evident as he gets older. my husband often teases me because i am far too impatient for a “honey-do” list. if there is something on that list that isn’t getting done quickly enough, i will find a way to do it myself. i have moved couches by myself, cut down shrubs, painted entire rooms, and put up christmas lights outside on my own despite the fact it would have been much easier to wait for help. i can’t. i just can’t. i may moan and bellyache that our SWC is trying to make me crazy, but he comes by it honestly.
10. they have so much love to give. all of my kids have so much love to give. our SWC loves so much more intensely though. it’s almost as if he needs to make sure that you KNOW how much he loves you. we jokingly say that he does that because we work so hard with this one! that said, the pay off is huge, and so worth it!
do you have a strong willed child? can you relate to any of these?