Giving My Strong-Willed Child Space and Time

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve read a lot of advice about strong-willed kids and none of it has “worked” for me. I’ve tried talking to them and matching their emotions (this was like adding vinegar to baking soda), I’ve tried whispering and it went as well as I expected (they were unable to hear me #theywerescreaming), I’ve tried validating their feelings, listening, comforting, and all kinds of discipline techniques…etc.

My most recent “method” has been pretty advanced, it’s called: surviving.

The other day one of them had a meltdown at a friends house. I was late to get somewhere and I was in a hurry. The ending was abrupt and she didn’t take it well. She dug in her heels and I dug in mine and what ensued next was a battle of wills that escalated to level: shit show.

Afterwards I thought back wondering what I could have done differently. The nagging question I couldn’t get away from was: why was I in such a hurry?

I am always in a hurry, and I don’t know why.

Yes, I was late, but no one was going to die if I took ten minutes longer than I did.

I don’t think I could have avoided the tantrum, but I know that I didn’t help by adding in my stress to the concoction of emotions she was already feeling. Here sweetie, how about I add this lighter fluid to your fire??

I wake up in the morning and I already feel behind. The kitchen’s dirty, everyone needs breakfast, and I usually need (or want) to get out the door. I channel all my stress into rushing. I constantly feel like I’m driving down a road going as fast as I can and someone is tailgating me honking their horn. I don’t know if that’s part of my struggle with anxiety, or just my personality.

When one of my strong-willed kids has a blow up I try to rush through it the same way I do everything. I think I was looking at all those parenting techniques as quick fix-its. I expected them to work like a button I could push to stop the meltdown (FOR THE LOVE MAKE IT STOP) but that’s not realistic (at least for us).

What I haven’t tried is waiting. (Waiting…patiently.)

I don’t mean “waiting” as a new parenting technique to somehow teach them to stop (there’s no secret plan here), but waiting for the sake of waiting. Waiting because I’m a grown up and I could use some lessons in slowing the eff down.

Waiting because they’re little and I’m creating space for them to be little.

These meltdowns and tantrums are like storms. They will blow over. I know from experience that we will cuddle afterwards and we will be able to talk then, but they can’t talk in the moment. I have to give them space, and I have to give them time.

Yes, I need my kids to respect me and listen, however, there’s barely ever the rush I think there is for that to happen. The only rush is coming from my own impatience and embarrassment.

My husband and sons went out of town this week and so it was just me and my two girls. I decided to experiment and I gave myself one goal: slow down.

I can’t tell you how many times I felt the familiar angst and hurrying feelings rising up in my chest, but (most) of the time I asked myself this:

 What the hell is the hurry?

And then I told myself to SLOW DOWN.

And it was amazing.

There was only a couple meltdowns, but when they did happen I reminded myself that I didn’t have to be anywhere but there in that moment, and that I had all the time in the world to wait for the emotions to wind down.

I’m not saying all this because it’s a “fix” for all strong-willed kids everywhere. It’s not. It isn’t a fix for all moms and dads either, because we are all different.

All I want to say is if you are “hurried” like me, I feel you girlfriend. The struggle is real.

My new summer goal is this: slow the crap down.

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20 thoughts on “Giving My Strong-Willed Child Space and Time

  1. Jeff/neighsayer

    in past times I would have had something to say, but I just let mine be and the minute she was an adult, she got me voted out of the family. Probably not a common problem, though.

  2. Shel

    FANTASTIC! Great reminder – especially with a very recent meltdown – the kid and ME.

  3. Bushki

    The hard part part is to slow down and not feel guilty about it, not feel that payback will ensue because you’re lagging more behind.
    But really just not feeling guilty about not being 100% efficient and on the go, supermom 24/24h.

  4. Ekphrastic Mama

    Mom with # of kids, wants to write… is there ever going to be enough time? But I did read one book that helped- Time Warrior by Steve Chandler. I couldn’t begin to explain it, but the concept– we make time–is somehow working in mysterious ways, and I’m no longer rushing. It’s almost like a time warp!

  5. Brenda

    Great article that I can totally relate to. I am also always in a hurry and trying to get it all done. I have to stop myself from doing too much. Also this year I’m trying to make myself a priority instead of putting everyone’s needs before my own. Moms need to remember to slow down and remember that we don’t have to get it all done today. Enjoy our kids as much as possible, it goes by too fast.

  6. Margaret R Richardson

    So true! Have you read any of Janet Lansbury ‘s books or just follow her on IG. She’s big on giving them
    The space and time to erupt basically. It’s helped me so much with my son in particular.

  7. Sandra

    wait what? we DON´T have to get it all done today?? I forgot WHO sets this priority, that I can actually make the choice consciuosly to slow down…
    Because I constantly feel the pressure of MY MOM´S VOICE in the back of my head: everthing has to be perfect … (and then I STILL got criticized). I need to shut this nagging voice up…because I´m BECOMMING my mom…and I see it, and I can´t stop it…but my 7 year old inner-self is siding with my kid: I´m a nagging mom.
    Slowing down is like unplugging the nag-mom…taking a break from it…what a releave. Like a mini-sebatical for an overstressed mom (or dad). Throw away the MUST-DO list for a change because it is NOT as important as I think it is (ever) as enjoying my strongwilled daughter (and she´s very unhappy and it brakes my heart). But life is like a tsunami..it sweeps me up and makes a great big chaotic mess. And it´s hard to keep going sometimes…thanks for the blog to remind me of some simple truths…to slow down. It´s like slow food for the soul.

  8. Jenna Snell

    This REALLY spoke to me Jess! I’m put together the same way and have a strong-willed little guy. Thank you!!! There’s nothing like encouragement from someone who understands!♥️

  9. Jessica

    Put the brakes on! I have been feeling this exact thing for the past season, why in the world am I so pushy or annoyed with my kids. What’s the rush all the time? My 5 year old has started asking me ‘are we late Momma?’ because I’m constantly rushing. Nothing is worth making my kids feel unimportant enough for me to slow down and pay attention. To give them the space to just be little. Solidarity sister!

  10. Christy Spencer

    I’m often using the excuse “Hurry, we need to put the baby down for a nap!” or “Hurry I need to feed the baby!” and occasionally that is an actual urgent need. More often than not its my excuse to hustle their dawdling. SLOW THE EFF DOWN. Will do. Thank you.

  11. Kira | A Better Life Lived

    I think you hit the nail on the head. We are constantly moving on o something else, and I feel like strong willed kids do need a little more time. For mine at least, indecision is a big part of his personality so we struggle to really try to give him a reasonable amount of time to do things, but I find myself asking him to do things “now” all of the time. They have that in preschool too, and it’s just not fair. We could all use a few lessons and a little more practice in patience and slowing down!

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