I remember a day a couple years ago when a blog post popped up on my Facebook newsfeed about strong-willed children. At first I dismissed it and kept on scrolling, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me, and I went back and read it. I read the post with my daughter in mind, and kept telling myself, “No, that’s not MY daughter. She’s just an average toddler…all toddlers are like that.” I refused to label her as strong-willed.
Not My Child
Some things from that post stuck with me though, and I found myself looking at and watching my daughter a little more closely. Was she really exhibiting traits of a strong-willed child? For some reason, in my mind, I was associating the label of “strong-willed” with something that was bad or negative. I didn’t want my daughter to be THAT! As I read more about it, I realized that she is indeed strong-willed, but with a bunch of other stuff mixed in, as well! She is also stubborn, self-absorbed, serious, emotional, inflexible, and to be perfectly honest, a bit mean.
Once I came to terms with the fact that my daughter truly did deserve the label, I began to look for the reasons why. Did we indulge and spoil her too much? Were we feeding her too much sugar and not enough healthy food? Was she getting too little sleep? Maybe she was getting too much sleep…was it time to cut out her afternoon nap? Did she need to be getting more fresh air? More exercise?
I was searching for, and trying to make, excuses for her behavior. I was trying to curb her strong-willed attitude and change her into a sweet, loving, easy-going child.
And it wasn’t working.
It wasn’t working because, quite frankly, she is not a sweet, loving, easy-going child. Yes, there are moments where I get a fleeting glimpse of such a child, but that is most definitely not her natural temperament.
Understanding and Acceptance
I realize now that it’s time for me to embrace who my daughter is, rather than try to change her. Because being strong-willed is not just a behavior–it’s her ingrained personality and who she is, for better or worse.
She is strong-willed, and that’s okay. I hope someday that helps her to be a strong and confident woman. She is also a quirky preschooler who likes singing and dancing, but also loves Darth Vader and Storm Troopers and has a crazy awesome imagination.
A recent lesson in embracing her personality came when she started her second round of swimming lessons. Last fall she completed her first session of group swimming lessons, and they went fairly well. She struggled to pay attention and to wait patiently for her turn, but again, I just chalked it up to average preschooler behavior. This summer she started with group lessons again, but this time it was a total disaster! She was so disruptive that the instructors had a hard time teaching and the other kids had a hard time learning. So, as much as I hated to do it, we pulled her from the class. It just wasn’t working well for anyone involved.
Learning to Embrace It
The whole situation frustrated me. I wanted her to stay in group lessons, partly to get her more exposure to a group setting with her peers so she’d be better at waiting her turn and interacting with other kids. But that’s not what was happening, and it wasn’t worth the stress any longer.
So my husband and I decided to give private lessons a shot. I felt a little reluctant, because I felt like we were spoiling her and giving in to her bad behavior. But after her first one-on-one lesson, I knew that we did the right thing. All the stress and doubt washed away.
From here on out, I’m going to do a better job of embracing my daughter for who she is, for better or worse!