"SWCs...If you don't have one, then don't try to tell me how to deal with mine!"
Over the past couple of weeks I've run into several moms who are dealing with similar situations. I finally clued in and thought I should probably write an encouraging post.
Now, as my friend already noted, if you don't have a strong-willed child, then you cannot possibly understand the mental and emotional (and when they're little, physical) calisthenics we parents go through. Picture, if you will, the annoying, screaming child in the grocery store, and the seemingly oblivious mom, who does nothing about the situation. Before I had my SWC, I would look down on this situation with scathing judgement, declaring the mother incompetent and unloving. Now, I look with pity on the poor woman who is just trying to get her shopping done without losing her mind.
Now, to those of you who are in the thick of it with your SWC (or possibly two or three of them) here are my top 10 things to keep in mind.
#10 Sometimes it's food related. This seems bogus to some, but I have to attest to the fact that sometimes food can actually cause them to behave differently. Just as comfort food can create a calm feeling, their minds and bodies react to foods in numerous way. As a first course of action you might want to get them tested for sensitivities (not necessarily allergies). You just might find that they're a bit more reasonable when they don't have those trigger foods coursing through their veins.
#9 They are incredibly smart. Even though it may be tough to deal with their constant arguing with every rule you try to put down, SWC's are usually smarter than the average kid. Just watch out that they don't outsmart you. Indulge their curiosity when you know they are genuine. When they're playing lawyer and trying to talk you out of something, it's best to just say, "Because I said so."
#8 If you keep at it, it does get easier from time to time. As with every child, the SWC will go through phases of development that will give you a break. Look for tiny areas of improvement and be sure to compliment when you see them. Of course, since it's in their nature to take control, be ready for new tactics as they outgrow old patterns of thought.
#7 They will help you become more assertive. Sometimes, as parents we focus so much on training our kids that we lose sight of the fact that God is training us as well. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn't truly going to make my child happy if I gave in all the time. It wasn't fun at first, but I learned that I can say no to other people as well as my children. Now I'm much more confident about who and what I'm willing to donate time and energy to.
#6 They help you appreciate your other children. If you happen to have more than one child, then you might notice how nice it is that they aren't all strong willed. Well, I guess this only works if the others aren't strong willed. Of course, no two children are alike, so perhaps even if they are all strong willed, you can appreciate that they aren't all strong willed in the same areas.
#5 You never have to wonder what they're thinking. My quiet, compliant daughter is so much harder to read at times, but my son tells me what he's thinking all the time. I never have to guess if he's happy or upset. Of course, sometimes I wish he'd make it a little harder to figure out.
#4 You won't have to worry about peer pressure. Most SWCs lead their friends. Once in a while they might finally accept what you've been trying to tell them about being kind and well mannered, but they usually won't go too far.
#3 You can be confident that they will be able to stand on their own two feet when they get into the real world. Because they aren't swayed by their peers, you can bet they aren't going to kowtow to an overbearing boss, or bend to societies pressures to give up their core values.
#2 They will eventually grow up and move out. Even if you struggle every single day they're in your house, at least you know that at some point they will move out on their own. Their independence from you will drive them to it eventually, and you shouldn't have to worry about failure to launch.
#1 You'll have some incredibly embarrassing stories to tell their children someday. At the end of it all, you will look back to this time and realize the store of wonderful memories you can share with their children. You can become your strong-willed grandchild's number one source of tactical information on how to thwart their parent's every rule. Ok, so perhaps that last one isn't a great idea, but maybe you can smile in satisfaction when they finally break down and call you to ask for advice on how to handle their own SWC.