Journey of a Strong-Willed Child
Exhausted? Read this...
Last week, the Journey of a Strong Willed Child by... Kendra Smiley with Dr. Aaron Smiley (her son) and John Smiley (the resident Dad) arrived. I had been looking forward to the arrival of this book for obvious reasons (my burnout and frustration). I was not disappointed! I was so blessed by this book!
In the introduction, Ms. Smiley stated all of the things that I have come to believe about strong willed children (and adults). These things include the reality that strong willed children do not want to be controlled by others. This chapter didn't include anything I hadn't heard or read before, but her tone is hopeful--something that all parents of strong willed children need to be and that we often struggle to be! After the introduction, the book is basically broken down into age groups (0 to 5, elementary, junior high, and then high school). As I began the second chapter about children 0 to 5, I read her description strong willed children. Basically, if you give a strong willed child a line, tell them not to cross it, and explain the consequences if they do (and they know you will follow through), then they will cross that line many times after reviewing the consequences. At the end of the chapter is a note from Aaron, her son, and her husband. Both perspectives are eye opening! Aaron makes some very insightful observations, as does John. Dads will especially enjoy these notes, I think.
There is an old proverb that it is better to teach a person how to fish so that they might eat for a lifetime, rather than giving them a fish that will only feed them for one meal. In What I began to see in this book as I read through the second chapter is that this book is a framework for how to parent strong willed children, but it is not a formula. It is not going to give you a quick fix. It will help you see your child, or in my case children, more accurately. It will help you realize that your child is not targeting you, but rather testing you. Testing you over and over and over.... I have heard this in my daughter's voice. She knows that she causes her dad and me pain over her refusal to eat dinner and she doesn't relish it, but she often doesn't want to (and won't) eat what's put before her either. I think she is testing me and my husband. She wants control over what she eats and when she eats it. We are pretty structured about meals and I generally make very kid friendly meals, but they aren't her choice--so she's not in control of choosing what's going to be on her plate.
I felt that as I read this book that the train of my mind was put back on track. There are things that I've believed, but had begun to doubt. I didn't believe that my daughter was targeting me with her behavior, but when I would get upset I'd begun to take things personally. Maybe you're in that place, too. When we remind ourselves that they are testing us, we are able to more easily not take their actions personally and be unemotional about disciplining our children. It's not about us. It's about them. Parenting strong willed children is a 24/7 job. They are high maintenance and once we realize they always will be, we can gear up and not expect things to be easier! As Ms. Smiley says in one of the chapters, it is not a sprint, but a marathon.
I am thankful that the Smileys wrote this book. I am thankful that I am growing in my parenting. I am thankful that my heart and mind no longer feel exhausted and discouraged by my two strong willed children! But, most of all, I am thankful for the Lord's gracious mercy to me amidst all of my struggles and strong willed nature. Tears fell from my eyes the other morning when I finished reading this book, because I was reminded that the Lord loves me and that He knew just what I needed to hear this week.
One side note...
1) In the 0 to 5 chapter, Ms. Smiley does recommend spanking as one of the ways to discipline young children, but she doesn't not say it is a requirement or that you must do this. I know some books take that stand and she does not. Even if you do not believe in spanking children or spank your children, I would encourage you to read this book. That is only one small part of one chapter in this book.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Moody Publishing.
March 23, 2011
In Journey of a Strong-Willed Child readers are taken into the heart of a family seeking to raise their children three boys, the middle child the titular one with the end goal of mature, godly adults in mind. Written predominantly by the Smiley familys mother, Kendra, retrospective first person commentary is provided by strong-willed son Aaron, with helpful advice from resident dad John concluding each chapter.This journey doesnt offer comprehensive coverage of every technique and resource you can call upon as you shepherd your child through life. What it provides is insight into the thought processes of a former strong-willed child who is now a mature, responsible, productive adult (a practicing veterinarian) and the true-life struggles and learning curves his parents went through.The openness and honesty the three co-authors share with their readers in order to encourage them in their calling as parents is refreshing. They share both the principles they discovered that worked, the areas they could have improved upon, and the often-painful learning curves they moved through as a family. Brothers Matthew and Jonathan also make guest appearances as they share the impact their strong-willed sibling has had on their lives. Through it all Aaron offers his personal recollections and advice for parents, helping readers to understand the internal struggles, strong emotions, and thought processes of their strong-willed child.The emphasis on old-fashioned, straight forward discipline and boundaries, building up your child and standing by your child in love while requiring responsible, respectful behaviour is a reminder we can all use from time to time. Parents with young, strong-willed children will be reassured by the debunking of myths surrounding this aspect of their childs personality, and encouraged to see the blessings that come from this extraordinary trait when properly guided.
February 13, 2009