To the Momma of the Strong-Willed Child

I can’t remember where I saw you last. It might have been the grocery store – the place that most mommies dread – but the place you especially dislike visiting. There are too many opportunities for hard there. Hard as in, “No, we can’t have that thing you want today and there isn’t anything I’m going to be able to say that makes you agree and put it back easily.”

Most days, it feels like strong-willed children are good at hard.

They are skilled at making things more difficult than they have to be… or at least it feels that way.

The truth is, what they are really good at is knowing their own mind – not being easily deterred – confidently proclaiming exactly what they want and how they want it done.

Deep down, we know that this is a good thing. Mommas of strong-willed children know that the traits that make most  days feel endless, also mean that our children will also grow up to be motivated, determined, leaders.

Because when they are big, we hope that they don’t take “no” for an answer… It’s while they are little that we just want them to let no mean no… at least once a day (preferably while in public.)

You know, it takes a special kind of momma to raise a strong-willed child. It takes a certain endless amount of grace to continually define the lines of what is and isn’t acceptable all while little hearts ceaselessly push back. It’s hard work defining the same boundaries a million times a day.

I know that it’s exhausting.

I know that most days you worry that you’re not capable of handling this job. You have other children who obey easily – or maybe a friend does – and you wonder, “Why does this sweet baby of mine have to make it all so hard. Why can’t they just…. Listen.”

And maybe deep down you’re worried that somehow you made them strong-willed… maybe they are a product of your parenting… and maybe there won’t ever be a day that it gets any easier.

But, Momma?

Has anyone told you that you’re doing a great job? I know that you feel spread thin. I know that you feel tested. I know that most days your patience runs out before breakfast is cleared from the table.

But God knew what He was doing when He gave you that sweet baby. He knew that you (together with Him) would know just how to love that baby who wants so desperately to be reminded. He knew that within you were all of the traits and characteristics of a woman who would raise a leader, a confident thinker, a child that would find God at a young age and not be easily swayed from following Him.

And so on this day? I pray that He would give you an extra measure of grace. I pray that He would fill and refill (and refill again) the places within you where you feel like you have come to the end of yourself. I pray for more grace, more patience, and more joy in this journey. And I pray that He would give you a fresh confidence in your ability to love your child perfectly as He pours out His endless love… through you.

May you find yourself with grace to spare at the end of the day… as you prepare for another day of raising greatness again tomorrow.

Because that is what I pray for myself… another momma of a strong-willed child in the trenches with you.


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 Hope Unfolding


  • Beth F says:

    This. This is just what I needed today. Thank you for sharing the words God has given you to encourage other mamas. :)

  • Carol Ross says:

    My strong willed little girl….is going to be 18 next month. Today, she is SUPER confident today! – It was all worth it to see her do what she wants in life, not NEEDING a boyfriend, and standing for all that she believes in! – You too will see this as a good thing!!! :)

    • CJ says:

      It sounds like your daughter is on her way to a very bright future!

      I love this line: “Because when they are big, we hope that they don’t take “no” for an answer…”

      I am a college professor. I can pick out students in my class who were strong-willed babies. Those who weren’t made to bury their will and be completely compliant at all times, but who learned to manage their will within community expectations are amazing college students. They get things done because they can navigate the college community extremely well. What they learned as children transfers very well to adulthood. My feeling is that with every stand-off as a baby, they store a little knowledge about how to use their will appropriately so that later, they are good decision-makers who make things happen.

      So, mamas of strong-willed babies, you’ve got awesome “seeds.” Pick your battles so that you’re teaching acceptable behavior within the values of your family. Just because you don’t WANT your child to go down the slide one more time may not be a battle worth picking. Not WANTING your child to go down the slide while standing up might be one you should take on.

      I really feel like these babies are asking questions about community boundaries, not intentionally defying you, but they just don’t have the language yet to ask, “Why do I have to sit in this very uncomfortable car seat when everyone else gets the cushy, plush seats? On what planet is this acceptable? And why don’t you understand what I am asking when I do the rigid, straight-body, full-on scream?”

      When you think about it this way, strong-willed kids are a little more mature than those cute little compliant kids that do what people say just because someone said it.

  • Sherri Y. says:

    This…this is like a balm to my soul! Thank-you!

  • Rachel says:

    I really needed this… Thank you! I have a VERY strong willed little 3 yr old boy who tries my patience daily… Thanks for reassurance!

    • Karen says:

      As I read your post, I related so much. My strong willed young man is in his late 30’s now with a beautiful family. I wish I could tell you it gets easier soon, but believe me when he is grown you will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride like none you have ever known! My son and I have a very special relationship now. I feel like the extra time and parenting it takes is rewarded as time passes. Hang in there!

  • Dian says:

    Through tears I just want to say, “Thank you.”

  • Charity K. says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Every point that you made was spot on! I needed this encouragement so much today. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go see what she is getting into. LOL! Thank the Lord I have her!

    • Dalyn Alfaro says:

      I am absolutely in love with my strong-willed child, and although it can be challenging at times, I wouldn’t change a single thing about him. He’s the smartest, kindest, strongest boy I know. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you so much! This is just what I needed today. You’re such a blessing! Always love your writings! God bless you!

  • Lisa S. says:

    This is such a perfect message that speaks to my heart and situation. My little girl is SO strong willed and I love that about her, but it is also so exhausting and challenging for me. Your words about this are just perfect! Thank you so much! I totally needed to hear this :)

  • Heather Lin says:

    Thank you, so very, very much! You have brought me great comfort. God Bless you!

  • Heather says:

    You’ve done it again – brought me to tears and refreshed my spirit. Thank you for your beautiful encouraging words. You have no idea the impact you’re making. Thank you, and thank you again.

  • Kelsey says:

    Thank you. That’s all I can say through tears. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Lauren says:

    Becky, Thank You. Thank you for sharing this. I cried on my way to work this morning…overwhelmed by my return to work after having my son 8 weeks ago and trying to cope with my very strong willed 2 and a half year old daughter. Telling myself she is adjusting to this new life with a baby brother just as I am adjusting. This overwhelmed me with “i am not alone”…God is answering my prayers through you. Thank you Lord for sending Becky’s thoughts my way and encouraging me to keep on praying and loving. xo

  • Jess says:

    As the adult version of the strong-willed child, I hope to tell all you mommas out there that it’s worth it. I had to have a strong mom to raise me and I giggled a little reading this post and remembering the “why won’t you listen to me?” exasperations. I was born the little adult knowing what I wanted and exactly how it was to happen. Now, as an adult, I’m not much different (albeit a bit more even tempered and polite). Appreciation comes late to the mom of a strong willed child, but I’m told it’s all the more sweeter. Hang in there, the strong willed child goes far in life :)

  • Jennifer says:

    This one hit home! Needed this today!!

  • renee says:

    Thank you, Becky! Thank you for understanding that patience is gone before breakfast is done…& all the other things you described. It seems like there are so few safe places to be that honest. Its so refreshing to find that here.

  • Kristen says:

    Wow! This was exactly me yesterday. More.Grace.Lord! :)

  • This really blessed me today! Thank you so much. My three-year old is giving us a run for our money lately. Praying daily for patience and grace! This came at the perfect time! Blessings, dear mama, on your mothering, and thank you for the encouragement!

  • Tara says:

    LOVE THIS. I just keep reminding myself my strong willed child will not be a victim of peer pressure, she may exert it, but she won’t ever be a “go along with the crowd” kind of girl.

  • Cory (a husband) says:

    As a husband, I greatly thank you for your encouragement to mammas, including my wife who stays at home with a strong willed little boy everyday. Your words are an encouragement to me to always be encourage my wife as she struggles with the thoughts of failing as a parent or feeling like she is doing something wrong. She (and all you other mommas striving to raise Godly children in an ungodly world) is doing so great, but rarely hears it. This is going to change today.

  • Deb says:

    What timing this post was!! I just started reading Dr. Dobson’s “The New Strong Willed Child” Book, as I am continually running out of patience each day with my 3.5yo boy. He is super smart, but super independant and strong-willed. It’s so hard not to look at your own parenting and wonder what you did wrong. And you hit the nail on the head with your remark about looking at your friend’s children and wondering why you were “blessed” with the strong-willed child, and they were blessed with the compliant child. Thank you!

  • Sara Borkowski says:

    Thanks, I needed that reminder. My son has gotten easier as he’s gotten older but I don’t think he’ll ever let anyone ever push him around. He knows himself and is confident. For that I’m proud, but the constant fights, every day all day, they are exhausting.

  • Nicole Miller says:

    I love your blogs!
    I always feel you are in my house with me and writing down how I feel each day as I change diapers on 10 mo old twins on the floor because they discovered crawling and holding still to get clothes on or a new diaper is just so frustrating to them … And while that isn’t enough I have a sweet little two year old jumping on my back wanting to play horsey like he does with daddy! Ha!!
    Then when that’s done ..we have to explain for a millionth time why we can’t have a cookie or sucker before lunch or some other battle that he feels is worth fighting for!! :)..

    My doctor said to me that strong willed babies have a way of pushing the one button inside of parents that is not all the way tightened down!! Ha!

    But I wouldn’t ask for it any other way I’m living the dream I always wanted hearing children laughter and hearing little feet running across the tile and kissing baby cheeks with that cookie I said no to smeared all over it and kissing chunky baby hands…

    It’s what I have always wanted in life and I’m so happy ..& I thank the lord everyday for these blessings and now I’m thanking you for always saying what I’m thinking and giving me courage to breathe and go on with my busy day with a smile on my face!
    I love love love all of your blogs !!!

    Thank you:)
    God bless …

  • Lindsay D. says:

    Thank you for this post! I have to say that I was that strong-willed child, and my mother must have had a running tab with God to refill her patience every day. But because of her love, and support, and because she never tried to make me be someone else, and always directing me back to God, I have been able to take risks and be by own person every day of my life.
    My son, 2, has definitely received the lion share of my genes in that department, and all I try to do every day is just remember how my mother did it (how God showed her).
    I don’t know where I’d be if not for that amazing woman, and I just say this from the other side (which didn’t happen until around 19), so that you know how right you are about what you do for your little one.

  • Katherine says:

    Thank you. TOTALLY what I need tonight.

  • Natalia Barbosa says:

    Love this, thank you! I suffered through anxiety after having my little one, it was pretty bad but through time and praying it’s gone slowly away. After reading this I feel like I’m not alone.

  • Nancy says:

    Oh this complete made my day. My youngest Matthew has always been my strong willed child. He stated kindergarten this year. The transition has been tough to say the least. Mostly emails and notes home from his teacher. The first week it was everyday an email. Honestly know he is very determined. Today his school had a fundraiser night at one of the local restaurants. Don’t usually got out to eat much. One because of spending and two cause Matthew never behaves. He won’t sit still. So you can imagine with him seeing classmates how that went. Today I needed to read your blog. It made me feel better knowing I am not alone. Thank you.

  • Jennifer says:

    This is just what I needed to hear. Made me feel a whole lot better and like I’m not alone in this journey with a strong willed child. I have 3 older children who for the most part obey on every level. But my almost 2 year old is breaking all the normal rules. And this week has been the hardest. I’ve never dealt with tantrums but I’m now the parent walking in Walmart with a very unhappy child because she didn’t get her way. Every time we go. Thank you for this article!!

  • Kristina says:

    Yes. Yesterday, almost every day, before breakfast my patience runs thin with my little three year old boy. The endless worry that I am somehow messing this whole mommy thing up, especially when others seem to think I’m too permissive(which I assure you isn’t the case). Thanks for the reminder of that which I already knew that these traits are valuable ones that will keep him safe and brave as he goes forth in this world. Thank you for reminding me, I am not alone out here in the trenches, neck deep in “no’s ” and “I don’t want to’s”. I needed to hear this today, and hope I have the grace to breathe through it tomorrow.

  • DENITA says:

    EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Whew. Great to know I’m not alone in feeling these different emotions. Thank you! thank you!

  • Nancy says:

    Well said! I am a grandma now and watching/helping my daughter raise her children. A second generation of strong willed being taught! My daughter turned out beautifully, thanks be to God, and now she faces what I faced! Your words of encouragement are priceless! Thank you!

  • Ann Geiger says:

    Thanks for this article. Raising a strong willed teenager is not easy. There are days when I just want to lose it! I keep telling myself that he will grow up and do something amazing with it! I pray a lot too.

  • Ruth says:

    Amen, Amen and Amen.
    More GRACE, PATIENCE and JOY in the journey for mamma. And indeed WISDOM to handle our 19months little champion gifted to us by God.

  • Krissy says:

    Thanks so much for posting!! Definitely teared up. This is me! I was afraid I was just a bad parent and don’t know how to teach my kid disciple. More to post here then I can post but wow, I have a hard kid, has been hard from day one and I am NOT strong willed! Between working in the evenings, not seeing my husband, money worries, no time for me, not sleeping right (probably because of all the above), I seriously wonder some mornings (especially when he wakes up early and cranky), how I am even going to do it, let alone happily. These replies show me I am NOT alone!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tara says:

    This. Exactly this. Thank you for speaking to my heart (and weariness!)

  • Kelly says:

    Great article, thank you! I constantly remind myself that being strong willed will be good – someday. But for now at 3 it’s rough. I was the same at that age and now I have a whole new level of respect for my parents! I grew up to be a deeply faithful person – still strong willed but for the ways of The Lord. Praying my little one also grows with a heart for God. May you be blessed by your little one and for your encouraging words!

  • […] time on Facebook today, I came across a shared post by Becky Thompson titled To The Momma Of The Stong-Willed Child. I smiled, not sure if I should share the post with an “I love you” to my mama, or if […]

  • Elizabeth Ferroni says:

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder to keep going….i have two 4 year old twin boys identical in everyway even the strong willed one….😊

  • Amber says:

    I really needed this after the day I had with my girls… They are 3 and 5 and boy do they know just how to push Momma right to the edge… I hate to admit that this made me cry bit it certainly did… Thank you and God bless.

  • Brittney says:

    Thank you for this. I needed to read something so positive and uplifting. Sometimes I feel like I can’t win, that I can never do anything right. My oldest is 5 and very strong willed. He is an angel at school but at home he is constantly trying our patients. he is so smart, strong, caring, and has a good nature about him but he loves to argue and not listen. Maybe he will be a lawyer only God knows !!!

  • Leslie says:

    Thank you for this today!

  • Angela says:

    As the momma of a strong willed 3 year old boy that just got “un-enrolled” from his daycare today…I needed this. It didn’t just bring me to tears, it brought to an ugly, sobbing cry. God did know what he was doing when he gave me this beautiful baby boy. We have no idea where we’re going but I have faith he will lead right where we need to be! Thank you!

  • Cheryl says:

    All three of my children were different. I am currently on the downhill side of raising my kids with my youngest being almost 16. She is definitely my strong willed child and my greatest challenge. God prepared me for her by giving me her older brother, who is now 25, who was off the charts with ADHD. I prayed for patience in my young and inexperienced life (laughing at myself now). You are not GIVEN patience of which I was not aware of at the time, but are given more trials in order to LEARN patience! So now, I have patience, but even then it is sometimes stretched very thin with this teenage daughter of mine! I just keep repeating to myself: ” Just two more years of high school and two more years until she is 18!” She is a very good student and very smart,just always , always testing the boundaries and limits. But I know this too shall pass. My oldest daughter keeps threatening to send my grand daughters to me for me to raise when hey hit the teen years and I told her no way no how!! I said all this to say this there is light at the end of the tunnel and I wouldn’t change a thing if I could except maybe just relax and enjoy it a little bit more! I will pray for patience for you all because I already have mine 😉

  • Cat says:

    I read this while hiding in the bathroom from my strong willed son… Just what I needed. Thanks!

  • Kim says:

    I have 5 kids, one boy, four girls. My youngest is 16. Out of them all she was the strong willed one from birth. Sometimes I thought it was from having 4 older siblings. As she got older I realized it was just who she is. Some days I want to pull my hair out with her. All in all she is growing into a great young adult. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks, she will not take any nonsense from anyone. When she sets her mind to something she gets there.
    To all the moms of the young ones that make you want to scream some days, one day you will miss the arguments in the grocery store, and you will be very proud of the strong independent person that was once laying on the floor of that same store. :)

  • Tomlinson says:

    Thank you this is beautiful… I am a momma of three boys. My middle one Camden being my strong willed stubborn Lil sunshine. I see so much greatness in him because not only is he “hard” he is thoughtful, loving, and caring. I know he will become a amazing man that is a leader who is determine yet caring. With that being said I find my self often on my knees in tears praying for patients just enough to make it through the rest of the day. To be able to continue being the best mother and wife I can be for my family without totally crumbling with frustration. This really touched me. From one mother to another that knows what its like. Prayers to you all that have the Lil strong willed children. We will make it through another day!!

  • Janis says:

    My strong willed stubborn daughter just graduated from post secondary school in a career her guidance counsellors said she did not have a chance to get into. She struggled with learning disabilities and has never let her stop from doing all that she has set out to do. So I say to my friends with strong willed daughters. Celebrate it!!!! You are in for the ride of a lifetime

  • Nancy says:

    That was perfectly written. Thank you! My strong willed little girl is now 21 and is the most intelligent, confident, awesome adult. My pediatrician used to tell me that children like this make wonderful adults – he was so right!

  • Liz Jane says:

    Beautiful words that went straight to my soul and gave me rest. I’m not like the rest of you beautiful mommas I have 5 Boys. The eldest is at school & so everyday my twins who are 5 & my 2 yr old battle it out with who has the strongest will. God knows how much I love my boys, and you have reminded me how important it is to constantly pray when I’m running thin. God Bless. Love Liz x

  • RJ B says:

    Thank you so much for your grace and encouragement that is lathered throughout this post. I need this more than you know. I am the mama who growing up only had one dream, and that was to be a mama. Then came along my first born whom I knew from her time in the womb was going to be a strong-willed little tiger and she has proven me right through and through. I have found myself questioning my ability to effectively parent her and often feel I am failing miserably. She just turned 2 and about two weeks prior to her birthday she decided it was time to live up to her “full potential” of being in the terrible twos. In the midst of many frustrations and tears as I go through all of the incredible experiences of a toddler mom (i.e. – picking my child up off the floor kicking and screaming because the 5 minute time warning has expired and it’s now time to go home), God has been showing me so much of His sweet, gentle love. Your message is one that He has been telling me over and over again as of late. He has perfectly equipped us to raise the children He has entrusted to us! To think that we are not perfectly equipped would ultimately mean that we think less of our God. It would mean that we, at the heart of it, don’t fully believe that our God is either capable or loving enough to perfectly equip us. Thank you so much for being a vessel to once again allow God to utter these incredible words into my life at just the perfect time!

  • Nancy S. Brandt says:

    Your reminder that God knew what He was doing when He gave me this child is such an echo of what we said the day the social worker put him in our arms. Our son is the answer to 10 years of prayers and tears after our biological child was born 9 weeks early and we decided not to risk my life again that way.Whereas my daughter was a delicate flower from the moment she was born, Noah is Jacob – wrestling with God every second – watching the priest as a five-year-old saying “Where’s Jesus? I don’t see Him. He’s not here.” When I cry or worry that I’m messing up, my husband reminds me that we KNOW God designed this child to be ours. He is black; we’re all half Scandanavian. My husband has allergies, our daughter doesn’t, but Noah does! He has the same hidden dimple my brother has that only comes out when he’s teasing. Those are just two clues we have that he was MADE to be ours, but it’s hard. He is strong-willed, to the point of fighting with me LAST NIGHT (he’s 13 now) about his punishment points when I said it was bedtime and he chose to ignore me. We fought for an hour because I wouldn’t erase the ones he earned by ignoring me and then fighting back (saying he hated me). Life isn’t easy, but sometimes God sends me messages (like your blog) that it’s going to be okay.

  • […] turned Caitlyn Jenner. From there, I clicked around reading more posts (like this one and also this one about being the mama of a strong willed child. Where was she 15 years ago when I needed that? Oh. […]

  • Barbara says:

    Just read this post today having come to it via another post, one by Karen Ehman.
    While my heart knows and appreciates all the things you’ve said, I can’t stop myself from being concerned for the future of my child which has all those desirable traits now (graduating from h.s. this year) but also those that are undesirable. Confidence in self over confidence in God and following the way of friends over following Christ’s ways.
    Thank you for your beautiful prayer! I will continue to pray the same for all of us Mamas.

  • Breeze says:

    I have the joy of raising three strong willed little girls. I kept fooling myself into believing that the next one wouldn’t be as headstrong as the last, but that was never the case.

    I fought it time and time again, letting it overwhelm me or get the best of me but eventually I learned a valuable lesson. I had to embrace it and guide their strength.

    I am raising three little girls who will become amazing young women one day. Their strong willed personalities will lead them to do great things, I have to remember that on a daily bases and try my best to guide them in the right direction.

    Their strength is a tool, a tool they haven’t quite learned how to use yet. I may be exhausted and overwhelmed but I will survive and it will be worth it.

    Thanks for a great reminder!

  • melissa says:

    I needed this! I have been struggling with feeling inadequate in parenting my strong willed girl. I find myself wishing there was an instruction manual for her, becuase picking battles is so hard, and sometimes no matter how many times I say no, she asks one more time. This was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m not failing her, and one day she will do big things. So glad I stumbled upon your blog tonight.

  • Christy says:

    Thank you so much for saying yes to our great big God when he laid all of these precious things on your heart to share with all of us other mommas. Thank you for making time in the midst of all of your wife and mommy duties to encourage all of us and remind us of His unending love and grace that is covering us on the hard days just as it is on the less hard days.

  • Sarah says:

    Your post made me cry! Someone finally understands what I go through every day. I just found out my 4 year old son is strong willed. I had an idea, but didn’t know there was a name for it. I’ve been searching the web for the past 2 days trying to find information on how to raise a strong willed child to be a God loving child. Your post hit the nail on the head. We’re having some trouble at church… church of all places… with his behavior and I felt totally deflated. I just needed a little encouragement to remind me that God knows what he is doing, He made me his mommy, and in the end he is going to do HUGE things! He won’t be easily swayed, he will stand up for others, and he will be amazing!

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