What My Willful Child Taught Me

Before my second born entered the world, I laughed at the idea of having a strong-willed child. Moms would tell me stories of their children having meltdowns in the middle of grocery stores and stubbornly refusing to do anything and everything they asked them to do, and I would nod and listen, secretly wondering why they didn’t discipline their child.

Then I had Gabe. Gabriel, meaning, “strong man of God.” And oh, how he humbled me. He made everything I had learned with my first born seem irrelevant.

He taught me how to pray.

While my firstborn, Jaden, was gentle and eager to please, Gabe has received the nickname, “rough and tumble.” If you tell him to do something, he will most likely do the opposite. And although loving, he only gives his affection when it suits him. If he doesn’t want to give you kisses, he will likely push you to the ground if you try to steal them. He wants what he wants, when he wants it. Convincing him otherwise is a battle of wills.



The challenge of raising a willful child has taught me that where my body is, my spirit and mind must be also.

I cannot be the mom who simply hopes to make it through the day. He demands my alertness. In the years after Jaden was born, I remember praying over him. Often my prayers were superficial and lazy. I rarely remember praying for myself.

“God, protect Jaden.”

“God, watch over him.”

I know God hears these prayers, but my second born has shown me that the types of prayers God loves are fervent, passionate prayers. Take a look at the breathtaking prayer in John 17.

First, Jesus prays for himself. Why are we so reluctant to pray for ourselves? I’ve heard so many people say they believe prayer for themselves to be selfish or self-seeking. I’ve often felt the same way. But the more I studied scripture, the more I see this type of thinking is a lie.

If we do not pray for ourselves how to be expect to have the wisdom to pray for others? For our children? In John 17:1, Jesus says, “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” If the God of the universe prayed for himself, we can safely conclude that we ought to pray for ourselves with boldness. Not for our own selfish gain, but for the glory of our Father in heaven.



Praying for ourselves is not an act of selfishness, but an admittance of our desperate need for an all-powerful God to give us the wisdom we lack.

The guidance to parent a strong-willed child. The sound judgment to know which battles to referee between brothers. When I’ve prayed for myself, I can then come before God and pray for my children. His beloved children.

With all the clarity which is only found in the God who spoke the stars into existence.


*Pictures courtesy of Derek & Diane Photography


8 thoughts on “What My Willful Child Taught Me

  1. Great post! I have two strong-willed children; the younger one even more so than the first. I am regularly brought to my knees in prayer – for me and for my youngest especially. Learning to trust that I’ll only really be able to parent these kids with God’s help.


  2. I love this! I pray for myself and all moms that we will stop being so hard on ourselves and start bringing our needs and children’s needs to God first. Beautiful pictures!


    • Yes, Kasey, we definitely need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Thanks for your thoughts today. I can’t take credit for the pictures, but I agree- they are beautiful!


  3. I’ve always said if I had my daughter first, she would be an only child! Willful seems an understatement. But her name means strength and I chose it on purpose. Thank you for the reminder to pray for ourselves. It’s so against a mother’s nature – but it is right and necessary.


    • That’s a good way of putting it, Lisa. It is against a mother’s nature because we are constantly pouring ourselves out for others. And yet I’m constantly reminded of my need to pray for myself lately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!


  4. I only have one child right now, and he is pretty strong-willed! You’re so right that praying for ourselves is not a selfish act, but rather a humble one. When we admit we need God to help us parent, that is the beginning of an amazing relationship in which we turn to Him for guidance instead of trying to handle it ourselves.


    • Yes, it is humbling. The whole experience of motherhood. It’s funny how it’s not always the birth order that determines this trait. Thanks for stopping here and sharing your thoughts, Katie!


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