When my oldest son was a tween, he argued with us about everything. Even the most benign requests were usually met with questions about why he should comply. It was very exhausting and frustrating! I remember thinking that he had better grow up to be a lawyer so that at some point he’d start arguing with someone other than me. 🙂
Fortunately, this same son has since grown into a wonderful young man who is almost always a joy to parent. He is still human, after all, and so am I. And we’re both determined people. But our relationship has gotten so much more peaceful now that this son isn’t a tween anymore.
My husband and I have dealt with our strong-willed sons’ behavior since they were little and apparently we aren’t alone. In a study of 35,000 parents which was conducted by James Dobson, it was discovered that there are nearly three times as many strong-willed kids as there are compliant kids. And there is a slight tendency for males to be strong-willed over females. Also, if you have a strong-willed son, there’s a 92% chance that you knew about it before your child was 3 years old.
According to that study, if you have more than one child, you probably have at least one who is strong-willed.
As I said before – we have two strong-willed sons, but our older son is even stronger willed than his younger brother. One of the most vivid examples I can remember dealing with strong-willed behavior was when my oldest son was about two years old. I had driven him to the mall to get his picture taken; however, once we got there, he refused to sit for the picture. The photographer and I tried to bribe and cajole him as much as we could, but my son flat out refused to comply.
We finally gave up, and I walked back to the car with my now calm son. As we started to climb into the vehicle, he decided he wanted to go back and have his picture taken after all. There had been many people waiting in line behind us and I explained to him that our turn was over and that we couldn’t go back in now.
After hearing that, my son threw a huge temper tantrum. This wasn’t a regular toddler tantrum. He was flailing at me, bucking like a bronco, and he refused to let me buckle him into his car seat.
I remember having to spend 20 minutes trying to push him down into his car seat enough that I could get him strapped in. I’m sure that everyone who walked by in the parking lot thought I was an abusive mom. There was nothing I could do to get him to stop screaming. It was an extremely humiliating moment. I felt powerless!
Fortunately, my boys stopped throwing temper tantrums quite like that once they were older, however, once they got an idea into their head, they were like Dobermans who have their teeth sunk deep into a meaty bone – they wouldn’t let go for anything!
Several years back, I heard a podcast by Hal and Melanie Young, authors of Raising Real Men called “Transitioning to Adulthood.” In this podcast, Hal and Melanie Young interviewed Israel Wayne, homeschool graduate and father of seven. He is also the author of Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview and Full-Time Parenting: A Guide to Family-Based Discipleship. In this podcast, they discussed why it’s good that our teenage sons question our authority. Yes, you read that correctly.
Being strong-willed is a positive trait. That fact, however, doesn’t mean that it’s easy for us parents to deal with!
Here are 5 reasons why questioning our authority can be good:
1 – Strong-willed sons are more likely to reach their full potential
Compliant kids have a hard time standing up for themselves and voicing their opinions. This makes them vulnerable to their peers and to others who may not have their best interests at heart.
2 – Questioning helps kids to internalize values
Your strong-willed son wants to learn things for himself rather than just accept what others say as truth. This is obviously an excellent trait. He won’t be swayed back and forth by whatever opinions are floating around him.
3 – It’s a natural part of transitioning to adulthood
Most boys are going to question our authority at some point. It’s better for this to happen when they are 13-15 rather than waiting until they’re older. There aren’t very many options open to them at that age. If they rebel when they’re older, and have access to a car or are away at college, their rebellion can destroy their life and/or the lives of others.
4 – They’re coming to you to sort through information
It’s much better for your son to come to you with his concerns than to be outwardly compliant but to be secretly rebelling when he isn’t in your presence. Be glad that he made the effort to let you know what’s going on in his mind.
5 – If handled correctly, it will strengthen your relationship
While our kids are transitioning from childhood to adulthood our role as their parent also needs to be adjusted. We need to slowly shift our role from benevolent dictator to trusted adviser. This will help to ensure that our sons will continue to feel comfortable talking with us throughout their adult years.
Hal and Melanie remind us that there is a difference between our sons questioning us and full on rebellion. As long as their tone is respectful, we need to encourage our sons’ questions. Questions are normal and healthy. We shouldn’t view them as a challenge to our authority. We want our kids to know that they can always come to us with disagreements and that we’ll be alright with it.
Kids need a safe place to talk through various issues. If we aren’t that safe place then they will find someone else to talk with instead.
Even though it’s good to have a strong-willed son, it isn’t easy.
Here are 8 tips which should help when parenting a strong-willed son:
1 – Give him choices
Instead of always telling your son what to do, give him several options you’re okay with and let him choose. The more he feels like he has some control over his decisions, the less likely he will feel like he needs to try to wrestle control away from you in areas where you want his compliance.
2 – Let him learn
Strong-willed kids learn through experience. These are the boys who need to touch the hot stove to believe that it will burn them. Be prepared that these kids will test your limits. Sometimes, just knowing why they are acting a certain way will take some of the sting out of their behavior. Don’t take it personally. Try to be understanding.
3 – Don’t create power struggles
There are definitely areas where our kids need to listen and obey. There are other areas where it really doesn’t matter which choice our child makes. If you draw hard lines in every area of life, these kids will often defy you just to prove a point. If it isn’t a sin issue, consider whether you might want to bend in the area of contention.
4 – Let him have opinions
Your son DOES need to obey but he doesn’t have to like it. If your son is acting respectfully but is just not overjoyed about what he’s having to do, don’t pick at him about it. Allow him to have his own feelings. Sometimes a cooling off period is necessary before attitudes will be good again.
5 – Ask him questions
When your son has an issue with something you’ve asked him to do, ask him why? Try to understand his point of view. When we listen to our sons, we often find that they have some good points!
6 – Be willing to apologize
Sometimes our kids are mad because they’ve asked us to do something and we’ve forgotten. Or we don’t handle a situation very well. Once your child expresses their frustration, be willing to listen to what he’s saying. If you are at fault, be quick to admit it. Being humble in this way does more to repair a relationship than just about anything else.
7 – Respect your son
Strong-willed kids often fight us because they feel disrespected. If your child wants to do something you don’t want them to do, try to understand where they’re coming from. If they feel understood they will be less likely to have a desire to fight you over every little issue.
8 – Get dad involved
Once your son is around age 12, he will have a hard time “taking orders” from mom. During this time, it is much easier for a son to obey his father than it is for him to take direction from his mother. When you sense that friction arising, ask your husband to step in and deal with the situation.
Parenting a strong-willed son is hard work!
Once you realize what’s happening in your child’s mind, however, hopefully that will go a long way toward making the journey a little bit less difficult. Even though individual days and weeks can pass slowly for us parents, the years really do fly by. If you make the effort to build a solid relationship with your strong-willed son now, you will reap the benefits of seeing him grow into a successful man later.
QUESTION: Do you have a strong-willed son? Do you have any tips you could share which have helped you to deal with your child? Please leave a comment below.