Monday, October 11, 2010

The Will

Because I never want to come across as a know-it-all, I tend to avoid giving advice on my blog.  Goodness knows I do not have it all figured out when it comes to raising my children or teaching them to obey.

There are days like last Saturday when the younger kids and I were watching Gavin and Maddie's soccer game.  I was nursing Alaine in a lawn chair and Benjamin was clinging to my leg, loudly wailing about walking to the swing set .  Brian is the team's assistant coach and, though he could hear Benjamin from his position on the field, he couldn't come to my rescue.  It got so embarrassing that I ended up taking Alaine and Benjamin and innocent Owen to the van, but Benjamin kept crying and drooling and throwing a great big fit.  When we returned to the sidelines, he continued whining for the remainder of the game time!  I was ready to pull my hair out...or go hide. 

One of the most profound ideas I've heard came from 20th century English educator, Charlotte Mason.  She said that the so-called strong-willed child is not strong-willed at all, but rather weak-willed!  And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced it is true.  When my toddler refuses to do what he is asked (or relentlessly begs to play on the swings after I've told him no), it is not that he is not displaying a strong will but rather a weak one that has not learned to reign itself in.  The weak will must be trained to control itself and become strong against the need to demand its own way. 

All children must be taught self-control and two of my children have been particularly weak-willed, so what have I done to train them?

1) Mean what I say.  If I say, "No, we cannot go to the swings right now,"  I don't back down even if he whines, kicks, squeals, lays on the ground, etc.  I don't allow that ugly behavior and I don't give in to it either.

2) Be consistent.  I mean what I say every time.  I don't allow my child an unacceptable action one day and then correct it the next.  I have a tough time with this when I have a nursing infant because it is so much easier to give in when I am glued to the couch, but I try to be consistent because the end result is so worth it!

3) Lead with a strong will.  I remember a particular incident when Maddie was  two years old.  My sister complimented her on her new pajamas and I asked her to say thank you.  She wouldn't.  I asked her again and she refused.  Though my sister didn't mind not being thanked and I knew it was a minor offense, the major issue at hand was stubbornness and a lack of obedience.  Maddie and I spent over twenty minutes in quiet battle, with me insisting she tell her aunt thank you.  I did not back down and she eventually said thank you! 

4) Speak in love, not anger.  It is so much easier to display my own weak will by getting angry and yelling, but by remaining calm, I set a better example and usually see better results.

Are the  results are worth the frustration and the time?  I have experienced it first hand.   Maddie is truly my strong-willed girl now!  She is feisty and opinionated and strong, but she is also obedient and submissive and a joy and pleasure to be around. 


  1. Oh my goodness... you don't know how much I needed to read this today. Peanut is definitely my STRONG WILLED CHILD, but instead of hanging on my leg whining, he would have bolted and gone on his own. I would be yelling at him from the sidelines or chasing him down while nursing the babe. I am at my wits end and have DONE EVERYTHING that the books say to do! I am in SURVIVAL mode with this kiddo! :) Thanks for the insight!

  2. Thank you! These were excellent and timely reminders for me as well.

  3. I love CM too. And good for you for getting to the heart of the matter -- her attitude, and addressing that rather than solely her behavior!

  4. With just one "weak-willed" child at my house, my days can be challenging. God bless you for having the grace to train your two like that plus your others!

  5. YES YES YES YES YES and YEEEEEEEEEEEESSS!! it's so nice to see another momma on the same lines as me! i saw an incident today where the momma gave right on in to the's so frustrating to see, and i realize i parent MY children and no one elses. :)

  6. Wonderful post! I, too, have been intrigued by the idea that what most people call a "strong willed" child is essentially a "weak willed" one. I also agree that it is worth it in the long run to train the weak will (even if it is my own).

  7. I so needed this today! We've been struggling with Jonathan's weak will while still working on Emahry's a little as well and with the baby beginning to show some weakness of will, too. Needless to say it's been tough. My weakness of will has been emerging more. Thank you for the reminder to practice self-control when teaching my littles to do the same. I'm going to start by making sure I'm training my own weak will today.

    Hope your day is filled with blessings!

  8. I love your list! I read the same quote from CM about a year and a half ago and I remember pausing as well...

    You are doing good Mama!


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