The things that I love the most about my strong-willed six-year-old are the things that tend to drive me the most insane. Her strong spirit brings me so much joy in life, she knows who she is and isn't afraid to tell you what she wants. However, when what she wants and what she needs are at odds with each other this is when mom has to step in. I tend to be a very relaxed parent with very few absolute laws in our household. My daughter is empathetic, kind, and amazingly social. She is also stubborn, sassy, and independent. Now, most will say that independence isn't a fault, and it isn't, but when she wants to do age inappropriate things by herself that is where I have to lay down the law. She is my oldest and the one who made me a mother. She is exactly like me, and that is frustrating.
Imagine seeing your own faults that you hate about yourself in this tiny being that you love more than you ever thought possible. A few day-to-day struggles that we encounter are that she likes to dress herself. If I suggest an outfit it is immediately shot down. This is not usually a problem unless it's thirty-two degrees outside and she insists on wearing a dress or skirt. Another issue we have with clothing is she always tries to wear leggings as pants to school. I have no problem with this but those pesky school dress codes do. She's six and doesn't see a problem with leggings as pants. This has lead to many meltdowns and power struggles. Compromising with her brother and sister is hard for her because for a long time she was the only one who picked out shows and movies to watch because her brother and sister were too young to care. Now that they have opinions too, it has lead to a struggle. She doesn't like the small child shows that her brother and sister watch yet insists that she has to watch TV at the same time as them. She gets hung up on one food that I cook with that she insists she doesn't like but will eat it from restaurants. I believe this is a way of trying to control what is cooked in the house. The food this month is cheese. She loves cheese unless I cook with it. She eats it on nachos, cheeseburgers, and tacos, but heaven forbid I try to serve her a breakfast bake or spaghetti with Parmesan cheese on it.
She is an amazing little girl and one day I will have raised an amazing and strong woman. I try my hardest to parent her in a way that will not squash her spirit. It requires a lot of patience, consistency, and yes there are days that turn into a throw down, but I will never break her spirit. Too often strong little girls are told they're too bossy, or stubborn, or wild. These are seen as strong traits in women, but not little girls simply for the fact that they're kids. Recent parenting trends tend to be harsh on children being children. They're punished for having strong emotions, wanting control over their body, and having bad days. I can tell you I've never gone long without having a bad day. I get cranky when I am hungry. I have issues delegating due to my need for control. I have most of the tools necessary to navigate these complex emotions. Impulse control in children doesn't even start to develop until they're six. And that's the beginning of development. Most people have not fully developed impulse control until they're twenty-five. I can think of some dumb things I did in my early 20's. I'm sure almost everyone can. So when it comes to parenting a strong-willed child try and remember that. Don't break their spirit. Show them how to use it to change the world.
In order to maintain my sanity and her spirit, there are a lot of compromises throughout the day. For the most part, she gets to choose what she wants to wear as long as it is weather appropriate. I let her tell me whether or not she wants cheese on something. We are still working on the process of taking turns with her siblings. Instead of thinking of parenting her as a battle, I try to think of it as negotiating for peace. I love being a parent and one day she will do amazing things. I have to remember it's only hard for a little bit, and they're only little for so long.