Four Lessons I’ve Learned From Raising a Stubborn Child

I probably shouldn’t call him stubborn, but he is. He is strong-willed in just about every way. He didn’t sleep unless he felt like it, wouldn’t potty-train until he was ready, refuses to participate in group sports and clubs, and strongly holds his own against older brother and sister. Still, because of his innate stubbornness, he never gives up; he just does things on his own schedule. And he is simultaneously one of the happiest and grumpiest kids I know.

I learned long ago that many battles with him just aren’t worth fighting. Instead, when I’m ready to throw my hands up and walk away, I try to learn something from the way he approaches the world.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned from my stubborn child:

4 Lessons I've Learned From My Stubborn Child

There’s Not an Age Limit on Success

My stubborn son potty trained late, at age 4. He learned to ride a bike even later, at age 8. He might join his first sports team next summer (if he still feels like it at enrollment time next spring), at age 10. My son doesn’t do things when I want him to; he does them when he’s ready. Because of that, his success is almost always automatic.

So I know that if I haven’t accomplished something by a certain age, that doesn’t mean I failed– it just means I needed longer to succeed. It’s never too late to accomplish something I want to do. It’s given me the courage to try things later in life I never thought I’d do.

Try, Try Again

Sometimes he struggles with things, and he gets emotional. But he won’t quit. When he was learning to ride his bike, he had trouble starting on flat ground. He got mad, dropped his bike, flung off his helmet, and sit and pouted for a few minutes.  But then, he got up and tried again. When he finally succeeded, the huge grin on his face was worth the struggle.

Sometimes things don’t come easy in life, or you don’t succeed the first time you try something. Don’t give up! I’ve learned it’s okay to get mad, to get emotional, but if I really care about it, I have to keep trying.

Show Your True Feelings

I don’t know if my son could be so happy if he didn’t also have the capacity to be so grumpy. He gives himself permission to feel the entire range of emotions. As he’s aged, he has learned to control them better, but his openness is what makes him who he is.

The world teaches us to suppress our emotions, and while self-control is important, any therapist will tell you that nothing good comes from keeping things inside. I’ve learned to be more open about my own feelings, whether good or bad. Acknowledging the struggle of the difficult times makes the happiness and peace that comes with success even sweeter.

Be Proud of Who You Are

My son doesn’t care if he does things differently from everyone else. It doesn’t matter to him that he’s walking to the beat of his own drummer. In fact, sometimes I think he’s proud of doing things on his own terms, like he won an argument I didn’t even realize we were having.  The approval of others doesn’t matter to him– it’s only how he thinks of himself that matters. He styles his own hair, picks out his own clothes, and inspects himself carefully.  “I think I look sharp,” he’ll say, when he’s happy with whatever style he’s put together that day.

I need to be more like him and care less about what others think about me. Life would be a lot easier if I could escape the comparison trap and have the confidence he has. I want to be able to look into the mirror, and instead of picking out crows feet, gray hairs, and extra pounds, be able to say “I think I look sharp.”

Parenting a stubborn or strong-willed child isn’t always easy.  There are many times I’ve been frustrated or worried about him. But truly, there are life lessons aplenty that come with this experience.

And honestly, for this reason and more, this stubborn child might be the best gift I’ve been given.

Do you have a stubborn child? What have you learned from him or her?


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Valerie grew up Naperville, Illinois, and is a Midwestern girl at heart even though she spent 16 years in Phoenix. She moved to Marion in 2016 with her husband, daughter (14), and two sons (12 and 9). Valerie graduated from BYU with a degree in Instrumental Music Education. She is a former band director, a current substitute teacher and accompanist, and an avid reader and crafter.