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Journey of a Strong-Willed Child

By Kendra and John Smiley

Are you "blessed" with a strong-willed child? Are you amazed that anyone could use the words "blessed" and "strong-willed" in the same sentence? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, I completely understand. Almost twenty-eight years ago, I gave birth to an adorable little boy who was definitely a strong-willed child.

His strong-willed nature was not obvious from day one although I have met parents who say they knew immediately that their son or daughter was strong-willed. Evidence of Aaron's strong-will appeared when he was about two years old. That was when he let everyone know that he wanted to control his world.

Following a major upset caused by Aaron, he and his father met eyeball-to-eyeball on the stairs. "Aaron," said his firm and loving dad, "I will be with you every step of the way and you will not win!"

Did Aaron hear the words of his father that day and immediately become a compliant child, willing and wanting to please those around him? No, but his dad, my husband John, was true to his word. The steps of Aaron's journey were not taken alone. And even though there were battles along the way, Aaron did not win. We knew that this lovable and capable little boy was not prepared to be in control of his world even though that was his desire. Instead it was our responsibility and our privilege to Be The Parent.

The challenges of raising a strong-willed child to responsible adulthood can be overwhelming and exhausting. I used to ask John time and time again, "Why does Aaron hate me?" And John's answer was always the same, "He doesn't hate you. He's just testing to see if you love him enough to maintain control." It is very likely that your strong-willed child is testing you too. How are you scoring on that test?

Today we no longer have a strong-willed child. Instead we have a formerly-strong-willed-child-turned-responsible-adult. Aaron is now Dr. Aaron Smiley, doctor of veterinary medicine. He is married and he and his wife have a little girl.

Take heart, parents, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But be warned. If you do not accept the responsibility to stay with your child "every step of the way" and be certain to "win," that light might be the headlight of a train coming toward you with full force.

Kendra and John Smiley, along with their son, Aaron have authored the book Journey of a Strong-Willed Child to help you along your journey. You can contact the Smiley's at: