The Strong-Willed Child



RECCOMMENDED READING - "The NEW Strong-Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson

1.) The Issue of the WILL -
a.) Paul & Peter & Pilate. b.) Four kinds of soil. c.) Proverbial Fools (27:22) d.) Stiff-necked and rebellious Jews. e.) Perseverance of the Saints.
FINALLY - Jesus praying before the cross: "Not my will, but thy will be done."

2.) Personality type and will-power. Rocky, Sparky, Mel and Frank: as children.

3.) Children: a.) Assume their entitlement to provision b.) Want to explore (grab, taste, travel, etc.) c.) Insist on a hierarchy of strength, and of courage, within the home.

1.) Make you prove 3c (in notes above) 1.) Will accept your proof of 3c for long period
2.) Need to win at everything 2.) Glad just to be in the game, or even watch
3.) Bossy with peers. Bullying 3.) Just hangin' out and chatting is okay.
4.) Can resist peer pressure & stand for right. 4.) Give in to wishes of others.
5.) Hate to admit when wrong 5.) Teachable, open-minded.
6.) Want "recognition" of others. 6.) Want "approval" of others.
7.) Thrive on "WAR": challenges, and tests of strength. Love standing up to giants. Get kicks by "power games" 7.) Want peace at all cost, for themselves, tho' they may enjoy watching others battle, from a safe distance.
8.) Do better at sports, or early jobs. 8.) Do better at academics
9.) 74% rebel as teens, but most return by age 20 9.) 3-14% rebel as teens, but more likely later on.

4.) Parents: Of "SWC" often feel worn-out, helpless, and guilty. Parents of "Compliant" don't understand. Our culture is of little help as parenting books ignore SWC, and very little research has been done. "Positive Parenting" / "UN discipline" / "Blank Slate"
Prov 20:8 - A king sits in the throne of judgment, and scatters all evil with his eyes.
Prov 20:11 - Even a child is know by his doing, rather they be right or wrong.
Prov 20:18 - Every purpose is established by counsel, and with good advice make thy war.

1.) Be "professional": composed, determined and caring.
2.) Don't demean them. Treat with love and dignity.
3.) Pick your battles. Don't give commands you're not willing to enforce NOW.
4.) Win Decisively: Persevere. Match and exceed their will.
5.) Win Physically: Dominate them, without injury. (Quiet reasoning won't work.)
6.) Make them apologize when wrong. (Very very effective "punishment".)
7.) Reward Achievement: it speaks their language.
8.) Reward Obedience: it teaches them your language.
9.) Pray hard! For personal courage to persevere. For their salvation and development.
10.) Give them God's message: "I want you to be strong for me."


1.) 14 Things Parents MUST Do: (Don't get into the parenting business if you aren't going to do these.)
Protect Train Correct Instruct Teach Punish Pray
Provide Mold Attitude Warn Guide LOVE Reward Model

a.) THE WILL - Desire to strive, persist, control and have your own way. (eg. pp 71-72)
b.) THE SPIRIT - Self-concept: Validity, worth, belongingness, mission statement.
Therefore the spirit is sensitive, vulnerable. Injustice and nasty comments can be remembered for decades. (James 3:3-6, Matt 12:26). If you offend it: apologize and ask forgiveness fast. (Eph 4:26)

"Fathers, do not provoke (exasperate) your children, but bring them up in the Lord's training. (Eph 6:4) Ways we can "vex" our child's spirit:
a.) Unclear or movable boundaries
b.) Lofty, unreasonable, or selfish expectations.
c.) Unfair trials
d.) Demeaning language.
e.) Punishing non-defiant behavior (accidents, forgetfulness, etc. So
me consequences OK.)
f.) Unprofessional, childish responses to their behavior.

a.) Continual barking of orders, and other one-directional conversation.
b.) Yelling and threatening.
c.) Follow up #s 1&2 with no actual follow-up.
d.) Emotional control: Angry attacks, shouting, breaking or discarding toys.
e.) Manipulation: Bribes, divisive strategy, "poor mommy syndrome".
f.) Progressive yelling.
g.) Inordinate physical punishment, especially while angry.
h.) Inordinate consequences, often arbitrary and reactionary.

a.) Dad: Rule well your home. 1 Tim 3:4-5
b.) Appropriate the fact that it is God's will that children obey you. Colos 3:20.
c.) Relate to your children. Know who they are.
d.) Respond to defiance:
1.) Compose yourself.
2.) Clarify the boundary and situation.
3.) Pray and Act promptly.
4.) Act appropriately. (See next week's lesson: Age-appropriate corrective action.)
5.) Win decisively.
6.) Reassure and teach and pray after the conflict ends.


A-) Birth to seven months:
l.) Zero direct discipline. They can't associate it with their preceding behavior.
2.) They need to be held, and spoken to nicely. But don't rush to sooth every cry.

B-) 8 months to 14 months:
1.) The "most critical" time of development. A present & caring mother-figure is essential.
2.) "Live Interactive Language" (vs. TV or overheard language) is vital to linguistic, intellectual and social skills.
3.) Abundant access to living areas (vs. confinement) is beneficial. Living areas must include things that they can touch, and explore.
4.) The first testing begins. They'll understand "NO", followed by physical movement. You must dominate them physically (move/hold down/very light immediate hand-slap, etc.) They will not necessarily understand punishment. They will certainly not understand "reasoning." However, mothers tend to "reason" with them after discipline anyway, which does show follow-up love.

C-) 15 months to 2 years:
1.) Healthy separation of identity from the mother and child begins. They use the word "NO." as their tool. (Discuss) This is not to be automatically considered defiant behavior.
2.) Clear defiance to understood commands can be punished, with mild slaps to the butt.
3.) Do not "reason" with toddlers DURING their DEFIANCE. State the command s that it is understood, and then respond quickly if they defy you.
4.) Don't be quick to punish "exploration". Create the best environment you reasonably can, with limits.

D.) 2-3 YEARS OLD:
1.) They will be active and clumsy. This is not automatically sin. But watch for DEFIANCE.
2.) These are the best years for them to learn obedience and respect! When they knowingly sin, you must begin your authority! Don't miss the best developmental years for this!
3.) Punishment tactics: "Time out in a chair.", or spanking with a very very light stick.
4.) Always follow up punishment with love.
5.) They must learn two things at this age: a.) You love them. b.) They must obey you.

E.) 4-8 YEARS OLD -
1.) They'll be disciplined (including spanking) more during these years than any other period.
2.) Watch not only their behavior, but their attitude. Get to know them personally so you can discern.
3.) These are formative years for developing character. Take time to teach them. Impart basic biblical truths. Bring them up with Jesus.

F.) 9-12 YEARS OLD -
1.) These are your best "fellowship years" with them. Don't miss out!
2.) Each year brings more freedom and responsibility. Give them opportunity for both, in balance. They must dress themselves with their reasonable choice of clothes, do their own homework, etc. Don't do anything for them that they can do themselves. Don't be afraid to let them do some reasonable WORK!
3.) Physical punishment gets more rare, but more severe.
4.) Physical punishment begins to lose effectiveness, in favor of natural consequences. Parents must be willing to let their children "suffer the pain" of consequences.
5.) Dads: Be sure you are answer their question! Girls are asking "Am I lovely? A princess?" Boys are asking "Do I have what it takes? Am I a winner?" Send them into the teen years with affirmative answers.

1.) They really need to get a life going outside of the home. They need to become somebody other than "your child." Be sure they can. Unfortunately, our culture used to be supportive of raising kids properly, but can no longer be counted on. The world-wide pop culture creates a "brotherhood" to their rebellion, implying that misbehavior is a "rite of passage". In response, the parent should find supportive arenas outside the home (eg- church youth group, teams coached by good coaches, etc.) and steer kids at those.
2.) Treat kids with respect and dignity. Their world has changed: including their bodies, their peer group, their responsibilities. They crave peer approval, and need some of it. Don't deny it, but help them see above it. Sadly, 80% of kids participate in some sort of bullying, and they battle for pecking order in the peer group.
3.) Emotions Rule Them. Your reasoning and rationalizing, while showing them that you care, will have limited results. Their hormones are acting like a drug, warping their reasoning. They do not have themselves or the world in perspective. They cannot always calculate "risk vs. reward" properly. These handicaps do not change "right vs. wrong", but at least understand so you can respond professionally, instead of taking everything personally.
4.) How to discipline: Use Incentives and Privileges. They are NOT motivated by nagging, or by anger. And physical discipline is actually counter-productive: UNLESS they were involved in a physical abuse. Instead, link their behavior to consequences: good and bad. Two things are in your favor: You pay the bills, and you hold the car keys. If you control the money and the car, you've got them surrounded!
5.) Communication: Off-site 1 on 1. In-house nagging will teach them to tune you out. Instead, let your words be few but meaningful. Take them out to breakfast and talk 1-on-1. Go on a trip with them (eg- Rob and Andrew with camping & hockey trips). You get them in a neutral environment, alone. Communication in front of their peers (and especially correction or discipline in the presence of their peers) is counter-productive.
6.) Keep them active! Physically, artistically, intellectually, socially. (Eg - sports, music, Breakaway & Brio magazine, mission trips & VBS.) Their "Cowboy years" need to include plenty of adventures, some hard work, and an "Epic Story."


1-) Dobson says that parents would rate this "the most irritating part" of child-raising. It's been going on since Cain & Abel.
2-) Strong-Willed Sibling Vs Compliant Sibling. Discuss scenarios. Eg- The Prodigal Son.
3-) Take a stand: It is not healthy, or necessary, or biblical to allow children to destroy each other, or make life miserable for each other. Some "iron sharpening iron" is okay, but only if constructive.
4-) Don't inflame natural jealousy, especially over beauty (girls) physical achievement (boys) or intelligence. Acknowledge their differences and especially their strengths.
5-) Establish a WORKABLE system of JUSTICE:
a.) Each child is entitled to his own space and property.
b.) Antagonistic or destructive behavior is not permitted.
c.) Parents will hear all cases and render judgment.
d.) Discipline will be administered quickly, fairly, and consistently.


Previous American generations would never have permitted the rebellious behavior we see today from the out-of-control "Strong-Willed Child." However, the previous generations were also too strict and oppressive, squelching creativity in compliant children, and punishing normal childishness as though it were rebellion. This crushed the spirits of compliant children, and often drove all children to more severe rebellion later. Also, some of these parents, while spanking their children, indulged themselves in anger, and did physical harm beyond the needs of the discipline. It is no wonder that the liberal movement of the 1960's and 70's sought to soften discipline in children.
i.) EPH 6: 1&4 - Children, obey your parents in Lord, for this is right. And parents, don't provoke your children to rebellion, but bring them up in the nurture an admonition of the Lord.
ii.) PROV 22:15 - Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it from him.
iii.) PROV 23:13-14 - Don't withhold correction from a child. If you spank him properly, he won't die. If you spank him properly, you will rescue his soul from hell.
iv.) PROV 13:24 - He that spares the rod hates his son. But he who him, chastens him early on.
a.) Do not administer physical discipline to a child if you are absorbed in anger. Be calm, professional, under control. Do not mock or demean the child.
b.) Spank only for DEFIANT behavior, where a clearly understood command was willfully violated.
c.) Consider age-appropriate discipline recommended on previous pages. Spanking is effective between ages 2 and 12, and in proper severity. Beyond those ages, its effects are limited.
d.) Follow-up the experience with loving, supportive teaching.
The "American Association of Parents" now recommends spanking for youngsters "in a loving, supportive environment." In the 1990's, 83% of articles in magazines and other journals still decried spanking, but cited zero scientific evidence to support their claims. The few articles that did show evidence included horror stories of physically abused children to skew their results. In truth, studies show that children raised in supportive, caring families, responded well to spanking when it was administered fairly, calmly, and with proper follow-up. Also interesting: There was NO correlation between children who engage in bullying or other brutal behavior, and spanking. However, there was a strong correlation between bullying and brutal behavior when a child had a permissive mother, or critical demeaning parents.

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