A Strong-Willed Child Can “Wear You Slap Out”

picture of strong willed girl
She wears me "slap out."

What is a strong-willed child? Here’s my best definition:

“He won’t give up until you give in!”

The methods of each strong-willed child may be different, but the result is the same. They simply wear you down; or as my dad used to say, “I’m wore slap out.”

To tell the truth, I think most kids have a strong will. God gave it to them. It just looks different on each child.

Some strong-will tactics are obvious. You run across the little three-year-old with his mom in the department store. “I want to see the toys, Mommy. Mommy. Mommy! I want to see the toys. Mommy! . . . “ and on it goes until Mommy is “wore slap out.”

Another obvious strong will at work is the busy, busy child who needs to show you every thing he does. “Look, mom, I can do this.” “Watch this, mom.” “Mo-o-om. Come to my room and see!” It is a never-ending stream of accomplishments needing an ever-present parent to be part of the scenery. And it doesn’t let up even when you are “wore slap out.”

Then there is the not-so obvious example of the one that weeps and weeps his way into controlling the agenda of your day. You are constantly trying to help your child find a moment of happiness somewhere in his “difficult” life. This too will “wear you slap out.”

Here is what I believe strong-willed children need most: STRONG-WILLED PARENTS.

Here’s how you as godly parents can demonstrate your strong will.

God has given parents authority with their children. It is best expressed by setting the limits. For example, before entering the store, think: What happened last time? Give brief instructions that set clear limits. The key words are brief and clear. Say, “Today, when we are in the store, you will not ask me to go to the toys. When I am finished shopping, I will give you two choices. IF you ask for things, you will get nothing.” Then do what you say.

Next, correct with actions, not words. If you have already explained with words, more words will not work. Know your action plan; think ahead of what you will do. Some action, any action is better than more words. Take him home immediately, or don’t visit the toys at all, or “wear him slap out.” Think it through and be ready. You don’t have to be creative, just in charge.

Use words that call your child up to maturity. Learning to do without something is a sign of maturity at any level–from 2-years-old to adulthood. Get down to his level, look him in the eye, and firmly say, “No, we are not doing that today. You are big enough to understand. No whining, no questions.’ ” Then look up and go about your business. Don’t look back.

Here is the goal for us from Romans 14:17.

“The kingdom of God is . . . righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Application: The rulership of God in our homes is that parents lead (righteousness), that there is the blessing of cooperation and productivity (peace, not just the absence of war), and that there is the sense of well-being where everyone knows that God and others are on his side (joy). God will help you (in the Holy Spirit).


Trish and I are excited to announce that we have a DVD for small groups called ParentWisdom: 10 minutes, 10 weeks, 10 changes. Included on the DVD disc is a  Leader’s Guide PDF.

Contact us at keithandtrish@parentwisdom.net