Praying for our strong-willed daughters
When people ask me to describe Harriette I usually say, “a lot.” She is a lot of everything. A lot of fun. A lot of love. A lot of joy. A lot of cute. A lot of beautiful. A lot of sweet. A lot of sass. A lot of yelling. A lot of whining. A lot of screaming. A lot of pouting. A lot of stubborn. Anyone have one of those?
Just like my two boys, she is everything I ever prayed for and more. I love her so much it hurts. She’s my youngest child and my other two are in school full time, so we are together all day. She usually ends up crawling into our bed in the middle of the night, so we are together most of the night as well. The reality is there are very few moments where she is not attached to my hip. I don't mind one bit (most of the time). She is 3.5, and anyone who has had a 3.5 year old knows that it is generally a tough age. Add in a big personality and you have “a lot” to manage.
I just wrote down my goals for the month of January and one of my relational goals was to be more patient with Harriette. I am generally a patient person, it’s a trait that people notice and comment on, especially when they see my reactions to my kids. I have a lot of patience...until I don’t. In one of those recent moments, I lost it on Harriette at bedtime. It had been an hour and a half of doing everything she wanted me to do and responding to her in firm but patient love, and she was still screaming at me and still not going to bed. I yelled. I swore. My husband took over and eventually she went to bed. The next day my oldest commented that I hadn’t been very nice to her at bedtime and my response was, “well she wasn’t nice to me.” Because apparently I’m five-years-old.
Upon reflecting on this goal of being more patient with Harriette, I realized that I can’t really do it. Of course I can always work on my patience (yelling at my 3.5 year old at bedtime is not the best example of being filled with the Spirit). But instead of making the goal of being more patient with Harriette, what if I made it my goal to be more prayerful with Harriette?
I’m human and I don’t have the capacity for a bottomless tank of patience. I simply can’t rely on myself because all I’m doing with that goal is putting more pressure on myself and setting myself up to fail. I have to rely on God instead.
John 15:4–5 says, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
God is endlessly patient with me. It’s not our own strength and abilities that will allow us to parent our kids with grace and love, it is God’s strength. I can try to muster up my own patience, or I can pray. I can pray for:
The right words to say.
To see my kids from God’s perspective, not mine.
Peace that passes understanding.
Confidence in my parenting and in my kids.
Discernment on how to approach and love my kids, especially when they're hard.
Sarah also has a strong-willed daughter and she recently reminded me that every time she prays about her kids, God gives her something really specific. Instead of telling her daughter, “I love you but I don’t like the way you treat me,” God nudged her to say, “This is not who you are, this is just how you are acting right now. You are kind and encouraging.” And you know what? That got a much better response and everyone’s heart softened. God gives us what we need when we ask for it.
Imagine how our parenting would change if we relied on prayer instead of ourselves. Imagine the freedom we would experience if we really knew we were not doing this alone. The Creator of the Universe is ready and willing to help us parent. So the next time we tense up and start to lose our minds while trying to parent a strong-willed child, let’s stop trying and start praying. Try a breath prayer.
God, help me to be patient.
Father, show me what she needs.
Jesus, help increase my love for her.
After you pray, take a second to breathe and listen. Sometimes, you will hear something specific your child needs. Other times, you might just have new eyes to see them or a sense of peace even in the middle of the storm.
Remember, He knows exactly what our strong-willed, spirited, feisty kids need. He knows what they need because He made them that way!