About 30 parents gathered on Wednesday 12 September 2012  to hear some pearls of wisdom from Jenny Hale, families coach at the Parenting Place, about how to parent strong-willed children. Jenny has decades of teaching and counselling experience and she also drew from her personal experience of bringing up her own strong-willed child. Her talk was recorded, so do check out the website soon to download it. 

Jenny provided excellent notes and there were yummy slices and drinks before we got stuck into this emotive topic! It was great to  have it acknowledged that raising a SW child can be hard work-they can be relentless, push for more, fragile and stubborn and of course can quickly figure out how to  ‘push our buttons.’ She encouraged us to accept the invitation  to step into our roles instead of hoping that the behaviour issues will just go away or from distancing ourselves emotionally from our strong-willed child.

From all the practical tips she gave us, a few really stood out for me:

"Some of our best parenting will come out of our worst parenting moments." Ah yes, with the joy of hindsight we can learn from our mistakes!

Jenny suggested having some ‘circuit breakers’ when situations are escalating with our strong-willed child. So, being playful or silly to break the tension or saying something in a short sentence rather than a 5-minute mini-lecture.

Another valuable idea; "listening not solving." I really need to remember to hold back on the asking, telling, scolding etc and practice the sympathetic nod and ‘hmmmmm’ reponse! The idea being that the child can often actually do their own problem-solving rather than us rescuing them all the time. Strong-willed children particularly can benefit from fewer consequences and more problem-solving.

She suggested that strong-willed children put on their boxing gloves and happily disregard our escalating consequences, naturally much to our annoyance. So try ‘as soon as you' … (pick up your socks) 'then we can' …(put that DVD on.) Love that!

Being at St P's, Jenny was able to talk about the role that God can play in all of this. I loved her idea of focusing more on character and less on behaviour : speaking God's truth about unconditional love into their lives and sharing Bible stories to show how God has used very human people to do his work. What an advantage that our children are hearing these messages at church as well as at home.

I felt a huge sense of relief that we are not parenting alone, but in a community of like-minded and loving people who are passionate about raising their children. Everyone I chatted to after agreed it was a really worthwhile evening.

I am now looking forward to hearing the Milnes talk about "Tackling the Big Issues" coming into the teenage years on Wednesday 19 September. If you have school-aged children, this will be a great night as well!

Linda Bowman
Ministry to Preschool Leader