I have a very feisty 2 (almost 3) year old daughter. She is tough, stubborn, strong willed, and built like a tank. When I discipline her for naughty behavior, I rarely (if ever) get the sense that her spirit has submitted to parental authority. Her little body may be sitting in time out, but her eyes show that she’s still in fighting form. Today when she had not done what I told her to do, I said “are you obeying?” and she said “well…it’s not really my thing.” What do I do with a toddler who has the spirit of a Spartan warrior?
[Note: I received the question above from my daughter-in-law, who I couldn’t love more. She is beautiful from the inside out, capable, talented, a hard worker, a devoted mother, and most importantly, she loves my son. A mom couldn’t ask for more. And, on a side note, she is the creative behind Seriously Girl, having designed my website and my Facebook page. Her marketing prowess allows me to focus on content. I love you, girl! And that little warrior child, too.]
This one is a handful. And she is just like her dad. Not only does she look like him, she has his warrior’s heart. As a child, he was (and still is) tough, stubborn, and strong willed. And he is without a doubt the first person I’d want to see if I had to call 911. He never gives up, and will work harder and longer than seems prudent, but it’s who he is.
As it turns out, tough, stubborn, and strong willed are actually enviable qualities in the right context, and come in quite handy when getting a tough job done.
But in the meantime, how do you turn these challenging behaviors into desirable qualities?
You just have to hang in there. It’s either that or buy a taser (just kidding!). Seriously, it’s going to require slow and steady as she goes, with unceasing consistency. I’m sorry there’s no easy button, no magic fix. One can hope that she’ll eventually connect the dots and get tired of time out — right? But for now, focus on what is most important. And the less important battles? No need to die on those hills.
She’s going to need an outlet for her warrior spirit – be it gymnastics, martial arts, or rock climbing – something challenging and a little risky. These activities foster self-discipline and help bring those strong emotions under control. For the time being, five outside laps around the house each morning might not be a bad way to start the day.
Routine is a good thing, too, and knowing what comes next might help her feel more settled and be more focused. Also, invite her to work alongside you. Your guy was my shadow for the first 5 years of his life, and keeping him involved in tasks gave him purpose and a sense of accomplishment.
Be strong. Be stronger than her. Don’t let her best you, but calmly stay the course. You can do this.
The Lord corrects those he loves, just as parents correct the child they delight in. –Proverbs 3:12 (ERV)