I was expelled from Homeschool (tips for parenting the strong-willed child)
Hello, my name is Carrie and I got myself expelled from Homeschool. Phew, there it is, now you know.
This piece of my childhood story typically surprises people when they find out. It's like my dirty little secret no one can guess--when I reveal it the shocked faces are awesome. Personally, I find it rather amusing. I've only met one other person who shares the distinction of being expelled from Homeschool--I'm not sure what comes before rare, but it's certainly not a story you hear everyday. Nonetheless, it's the story of the strong-willed child.
You see, if you met me today you'd find an introverted, quiet, confident woman. It's not often that I rock the boat. But truth be told, I was a strong willed child. And I am still a strong willed adult.
As a child, I struggled with my strong will, as did my parents. In schooling, it was especially difficult. When I'm told what to do, my gut reaction is to refuse to do it. When I'm corrected, my gut instinct is to argue. If it wasn't my idea, I didn't want to do it and I'd fight tooth and nail.
Eventually, I pretty much drove my mom crazy and stole all the joy out of Homeschooling my siblings. So she did something drastic and expelled me. I can't say I blame her!
There is no doubt parenting the strong-willed child is difficult, exhausting, and utterly draining. But it isn't hopeless. As I share my story, I also want to share hope with you if you are in the throes of parenting a child like me. So here are some insights from a grown strong-willed child:
You haven't read the rest of the story.
No matter what you are dealing with in your strong-willed child today, no matter how hopeless or exasperated you feel, you haven't read the rest of the story yet. You don't know what the Lord is building in your child. You don't know the reasons He gave him or her these traits--what is their weakness today may become the strength of tomorrow.
You are helping to produce character.
To a great extent, I agree with the Charlotte Mason distinction of the strong-will verses the weak-willed child (you can find information here). In many ways, your child is struggling with a weak will--they may want to do the right thing, but they are in a constant battle with the flesh. Your child has to learn to overcome their will.
You may be knee deep in a struggle today momma friend, but keep persevering. Your child is worth it, and even when you can't see it they are still learning and growing. You are doing a good work--you are training, teaching, guiding, and directing your child. Keep persevering and continually guide them back to the feet of Jesus. Eventually, character will develop. And with character comes hope.
Your child is at war within themselves.
Your child is in a battle against their own will--against their flesh. For me, I know there were many occasions I wanted to do the right thing . . . but my will (or lack thereof) instead got the better of me. There was as much tension within as there was without. Chances are, when you are feeling defeated, deep inside they are as well (though they may not admit it at the time). Your child is learning to govern their will and it's going to be a messy, human process. But don't give up hope! In the moments of frustration, look beyond the attitude and stubbornness to the battle your child is waging within. Lead them back to the cross--it is only through Jesus that they will learn to govern their flesh.
God promises wisdom.
I remember one day my will had gotten the better of me yet again. But I am certain the Lord gave my dad wisdom because rather than punish, he gave me an insight that changed the course of my story. I'm certain it must have been a God-given tidbit for that moment.
He told me that I was much like Niagara Falls. Within me, there was so much beauty and power--but the power could be either destructive or constructive. He went on to explain how most of the water is diverted from the Falls in order to produce electricity. Without this diversion, the Falls erodes everything around it, eventually destroying even itself. He exhorted me to find something constructive to apply my will to. And in that moment, it finally clicked.
While there were still struggles and long days, I worked to apply my will to beneficial things. It's a trait that serves me well still today. I've overcome many challenges, bitter struggles, and made my own decisions to follow God's direction in my life--even if it was completely opposite to society. The struggle of my childhood is in many ways the strength I possess today. For many situations in my life, I view it as a God-given gift. Perseverance led to character. And character has led to hope.
Find the good.
Your child is keenly aware of their shortcomings. They walk the tight-line daily of too-much, not-enough. Your child needs reminded that they are not a hopeless cause. That while they may face struggles, they also have giftings and strengths.
I had an English professor in college who put a lot of time and effort into her critiques of our essays. She pushed us to work hard and she went through our essays with a fine-toothed comb. But for every critique or error pointed out, she also pointed out a strength. If we made an awesome point, she told us so. If our formatting was spot-on, she let us know. She drove me to be better, try harder, and learn more because I knew my work also had observable substance--not just mistakes.
I would venture to say that if you have a strong-willed child, he or she knows exactly where they are failing. They know exactly what mistakes they've made. They know exactly where they are too determined and not enough compliant. But they may not know where they are doing well--the areas you see as their strengths and giftings. I'm not saying you need to dish out every correction with a positive, only to remember that pointing out your child's strengths can be just as important as pointing out their weakness. It just may inspire your child to fight their will a little harder.
Resist the urge to compare.
In the heat of the moment, it is so easy to compare your child to a more compliant counterpart. But here is the truth: your child is not like so-and-so because God did not make them so-and-so. Comparison will drive your child's heart further away. So instead, pray for wisdom--ask the Lord to give you wisdom for how to help your child develop Godly character. God made your child unique for a reason--He knows the inner workings of your child.
Work as a team with your spouse.
I drove my mom to her end and I don't blame her one bit for throwing up her hands and kicking me out of her school (by the way, in case you are wondering, I have a great relationship with both my mom and my dad :-) ). She dealt with me day-in and day-out for years. When she expelled me, she handed over the reigns of my education to my dad. He didn't have to deal with me all day long since he was working. We found a good curriculum fit and removed most of the battle since he wasn't there for me to fight with. I still stood toe-to-toe with him in a few arguments, but things improved. God gave you and your spouse different strengths, insights, and personality. And He also gave you this child for a reason--they need what you both bring to the table.
When you reach your end, ask your spouse to step in for a bit. There may be days you want to throw in the towel, but as a team, don't give up on your child. The day mom expelled me, my dad and I went for a drive. He turned to me and asked what on earth he was going to do with me.
Truth be told, I wanted him to give up. I wanted to quit the fight and just go with my will, my flesh. I knew I was failing in so many ways, and I didn't want to keep fighting only to fail. But together, my parents didn't give up on me. And eventually, their perseverance turned into character in me, and character to hope.
My strong will got be expelled from my mom's Homeschool. So my dad enrolled me into his. My strong-will took guiding, shaping, and wisdom, but it is one of my strengths today. I graduated Homeschool and went on to excel in college. I'm happily married, settled, and mothering two children (who are both strong willed like their momma, you better believe we'll be praying for wisdom!). And I look forward to Homeschooling my boys as well.
My strong will got me expelled from Homeschool, but it wasn't the end of my story. God continued shaping, building, and growing me--and He is doing the same in your child. If you are battling a strong-will today, let me know in the comments. I'd love to pray for you and your child. Keep going strong momma, there is hope--the story of your strong-willed child is a work still in progress. And someday, the weaknesses your child faces today just may become the strengths the Lord has blessed them with for tomorrow.