November 8, 2007

The Strong Willed Boy-Part 1

Our 3rd son is an amazing person. Sweet. Funny. Optimistic. But if you were to ask me about him, the first 3 words that come to mind when I think of him are:

Energy & Strong Willed.

He's been a challenge since conception. Literally. I should've known something was up when I was pregnant with him. I'm putting together a post about that pregnancy (It was that "Interesting".)
Shortly after he was born we discovered he was going to be one of those colicky babies who scream their little heads off for their first 6 months. Not only that... he decided right off the bat to make his presence known by spitting up. But it wasn't your normal little baby spit up. He projectile vomited across our living room, into the laps of people sitting behind us at church, across tables in restaurants, and all over the floor of any store we happened to be in.
Not too long after he passed that fun stage, he started walking. Only he hardly ever walked. He spent the next 5 years either standing on his head, somersaulting his way around our house, or spinning in dizzying circles for hours on end. His brothers, daddy, and I would look at him in confused helplessness and wonder what planet this little thing had come from.
We were, (and are) very thankful we homeschool Alec because I know that boy would've been labeled with every disorder known to mankind. They probably could've used him to make up some new disorders up as well. He was constantly on the move! He learned his multiplication tables by jumping on a mini-tramp as I held up flash cards for him and would somersault around the room listening, but needing to wiggle, as I read out loud to him.
The biggest challenge we've faced with Alec, however, has been his strong will. He used to have major temper tantrums-screaming, yelling, looking us right in the eye and saying, "No.", etc. I made a huge mistake when he was very little. I listened to my mother. As I would get ready to discipline Alec for not obeying me, my mom would say, "Oh, don't discipline him. He's just frustrated. Can't you see the poor little guy doesn't know how to express himself? He can't tell you what he's so upset about." And my brain would be off and running, second guessing myself and letting that little guy rule the roost. There was no consistency and I know he was confused about the rules. His 2 big brothers would shake their heads in amazement. "Mom never let US get away with stuff like that..."
As he grew I would spend literally whole afternoons in the bathroom with him, talking, praying, "etc." trying to get him to admit he was wrong. He'd been naughty. He needed to obey me. We would spend hours looking up bible verses about repentance and talking about what that means. I would even march around play-acting a brat coming face-to-face with God, repenting, and turning around, with a changed attitude. No matter what I did he would out-last me. He figured out quickly that at some point mommy would have to leave the bathroom to cook dinner or see what her other 2 sons were up to and he could leave, without admitting he'd disobeyed. I was truly afraid for him. I'd never seen anyone that stubborn in my life. (Except maybe the person in the mirror. Hmmm......) Mike and I spent a LOT of time praying for wisdom-we had no clue how to parent such a strong willed boy.
Finally, when Alec turned 12 or 13 I couldn't take it anymore. He didn't respect me and would flat-out refuse to obey me. He questioned everything I asked him to do and would try bargaining or changing the subject so he wouldn't have to obey. One afternoon his daddy came home to find me in tears. I'd had it. I was ready to either run away from home or break the 6th commandment. So, Mike took over. He said from that moment on, he would be the one to discipline Alec. I wouldn't do it at all. We sat down with Alec and explained the change. From that moment on I was to call Mike the instant Alec was disobedient or disrespectful. To make a long story short, within 2 weeks Alec was a changed man. I would call Mike at work, he'd get on the phone with Alec, and voila! A different boy would hang up the phone and obey. There were times when dad would have to "deal" with an issue once he got home from work, but the overall change in our family was incredible. There was peace. There was obedience. There was respect. I think Alec knew his parents loved him and he felt safe having his boundaries reinforced. I also think he really needed daddy to show him who the boss was/is. Alec still is hard-headed but we do see the Lord changing his heart. Alec is more teachable than he's ever been. He admits when he's wrong. He prays and asks the Lord to help him obey.

Lessons learned:
  • Be consistent
  • Do not listen to your mother. (Just kidding)
  • Give your kids boundaries and then be consistent.
  • Pray for your kids and the wisdom to parent them.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be patient and loving
  • Be consistent
  • Don't give up. The Lord is on your side and loves your kids more than you ever will. He is able to do way more in their hearts than you can imagine when you're in the middle of raising a strong-willed child.

I can't help but wonder about the whole thing of dad being totally in charge of discipline. The change in Alec, once we made that decision, was remarkable.....It not only helped Alec but it took a HUGE load off my shoulders......

There is a part 2 to this story. Another HUGE lesson we learned about parenting, communication in marriage, and surrender. I'll save that story for another day. Class dismissed. :-)

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