How to Raise a Child With a Stubborn Streak

“I ran an eight minute mile today.” Isabel said.

Please remember this as I tell you my story of raising a stubborn child.

When Isabel was four years old, she was attending a really great preschool, and on picture day, she decided she wouldn’t smile because all the other kids smiled, and she wanted to be different, so no matter what the photographer and teacher did, she refused to smile. So, we received this picture with an apology from the photographer and her teacher. FullSizeRender

However, Steve and I actually fell in love with this picture, because it reflected her perfectly.

Raising Isabel was complicated.

She had this heart of gold and seemed to have this deep connection to God early on, and a deep desire to help others. DSC_6846She had a quiet spirit. She was always the last to talk at the dinner table, last to share, and the most likely to listen to others and care.

An introvert by nature, Isabel observed others, and then spoke when she felt it was safe. However, when she did speak, it sometimes came with a command to action. Once Isabel got an idea in her head, whether it be good or bad, she was relentless about making sure her goal could get accomplished. There were times she drove Steve and I crazy because of her stubbornness. If she needed craft items for a school project, it had to be now. If she had something she wanted to get done, it had to be now. She would make lists, even as a little girl, and was determined to cross off the items on her list, no matter what the cost would be to the family.  It had to be now.

But one day, back in 2009, God got a hold of her young heart, and this stubborn little girl had a stubborn streak that became her strength. She became relentless about her new passion, which was to help kids. So, she started a non-profit to help children get shoes.ShoesForKids_Logo_Hort_FINAL+3DSC_0024At 10 years old, after a trip to Kenya and seeing barefoot children living in poverty, she felt God had told her to do something. So, she started a non-profit called Shoesforkids to help children who could never afford shoes be able to get shoes. We filed the endless paperwork to start a 501c3 and started collecting donations of shoes for kids who lived in developing countries. We distributed shoes through church mission groups who were going to these countries.

After a short time, her campaign took off. Our garage became a warehouse for shoes, we rented storage for all the excess shoes, and it was crazy. Steve and I were trying to work our full time jobs,  but our weekends were often filled with trying to handle the shoe operation that our daughter had created. She had developed quite a fan club with local news attention and national attention. While the attention was nice, Isabel really didn’t care about that side of things. She maintained her non-profit the best she could.

Once high school came along, she realized, she couldn’t keep it up, and maintain her 4.0 grade point average,  so we decided as a family to phase it out. Since the inspiration came from her first trip to Kenya, we all decided that the final shoe drop should be in Kenya. This was last year on her birthday, and our final shoe drop in Kenya.DSC_6859 I know it was hard for this girl to let go, but I know new ideas are swirling in her head, because a girl with passion, doesn’t let go easily.

Yesterday, was Isabel’s 16th birthday, and at dinner, amongst family, we got to share with Isabel what we love about her. I realized what I love about her and admire about her, is also what was the most challenging when she was a little.

She won’t give up.DSC_0797DSC_6778  DSC_8197Since our Kenya trip last year, we have had many other adventures this year. It’s been a year of growing and learning for this child of mine.DSC_2536 DSC_4428This once stubborn child, has become quite the beautiful person.

On her sweet 16 birthday, I was reminded how God takes some of those difficult traits of a child, and can turn them into something so good, so precious and so beautiful.DSC_8166This fall, Isabel had an injury and ended up with two torn ligaments in her ankle. On New Years Eve, she went in for surgery to fix them. The novelty of having a cast and crutches, wore off after about day three, and this daughter of mine, who loves to run, loves to hike, loves to long board, loves to ski, and loves to go too fast on skis, was bound by two crutches and a cast for six weeks. DSC_4776However, her relentless stubborn spirit, was bound and determined to be ready for track season, so she became a star student in Physical Therapy.

Track started, and Isabel decided to go for it and the doctor released her (though the Physical Therapist had another opinion).  The pain was excruciating, but she ran anyway. She fell during hurdles on one her first practices, but she got right back up again.

Days into track, she came home with so much pain, we thought she had re-torn the ligaments. After an emergency trip to the doctor, we found out it was tendinitis, which just meant she had to rest for a few days.

But time was slipping away, and track was moving on without her.

I watched this girl of mine sink. The sadness came, and I saw her feel a sense of defeat, especially when the pain was too much. This once stubborn girl, who won’t give up, had somehow lost herself.

A few weeks ago, we sat at our table, after everyone else had spoken, and our quiet child began to share her heart. The disappointment over her slow recovery, had taken it’s toll. I know other parents of injured athletes can relate.

But Steve gave her a good coaching. He reminded her of who she was. He told her to fight for it. It’s time to be stubborn again and get back to the goal. Track had moved on, but that didn’t mean she had to stop running.DSC_2704I came home from a trip yesterday, we sat down at the table, Isabel with a big smile said, “I ran an eight minute mile today.”

She won this battle and the stubborn girl is back.

…And this is what I have learned from Isabel.

As a parent, it’s easy to look at children when they are young, and see certain traits as bad. It can be hard to see how those traits can one day be a gift. It’s tempting as parents, to simply squelch a spirited child, to the point we make them feel defeated.

So how do we turn their difficult traits into something good?

1. Teach them patience. I realize with Isabel and all my girls, we needed to respond appropriately with boundaries. I loved that Isabel was a go-getter and a worker bee, but there were times I had to coach her to slow down and wait until the time was right. I would give her choices of when we could go to the store, or when we could get things done, and some how, giving her options, helped settle her.

2. Choose your battles. I remember my children would negotiate. Isabel and Julia would always come back to me when I said “no” with a new idea. While there were times I had to remind them to obey, I started seeing that some hills aren’t worth dying on, and to make agreements would later teach them the important skills of negotiation. It’s not all bad to have little negotiators in the family as long as they are obeying.

3. Coach them. Julia was a leader at a young age, but this also meant she was bossy. We had to coach her through relationships, and help her learn how to submit to others, when it was the right thing to do. Isabel was strong, and she wouldn’t let anyone boss her around. Imagine having a first born who was the “boss” and a youngest child that wasn’t going to let anyone boss her around. Then there was Grace in the middle, who sided with the sister that made the most sense.  Oh friends, it’s important to coach your kids and help them talk these things through, so they learn how to submit to one another in love.

4. Celebrate the victories. When you do see your child take their spirited traits, their stubbornness, their bossiness, and even their pride, and turn it around, celebrate. Steer those tendencies into something good. Recognize the bossy child might some day be a leader. The stubborn child might become an excellent athlete or a great scientist who won’t give up until they find the cure. Recognize the tendency for pride, might also turn into a person who fights for justice for the oppressed. Recognize the young child in your home that likes to make a lot of sound, use their forks and knives as drum sticks, might become an amazing musician.

It’s truly amazing to me, to see how God can take what is our “worst trait” and make it our best. He can do the same with our kids, and I have witnessed how each of my children have found ways to make these tendencies and traits become their greatest strengths. Truly its a picture of God’s grace.

I think as parents, we can get so caught up in the desire to have our children obey, we miss some of the most important moments to direct a child in the ways they should go.

I am truly glad for this girl’s stubborn streak now, as I see it has become one of her greatest strengths. As long as she maintains that humility in the middle, it’s become a beautiful thing. There is no doubt in my mind, this girl of mine will do great things for the kingdom of God and be relentless about it. DSC_8093

3 Comments on “How to Raise a Child With a Stubborn Streak

  1. Great post. We love you and your family!

  2. Thank you SO much for your thoughts and encouragement. I have a very stubborn firstborn. While watching “Amazing Grace” again the other say I was reminded of what beautiful qualities stubborness and perseverance can be when used for God… It’s helped encourage me as I work on instructing my son. It’s so easy to see the negative side in a three year old who thinks he knows best. But I so appreciate the encouragement to see this as a strength, to direct it, and to pray even more for him to come to know Christ.

  3. Pingback: » How to Raise a Child With a Stubborn Streak

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Sandra Jones Counseling

Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy


Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones

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