You Never Win A Stand-off

I’ve started to coin my son as strong-willed. I admire that. However, when it’s time to head back to the house after a short walk and he heads a long-block away through the park to sit by a tree defiantly, I’m frustrated by his defiance, ‘er strong will.

Throughout my childhood and into young-adulthood, I was often involved with such strong willed people because I admire such trait. This didn’t always bode well for my self esteem, as being easily swayed in my younger years, so I encourage my son to exercise this trait of his.

Mixed with my getting-stronger will, especially as I hand it over more and more, I am easily coaxed into longer bed-times, extra playtime, an additional dessert or another You Tube video.


The other day, during the defiant tree sit-in, a walker passing by decided to inject herself into the situation. It may have something to do with me walking away from my young child yelling, “I’m going, come on. Time to head home.”

He didn’t flinch. In fact, I saw him fold his arms and grimace.

This type of escalation always ends in tears, for more often him than me. So I guess who is the real strong-willed person. My thought is that I’m trying to teach that we don’t always get what we want in life. There needs to be a balance according to Dr. Sears. 

Sears actually has a discipline tip that says, “The fewer no’s, the better your day goes.” Well, yeah thanks for the insight, Dr. Sears. I’ll just say yes all the time.

However, there is a crafted way to say yes. Like, “Yes, we can go to the park another day.” And maybe this works for some toddlers and pre-schoolers. But, my boy saw right through the balance of not making a promise and not saying no. Which brings us back to the tree stand-off.

I headed across the road to see if he’d run after me in fear of being left behind. Instead, he howled. Looking from outside myself, the top-of-the-lung shouting, was probably as or even more childish. Here we are at a power struggle.

I most often resort to a soft dance during a time like this, brushing off the behavior to show my four-year-old that he is not upsetting me, but in this particular example, anyone within earshot could obviously tell that I was upset.

This article discussing children with “strong-wills” can be perceive threats as attack on their integrity, and I found this to continually be true. In this instance, I resorted to saying, “If you don’t come now, you won’t be able to come back inside after dinner.” There was nothing beyond carrying him at this point.

For me, it comes down to reliance on God. I am completely powerless when it comes to the actions of my child. I can guide, coax, encourage, reward and threaten but unless this particular boy decides it’s his decision, there is nothing I can do. So I let go and let God. And then I carried my boy home.

One thought on “You Never Win A Stand-off

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