By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

The other morning I was snuggling with my three year old daughter on the couch right after she had woken up.  I love those times of the morning, where my kids are bleary eyed and will actually sit with me for extended minutes while I kiss their heads, rub their backs and just breathe in all of the their sweetness.

“I love you mom, so much… I could never even stop loving you!” she says to me.  The emotion in my heart welled up in my eyes.  “I know sweetie, I love you so much too, and will never stop loving you.”

And last night, my little boy, not even two, says to me for the first time, unprompted, “I yuve you mom,” and I can’t stop kissing him and saying, “I love you too, I love you too, so much.”  So much I think my heart will burst.

My babies, except they’re really not babies anymore.  Three and a half and smart as a whip and sharp as a knife.  23 months, with a will of iron and the best laugh. Ever.

Is It Supposed to Be This Hard?

These little ones, my little ones, being a mom is the most rewarding, and hardest thing I have ever done. And these little moments are the ones that make everything else seems so insignificant. The moments where I hope that I must be doing at least something right.  My kids know that I love them, and they love me in return.  What more could I ask for?

These moments, although huge in their significance, are small in number and scattered between times, minutes, hours, sometime whole days it feels like, where my kids, how shall I say it – well let’s just say that those other times don’t bring out the best in me as a mother.

My kids fight me, resist correction, throw tantrums, exert their free and strong wills. All. day. long.

I will be honest that I often, daily, struggle with my role as a mother. I feel inadequate, ill prepared, for this enormous task of raising these little ones. And I often struggle with knowing if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m doing a good job, if my kids even hear or learn from anything I’m saying or trying to teach them.

And I get discouraged, and disheartened.  Is it supposed to be this hard?

I often find myself needing some encouragement, a word, a thought, a smile from one of them, that tells me that it’s going to be alright.  And that helps me to get from one moment to the next.  Because with these kids, that’s the only way I can live – moment by moment.

Give God Room to Work in Their Lives

I was recently listening to a program on the radio about raising children with strong wills and the speaker was saying that as parents we cannot make our children do anything.  This is one thing that I learned pretty early on as a parent of a strong willed daughter, but I still sometimes act as though I can.

This speaker said that the only one who can actually make us do something, who has control over our free will as a person, is God, but He doesn’t ever exert that power over us.  He never makes us do something, even though He could. He always gives us our free will. So, who am I, as an imperfect parent, to think that I have more authority over my child than God and can force them to do something?

Instead I need to look to God, the one who changes hearts, and pray that he would change my heart first. That instead of trying to force my will onto my child, that I would step back, and allow God the space that His Spirit needs to work in my childrens’ lives.

All the while, crying out to Him in prayer, for His grace, and patience, and love, to show through me, and for my children that it would be Him, and not me, working in their little hearts and lives to mold them and shape them into the people that He wants them to be.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have this all figured out – not by a long shot.  I am a very imperfect parent in need of as much grace, if not more, than my strong willed children.  After all, I was am a strong willed child just like them (where do I think they got it from?) and in His love, my Heavenly Father never exerts his will over mine.

I am so thankful that God loves my kids even more than I do, and He has a plan and a purpose for their lives, there is a reason that He has given them strong wills.  And even though it is so hard at times, I know that more than having perfectly obedient children, I want to encourage them, help them, and guide them to embrace all that God has created them to be.

Do you struggle with parenting your strong willed children?  What encourages you in midst of the struggle?