Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Strong Will is Better than No Will

Yesterday at Playa Danta
The other night, after Devon was fast asleep, I surveyed the evening's events like a commander prevailing over the battlefield. The struggles this night included not wanting to finish dinner or go to bed. The last few months with my 3-year-old have been challenging because he's a really great kid who has recently discovered an iron will.

I love my children deeply. Like most parents, I want the best for them which includes personalities others are drawn to. When my son throws a tantrum, it hurts on so many levels. I wonder if it's just a "phase" or if he's acting out because of some deeper need that isn't being met. At various times, I'm flooded with emotions including frustration, sadness, disbelief, embarrassment, concern, and desperation.

I've read plenty of books. I've tried all kinds of tactics.

Sometimes I just feel like a failure as a parent. I know unconditional love wins in the end and I've been encouraged by parents who assure me that I'm not alone. Honestly, my expectations are probably out of whack a bit too. Devon's attitude is usually awesome, full of smiles, hugs and kisses... I guess I just want him that way 24 hours a day.

I think parenting is about training and leading; teaching and encouraging. It's about patience, consistency, and persistence. It's also about praying.

So as I prayed that night and thought through what I might have done differently or how to approach the next skirmish, I was greatly encouraged by a simple thought:

A strong will is better than no will.

I'm so glad my son actually has a will! He has desires, expectations, and needs. He wants things out of life and isn't willing to just let life happen to him. A great peace came to me when I considered what it would be like if he had no will. If he was a pushover about everything. That, I think, would be of much greater concern.

Devon can be taught about consequences, good and bad decisions, and healthy authority (and the reasons for it). We're already seeing some great breakthroughs where he's evaluating options using his mind instead of shutting down via emotional overload.

But what if he had no will? How would I teach him to care?

This simple thought of encouragement reminded me also of how many people go through life without invoking their wills. They don't live life on purpose but instead just drift through it "getting by" until the day it's over.

That's a tragedy. Your life is too beautiful, unique and precious to just let it fade away. Your passions, desires and dreams are there for a purpose. Please don't ignore them.

A strong will isn't a bad thing. It's a gift. It can change the world.

As I hug my son and listen to him say, "I love you so, so, so, so much, Daddy," I can't help but think of Steve and Will NeSmith. Nine days ago, their world changed completely. A tweet from Steve reminded me to hug my kids and every time I think of Will, I do exactly that. Please pray for Will and the NeSmith family. Read the full story here:


Joel Fortner said...

Love this, Luke. Absolutely great perspective.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks so much, Joel. I know years from now, I'll look back on these posts and smile at the growth I've experienced. My son will probably have grow a bit too. :)

Ron Coffman said...

I bet you and Devon will have a good chuckle over this when he's older. As a fellow Dad of a strong-willed son, I can sympathize.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Ron. :) Devon's honestly an amazing kid and most the time, he's a huge joy to be around. But when he's not... well, he's not. :)

Jim Woods said...

This is AWESOME- A strong will isn't a bad thing. It's a gift. It can change the world.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Jim! It's amazing how our perspective can change everything.

Jim Woods said...

Absolutely! A good perspective and good attitude change absolutely EVERYTHING!

Mike Henry said...

This may be common knowledge to you and other parents, but there's a section in Boundaries by Henry Cloud that talks about how young children have to discover their identity as individuals distinct from their parents. Part of that process is learning where they have a choice and learning to set their own boundaries between "me" and "not me", as often expressed by toddlers saying "no". It was a revelation to me how much this stage affects the healthiness of boundaries later in life.

Thanks for sharing, it's a great perspective. And so touching to read of your son expressing his love for you.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Mike. Yeah, I love that book and probably should read it yet again. It's one that should be read multiple times. I think I've read it two or three times already.

For Devon, I think he's not only defining his own identity apart from us, but also within the universe and reality. He doesn't get why everything can't go his way all the time... but he's getting there.