The Marker-Stained Hands of Strong Willed Children


After three children, I thought I had this parenting thing more or less figured out.

And then we had Charlotte.

Charlotte has a temper. Grocery shopping when she is not inclined to do so is a nightmare of embarrassment and anxiety. She’s defiant. I think her first sentence was her yelling at me, “No, I don’t want to!” She’s everywhere. You cannot take your eye off of her for a second or she will be putting her sister’s toothbrush in her mouth or spilling my prayer cards all over my desk or fishing chicken fat out of the trashcan or taking a blue marker and coloring both hands and wiping them on her shirt or…well, you get the idea.

Those marker stained hands are a picture of the frustration and anxiety we often feel raising a strong-willed child.

Now, of course, Charlotte brings joy to our home as well. But there are days when the stress of her free-spirited personality seems to overshadow the joys.

I want to learn to take delight in the parts of Charlotte’s personality that tempt me towards frustration, anger, and impatience. How can I learn to see this strong-willed child in a way that will help me handle and shepherd her with more joy?

Here are two thoughts.

God Humbles us Through Strong Willed Children

Parents will often come to the end of their own knowledge and plans and will have to depend wholly upon God to work in the life of their family. Strong willed children often leave us asking, “What am I going to do? How am I going to get through this?”

Questions like these drive us to the end of ourselves and show us our desperate need for the work of God and His Spirit in the hearts and lives of our children. Now our other children who fall more in line need God’s supernatural work as much as those who are strong willed but we see this truth more easily in the children who more often cause us to throw up our hands. Strong willed children make plain to us our need for God and drive us to seek His wisdom, power, and love in the life of our kids.

I can learn to take joy in these times because I can see them as God drawing me back to Himself. He is seeking to make me strong in His power because I feel so weak in my own.

God Changes the World Through Strong Willed People

Right now Charlotte’s strong will means she resists correction, turns order into chaos, and relentlessly pursues what we try to restrain. But if God captures her heart and orients it toward the love of God and the love of people, that strong will can be of so much good!

It takes a strong will to leave the comforts of home to bring the gospel to hard places. It takes a strong will to spend hours in a lab, relentlessly pursuing the cure for a terminal disease that devastates families. It takes a strong will to battle through cancer and fight for joy in the midst of sorrow. It takes a strong will to fight for justice against a system rigged to benefit those already privileged.

God uses men and women of strong will to break down barriers, fight for justice, proclaim truth, and live lives of courage that give hope to others. Who knows but that the very things that make our hours and days long now will one day be the very things God uses to fill others with hope and life?

I can take joy that God has given me such an arrow in my quiver that can be sent out to bring hope and life to hard places.


Raising strong-willed children is difficult. No new perspective can change that. But learning how they drive us to humility and looking to the future that God may be laying out for their lives helps us to approach these long days with hope and even joy.

Those marker-stained hands may one day offer medicine to a dying child, a Bible to a lost tribe, or freedom to an oppressed soul. And that is a beautiful thought.

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