Why you shouldn't mind my spirited son

"The next time you shake your head at that strong-willed child in the supermarket, try looking beyond what you see on the surface..."

Recently, a stranger passed judgement on my son. We were in a supermarket and my boys decided to make merry with shopping, more so the younger one. I of course pretended they were not mine (kidding!).

And then, when I was waiting to pay for my groceries, and my younger son was not taking no for an answer over a chocolate I knew he wouldn’t even eat (he hates sweets), the Auntie behind me gave me a knowing and sympathetic look.

She said “the older one seems very quiet, but the younger one is not like him”. It was a loaded statement and one I’m quite used to hearing by now – unspoken insinuations included.

I gave her a quick smile and hurriedly moved on with my sons and groceries. But I resented her words.

Stubborn. Hot-headed. Willful.

These are just some of the words others have used to describe my younger son. I'd rather they use strong-willed. A mind of his own. Independent... because that's what he is.

I have to admit, he can be a handful. It’s like he’s been constantly testing his boundaries from the time he was around two years old. It’s like the wheels in his brains are always turning, churning out idea after idea about new methods of challenging the world.

Like when I tell him, “now listen to me please”, and he retorts with “no, you listen to me” (what?!). Or when I was using the ‘thinking chair’ as a method of discipline, he'd cry so loudly and for so long that our rather grumpy neighbour started walking around with cotton wool stuffed in his ears.

But you know what? I don’t mind that my son is spirited.

And I’ve started to look beyond his in-your-face behaviour and see the traits that are going to take him places when he’s older.

When he tells his older brother “clean up that mess!” I see assertiveness and responsibility, rather than bossiness.

When he asks me for the 20th time for “just 5 more minutes because I LOVE playing outside”, I see him standing up for what he values in life, rather than defiance.

When he’s crying so hard (and loud) for something he wants and then in the next moment struggles to stop his tears in order to explain to me just why what he wants is so important to him, I see a little boy doing his very best to manage his tempest of emotions.

I see him being in control of himself. I see him being rational.

So the next time you shake your head at that strong-willed child in the supermarket, try looking beyond what you see on the surface.

That child will most likely be the first one to try new things with no hesitation, at school, in life. He won’t be the one to give in to peer pressure. He’ll stand up for what he believes is right as he grows older, which is a valuable trait to possess.

He’ll be a leader – assertive, bold, confident and powerful. Watch him go places. He is so much more than the moment you are seeing now.

Do you have a strong-willed child? Share your thoughts on this article in a comment below.