My little girl—she has a firecracker personality.

As an infant, she was a big kid trapped in a baby’s body who refused to conform to baby expectations.

She defiantly resisted baby norms of sitting calmly in a stroller, or bouncing and cooing gently on my lap at a restaurant, or quietly playing with a baby toy.

No, this child has always wanted to be free from straps and confines and rules.

She wanted to be free from the standards of the other babies sitting happily in a shopping cart at the grocery store and instead demanded to be carried on my hip while I ungracefully maneuvered a full cart with one hand.

And if I didn’t comply?

Well, everyone else in the store, or at the restaurant, or even at our family dinner table paid the price. After all, she learned—at six months old no less—the power of a high-pitched squeal. It was the kind of scream that could make dogs in China howl and your ears ring afterward.

She learned that making noise meant action and a swift change of circumstances with anybody in her presence.

Yes. I was raising a strong-willed baby who desperately wanted to be set free.

And I was a mother who wanted to let her be set free. I desired to indulge her need to be independent and explore her world.

But I was also a mother who knew she still needed to know it was OK to be little and vulnerable and to relax in my authority.

And as she has grown, I’ve needed to teach boundaries and self-control. She’s needed to understand that I am in charge because I love her and take good care of her.

With a strong-willed child, it’s always a push and pull.

There’s a push for independence and to be heard, but there’s also a strong pull for the security of an even stronger authority who shows grace, and chases away moments of self-doubt and anger, and calms the explosive feelings of rage and fury.

Oh, I wish I could say I have always been a perfect example of that authority.

And while I have tried, I have fallen short. At times, I have lost my patience and reacted to her strong emotions.

But I have also shown her the power of forgiveness and pointed her to the true authority in her life. 

The God Who will guide and comfort and lead her in all of her independent pursuits;

The God Who is the perfect example of gentleness and greatness.

With God as her ultimate authority, my daughter’s strong will can be used to bless and encourage, not demand and control.

She will grow to understand her gentle voice—not her scream—can be used to change the world in a powerful way.

Her independent thinking and boldness—not her tantrums—will help others. Those qualities will guide people toward goodness and truth.

And she will know I am always there, ready to comfort her when she is upset, hold her when she feels afraid, and cheer her on when she doubts her abilities.

Because behind every strong-willed child is a precious, vulnerable soul who needs to know she is exactly who she was meant to be.

After all, my daughter is loved and she is cherished . . . firecracker personality and all.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Heidi Farrell

Heidi is a stepmom and mom of five, whose ages range from 20 down to 2 1/2. She and her husband have seen the full range of child development in their house...often all at once! She is a classically-trained musician who plays in a couple of local orchestras, a licensedKindermusik instructor and home-school mom. Heidi blogs about lessons learned as a mom and stepmom with grace and humor at notjustastepmom.com.