Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

I used to be a person who measured. I felt accomplished checking tasks off a list or beating the estimated arrival time on the GPS. Some people label me as Type A, and it was no surprise to them that this competitive drive to surpass goals filtered into my parenting

While I cannot refute my intrinsic need to succeed, even Type B moms seem to measure when it comes to their children. My sister worried when her son wasn’t talking at two, my best friend panicked when her baby wasn’t walking by 11 months. With the influx of milestone charts on the internet and the well-visit must-do lists, it’s only natural to want the person who you invest in, perhaps even more than yourself, to flourish. 

Through my conversations with moms of all kinds, I’ve found I’m far from alone in my pursuit. We all want our children to reach beyond the standard set. Yet, God baked me a humble pie when he gifted me my son, my strong-willed, smart-witted boy who measures his steps only by his own two feet. 

So what did I do to get my resolute son potty trained? Nothing. Absolutely nothing that worked. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty that I tried: sticker charts, rewards, and even a naked weekend to name a few. We did little potties and potty chairs. I prayed. I threw away the diapers, and he took them out of the trash. With every urging, he resisted, demanding a diaper until, well, the day he didn’t. 

RELATED: Dear Strong Willed Child, You’re Worth It

It was on a Saturday when he yelled to me from the bathroom, “Mom, I need you!” I took my time getting there unaware of the insurmountable worth of the moment. “I went poop,” he smiled as I screamed with shock and joy. From that second on, at three years and three months old, my son began telling everyone we knew that he was wearing underwear because he loved them

After a year of pressuring him to get out of the saggy nappy, it felt surreal, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. My kid does things at his own pace, always has. I’m not sure why I thought it would be different this time. More though, I’m not sure why I am having trouble recognizing just who this little human is. He’s the kind of independent, path-forger who doesn’t abide by milestones written in a blog or documented on a page. He is unapologetically himself through and through.

My son nursed to sleep until he was 15 months old. I can still hear myself lying at the doctor’s office as I created the tale that my child slept alone instead of on my chest, that I pretended “crying it out” was working hours into the ninth night, that I googled if I might die from sleep deprivation . . . when suddenly, he slept. I recall the moment with vividly when the baby who had to be nestled into my nook for at least 50 minutes each evening, rolled away and told me he was fine

I know it’s a blessing to have a child who beats to his own drum. Yet my daughter, who mostly stays the course, often feels easier to parent. Maybe it’s because she is, or maybe, I’ve been set up to feel obligated to press my children into a mold, whether they fit or not. Doesn’t it seem that a nemesis mom appears just when we enter into a state of measuring. When my son was refusing to remove his diaper, we attended a party where a boy, who was two whole months younger, announced his need to poop on the potty. Not walking, you’ll meet a kid cascading mountains; not talking, a masterful toddler Ted Talk will occur right before your eyes. Is she saying 20 words, does he know 11 colors, can she balance on one foot, is he still drinking out of a bottle, can he solve world hunger, cure cancer, drive a stick? 

Okay, okay, I exaggerate. But it can sure feel like an exaggerated list when boxes can’t be checked, when you feel like you’ve done everything you can, read all the books, talked to all the moms who made it work, and it simply doesn’t work for your kid. It’s then that you have one thing to do: stop measuring.

One of my all-time favorite two-word phrases originated from a co-worker and seasoned parent of three grown children. “Do less.” Every time I uttered my child won’t, this Yoda of parenting advised me just the same, “do less.” It’s difficult for parentsthe guiding force in their children’s livesto latch onto, but it does work.

When it came to sleeping alone, I needed to teach my son to feel safe, and then do less. I didn’t need to buy blacker black-out curtains or complete 52 check-ins while he loudly cried it out. When he potty trained, I needed to show him how to sit and where to aim, but sticker charts were abandoned and rewards were short-lived. When he refused to try a food or say hello to a new adult or ride his bike down a hill, I needed to facilitate but not force. I needed to do less. 

RELATED: You’re Exactly the Right Mom For That Wild Child of Yours

I’m jealous and amazed when strategies and tips work for others. On the other hand, I am more than willing to commiserate with those who can’t seem to seal the deal no matter what tricks are up their sleeves. I’ve come to realize that it has little to do with parenting and much to do with the human beings who are being asked to fulfill these developmental leaps.

When we stop thinking it’s our responsibility to make our children achieve and start realizing it’s simply our job to show them the path to success, our lives begin to change. We get to praise them when they accomplish tasks without measuring them against others. We teach them to take action in their own timing and in their own way.

I look to the future knowing school is right around the corner, a breeding ground for comparison, and I know I must accept who my son is right now. He’s going to read when his brain comprehends sound combinations, he’s going to multiply when memorization pairs with skill, he’s going to grow and learn and thrive and fail, and it is not my job to make him the best in the class or the first to excel but rather to help him become the best version of himself. 

So I’m putting my yardstick away, and instead of feeling stressed when my child doesn’t meet every standard on someone else’s timetable, I’m going to enjoy watching him grow at his own pace instead. 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Ashley Testa

I am a teacher, wife, mom, and coffee enthusiast who sometimes reflects on this perfectly imperfect life.

I Almost Broke My Strong-Willed Child’s Spirit

In: Motherhood, Teen
Teen making peace sign

This one right here. I almost broke her spirit. So alike that we butt heads like two rams fighting for the same space. So different that sometimes we feel like we live on separate planets. I have a problem with biting my tongue. She likes to have the last word. Sometimes we both go too far. And I almost broke her spirit. It’s tough to raise a strong-willed child, especially when you’re a strong-willed adult. It’s tough to find the line between when to push, when to pull back, and when to let go. It’s tough to find the balance...

Keep Reading

Some Kids Are Simply Born Strong-Willed

In: Kids, Motherhood
naughty toddler

For a very long time, I was really fantastic at this whole parenting thing. I had it all figured out. I knew just what to do in pretty much any situation I came across, and I didn’t understand why so many parents seemed clueless when it came to raising their children. Then, on a snowy Saturday morning in November, everything changed. I gave birth to my first son. I was no longer just “Auntie” or the babysitter or the judgmental bystander watching from the sidelines, with a “my kid will never do that!” attitude. Now, I was officially a mom,...

Keep Reading

Parenting a Wild Child Pushes Me To See the World Through Her Eyes

In: Motherhood
Little girl laughing by staircase

We call them the “wild ones.” They’re the ones we just can’t seem to figure out. The ones who defy all the rules. The ones who march to their own kick-drum beat. The ones who say whatever is on their heart no matter who is in the room. The ones who have no regard for “being careful” when bouncing through a playground. The ones who should go into sales with all of that ability to negotiate. My wild one has been extra wild lately. Last night she threw the tantrum of her life. The red was in her eyes. The...

Keep Reading