Life with Alex has not been easy in recent months.

Not so long ago, Alex was a good-natured toddler and then an easygoing preschooler. Loud, but easy to get along with. When other kids bossed him, he didn’t get mad, he didn’t buckle, he just ignored it and did his own thing. It drove them nuts, but that was their problem, not his.

He’s always been a good kid, and he remains a good kid, basically. He’s frequently helpful, he’s virtually always a caregiver for his younger siblings, passing Julianna her cup or some grapes while I’m nursing, safeguarding Nicholas from her overzealous love. Yes, we have battles…frequently…but for the most part I’ve taken them in stride, figuring it’s just the age of three. (And four?) But a couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law said, “Where did he get that strong will from?”

And suddenly I stopped and took stock, and I realized: He is strong-willed. The process was so organic that I didn’t realize it had happened at all. The answer to my brother-in-law’s question is that Christian and I are both pretty strong-willed ourselves, under the right circumstances. So that means that there are days in our household when all life is a battle. You will try what we gave you for dinner, or you will go to bed with no food at all. You will take a bath right now, or you’ll lose all your bedtime privileges (stuffed animals, light, etc.).

But then, there are days when we do just fine all day long. Like yesterday. And then I think, Maybe it is just the age of three and four. We had a great day yesterday.

Until last night, when I made Greek Pizza for dinner.

Now, I fully expected him to turn his nose up at it. In fact, I made mac & cheese for the little ones, b/c I didn’t expect them to eat the pizza—but I did expect them to try it. Julianna went along gamely, and then went berserk. She loved the stuff, cooked tomatoes, spinach, onions and all. (For the record, it’s really good.) Alex, however, refused to try it at all. Finally, I said dinner was over in 15 minutes, and I set the timer. When it goes off, I told him, there’s no more food. And you have to eat one bite of Greek Pizza before you get macaroni.

We spent 14 ½ minutes answering the question “How much time is left on the timer?” before he finally ate it, and pretended to gag because we always cave when he gags. Only this time, Christian made him swallow.

There’s an article at which lays out the “qualifications” for a strong-willed child. Here are some excerpts:

  • can move with lightning speed from a warm, loving presence to a cold, immovable force.
  • may argue the point into the ground, sometimes just to see how far into the ground the point will go.
  • can turn what seems to be the smallest issue into a grand crusade or a raging controversy.
  • doesn’t do things just because “you’re supposed to” –it needs to matter personally.
  • refuses to obey unconditionally—seems to always have a few terms of negotiation before complying.
  • is not afraid to try the unknown; to conquer the unfamiliar (although each SWC chooses his or her own risks).

I would like to add to the list:

  • Asks “Why?” for EVERY SINGLE INSTRUCTION, even when he’s been told “why” a hundred times before.

For instance:

“Alex, it’s time for bath.”



“Alex, you don’t get dessert unless you eat your dinner.”


I can feel it coming on; it’s like he takes a minute to gather a mental lightning bolt before he hurls it my way. Oh boy, here we go, I think, and I find my brain racing frantically to try to stay a step ahead of him, so I can work from a plan instead of reacting on the fly. At least I can be grateful that he gives my problem-solving skills a workout. On the Battle Days, I find myself trading wry glances with other parents…wry on their end; simply tired on mine.

I’d love to wrap up with some insight, some revelation that makes me feel better about it all, but the fact is that all I know to do is put my head into the wind and barrel on through, and pray that I stumble onto the right path to teach him to be, if not easier to handle in the short run, at least a good man when he reaches adulthood.