It Takes a Great One

As you guys might remember, our family experienced a D- cross-country flight to Seattle last month. Mal and I still joke about how “scarring” it was.

Toward the end of the flight, an older woman came up to us and said that she had watched our family since we boarded the plane and that Quinn reminded her so much of her oldest son. She didn’t comment on Quinn’s behavior, but instead she leaned in and said: “He’s going to do great things.” She continued with a few words about her own son and then reminisced about some of their travel “adventures” over the years. She also shared a sweet story that actually inspired this blog post. She said when her son was grown (I assume adult age), he made her a birthday card. On the outside, he put a photograph of her and, on the inside, it said: “It takes a great one to raise a great one.” Maybe I was exhausted/frustrated from dealing with a crank-monster toddler all morning, but my eyes immediately welled up to the point that I felt kind of silly as I thanked her for her story and kind words. They were just what I needed to hear.

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Qman is truly a sweet boy and so kind to others, but his behavior on the plane that day was not out of the ordinary. He’s VERY strong-willed and only does what he wants to do– to the point where he’ll tantrum for up to an hour (if we let him) and nearly make himself vomit because he’s so worked up. That whole “ignore the tantrum” thing does not work for our family.

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I actually used to get upset that we had such a “difficult” child and wished that he was easygoing like other kids. But, in recent months, I’ve really started to appreciate our strong-willed little dude and realized that strong-willed children are a blessing, not a curse. I (definitely) don’t have all the answers with regard to parenting a strong-willed kid (although, wine seems to help), but I know there are parents in the same boat as us, and I just wanted to give you some reassurance that 1) this stage shall pass and 2) our children have such strong wills because they NEED to accomplish great things later in life. Knowing this and remembering the woman from the plane keeps me going when things get tough. Especially when I’m about to lose my patience, I remind myself: “It takes a great one to raise a great one.” I constantly gain strength from these words, and I hope you will too.


Additional pieces about strong-willed children that I like and have found helpful:

Why I’m Glad to Have a Strong-Willed Child

Why it’s good to have a strong-willed child, and why you should let up on them

Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child


  1. We had a very very difficult toddler to the point we never went anywhere I was also extremely resentful ! He’s now 10 and hands down the easiest kid !! Does what he’s told never talks back and just a sweet boy just give it time! I’ve been there !!

  2. I can identify! My daughter was the most sweet little baby until about 3 weeks before turning 2. Out of nowhere screaming kicking hitting throwing became our norm. At that exact moment we also had baby number 2 and things got even worse. Any sound that came from the baby resulted in our 2 yr old tantrum ing like I’d never seen. We were in e.i. for speech and they said they had never seen anything like it. They suspected a sensory processing disorder and we started looking into what this was and how to help her. Fast forward one entire year later and she is a loving big sister who listens to her pare ts and is happy and for the most part tantrum free. Our e.i. workers said they no longer felt she had any signs of a processing disorder. Her speech is now advanced for her age (last summer she said mama dada and no). She finished w e.i. about 2 weeks ago. If a tantrum arises it usually last for under 5 mins. Every once in a while we get a doozy but we have found that when she’s out of control like that a hug will calm her right down. There’s so many tips and strategies out there some will help some will blow up in your face. We found that consistency helped the most but it took a WHOLE YEAR of it for her to realize that we meant business. My heart goes out to you I know the feeling of Watchung your baby get so out of control and not k owing what to do to help. Tapping out helped us a lot. Your patience sure takes a beating! I truly do think our strong willed kids will grow up to do amazing things!

  3. Thanks for sharing!! I’m in the same boat with my 2 y/o daughter – she’s super sweet and fun but man can she be difficult/strong-willed! I agree wine helps A LOT and knowing that it’ll get better in time 🙂

  4. Oh friend! I have to say, I ALWAYS read your beautiful posts/social media on Quinn and thought to myself, “he is always so well behaved.” I’ve even used him as an example to my husband as to why our almost 2-year-old can’t be more well mannered in public like Quinn seems to be. So hearing you write this post just makes me feel like I too have a normal strong-willed little toddler who also throws epic tantrums and it’s 100% OK! I always tell myself, “I am raising a little leader” and that often helps me get through the hard moments. Quinn is just precious, tantrums and all! Thanks for this post this morning as I listen to Grayson uncontrollably crying because his blackberries just fell on the floor. 🙂

  5. How wonderful of that woman to share that thought with you. Some day you will be able to say the same thing to a young family on a flight.

    I can relate. We also had a VERY strong willed toddler (actually up until about age 4.5). We gave consistent and firm limits and tons and tons of love. He is now 8 and so sweet and flexible. He is still strong in his convictions, but can “go with the flow”. Keep up the good work, you’ve got this!

  6. Oh my goodness! I can completely relate to this. I think when you are used to being in control and then a small person who WILL NOT be controlled comes into your life it can be super hard. Our kids are older now (7,9, 11 and 13) but our 13 year old was an absolute nightmare. It’s amazing we had an more after her! She used to be unable to share anything with anyone and playdates always descended into tantrums. Once she actually bit a little boy who was round playing because he broke her train track. It was mortifying and I worried that I was somehow doing it all wrong. She is now very intelligent, sporty and basically lovely. Looking back, I think she had strong ideas about what she wanted and when someone changed that (especially a child who randomly broke up her imaginary game) she didn’t know how to deal with it. I think that if you are intelligent you perhaps have a more intense sense of what you want to do without the maturity to understand compromise? None of the other have been as bad (although all have had their moments) but I think life is very different for a first child. the others have only known sharing and companionship. First children have to play on their own. You are doing a great job. You are not alone. The one thing about children is that each stage moves on…

  7. Tina, you always are so open and honest on here…which is why I always come back for more :). I have a 13 month old and just yesterday we were commenting on how tiring it is. I always find myself thinking, “how can anyone have more than one kid?”. But, then they cuddle on your shoulder or hug you at just the right time and I want a baby immediately! Quinn is the cutest and you and Mal seem like amazing parents. Keep up the good work, you aren’t alone!

  8. I remember crying during the middle of a toddler music class because Riley was so out of control. At playgroups she was always badly behaved and I used to get so embarrassed because I thought it was a reflection on my parenting. You are definitely not alone with your feelings…he is just trying to figure out his place in the world and egocentric toddlers are like little dictators! 🙂 You and Mal are wonderful – hang in there. The days are long but the years are short ❤️

  9. What a sweet lady! I know what you mean about Quinn’s tantrums. My favorite coping strategy with my 2 year old is to take her for a walk outside, even and especially in the middle of a tantrum. Sounds crazy but being outside calms us both down and then we can talk about what happened and how my little one is feeling.

  10. I have been there. My first child was high needs from day one, not sleeping, crying for hours on end, throwing tantrums and when ever I picked him up from daycare I would hear how difficult he was, but you know what it gets better. He is turning four next week and we have had some big changes in the last year and he is now in an awesome school that loves and supports him and all I hear from his teachers is how delightful, curious, and intelligent he is. We still have our moments with him, but he is truly turning into a wonderful human being. I would never change his strong-willingness because I know that will lead him to great things one day. The hardest part of it all is how much I felt judged by others and by myself. Here is some advice that I should abide by as well. You know your kid, do not compare him to any other child and do not let others compare him either. Kids are their own beings and deserve the chance to create their own identity. It seems to me you and Mal are doing a wonderful job!

  11. I don’t have kids so I can only imagine how hard this stage can be. We just studied this in nutrition school. Children are definitely wanting independence at this stage, but they don’t have the ability to understand how their wants affect others. It will pass. Stay strong!

  12. Posts like this definitely hit home for me. I have a 3.5 Year old (AKA a total “THREENAGER”) a 20 month old who is entering the terrible 2s, and due in 5 weeks with #3. Both the older ones are strong willed, but in very different ways. There are days I think “what did I do wrong” and there are days where I’m like, wow, these are the best two kids ever. It ebbs and flows and though I don’t have all the answers on how to deal with the outbursts, I just take it day by day and know that it is normal, and that this too shall pass. Bigger kids = bigger problems. We will all look back and wish for a tantrum when our babies are learning how to drive, or going off to their first prom. Thanks for posting as always!

  13. God bless that woman. She probably had no idea how badly you needed to hear that. I had a similar situation when my kids were really small. They’re 1 1/2 years apart and were misbehaving in Target. A sweet woman asked how close in age they were and if they got along with each other. My response was that I was very blessed with kids that like to play together and get along. Her response: “No dear, that’s called good parenting.” Made my heart sing for the rest of the day!

  14. This was very helpful and I can definitely relate. I have two toddlers and one is very “spirited” and physical. The other is very soft-natured. It’s funny how your children’s temperament can vary so much. And yes, it can be sooo frustrating and challenging to deal with at times, but they are their own little people with ideas and needs. I am glad to know my daughter is strong-willed and can express herself – I know she’ll be able to take care of herself one day. And yes wine is a HUGE help. 🙂

  15. Thank you for this post! I love your parenting perspective and I love when people’s words touch you at the most perfect time. I am parenting my very opinionated 16 month old and I feel like we are just entering this territory. Hang in there mama, you are doing a great job 🙂

  16. I have a little blonde, strong willed boy too. They are difficult at times but man do they love their mamas just as much! I love that woman’s story because I keep hoping his strong behavior will lead to him doing strong things in his life. Thanks for sharing! Quinn is adorable even if he is a little hard headed.

  17. Having worked with children for over 30 years….I can tell you that the ones with “spirit” and “gumption” and are raised by caring, kind, accepting parents are the ones that will be great adults! And the parents who keep it all real……and can figure out how to appreciate the strong will even though they want to pull their own hair out in the moment???? They are already great………

  18. Speaking from experience, the willful-stage will definitely pass. Keep using all of the familiar calming tactics that you’ve been doing to work both yourself and Q through the meltdowns. He will draw comfort from the consistency. Hang in there.

  19. It sounds like your son might be a Manifestor – which only 8% of the population actually are. It sounds like classic ‘symptoms’ of a Manifestor child (and btw yes they turn out to be trail-blazers!). It’s one of the ‘types’ classified by Human Design and you might wanna check his by entering his birth time and date into – if you need any more info let me know as I’d be happy to help 🙂

  20. I needed to see this today, because my daughter and I clashed heads again yesterday. She’s 28. I’m 59. But ALWAYS, the good days outweigh the bad days. Hang in there, Tina!

  21. Tina, thank you for sharing. I love that this woman approached you with those words of encouragement. We have a 15 month old and there are definitely more days than not where we feel defeated. Sometimes getting through the days means letting him have the ipad or watch cartoons and I know they say no screen time before 2 but what else are you supposed to do? My husband is currently a stay at home dad for the time being and the stress of being with a toddler all day definitely affects his mood which in turn affects my mood. I know that this will pass and that the days are long but the years are short. Quinn seems like a great kid and if he turns out to be half the adult you and Mal are he will be great! Take care, it’s only Tuesday!

  22. Thanks so much for this post! Our almost 29 month old is VERY strong willed and lives in little Claire world- but all toddlers obviously think it’s all about them; especially the not wanting to share and everything is MINE! Patience and wine helps, but I prefer the latter on more trying days. My daughter is a smart cookie though and just like Quinn, very sweet and kind ( when they want to be) so, take a sip mama. we’re good. xo

  23. When things get tough, sometimes I have to reframe my thinking that dealing with the kids when they are difficult is helping to make me a more patient, better mom and person in general. It is hard to see it and think that way in the moment, but over time it works. And you are doing a great job! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Tina, I totally relate! My son is SUPER strong willed and it can be really hard to deal with. It gets very stressful when you are worried about how strangers (and sometimes even friends) will react to your child’s behavior. It’s nice to know there are others out there in the same boat. My husband was apparently exactly like my son as a child and he’s turned out to be a super successful and genuine person. Thanks for writing this.

  25. Hang in there! I have three children- 7, 5, and 2.5 years, and the oldest is extremely strong willed. She has been since she was born, and now that’s she is school aged, it is only getting worse. LOL. Everyone tells me that she’s going to be a successful leader someday due to her personality traits, but for now….. not for sure how the teenage years will be!

  26. I’m from central Pennsylvania and have been reading your blog for about 5 years. In that time span I have had my daughter (now 4) and my son (born 3/2/2014). It’s been so fun to read along as your son and my son go through similar milestones. So often I see toys and clothes that my son has as well (like the tricycle in this blog post!) I didn’t realize the strong-willed nature of your son since your posts always look very fun and pleasant, but that is also my son to a tee! I took a lot from your post, so thank you. Helps to know others are out there experiences similarly and raising great ones! -Kelly

  27. haha i love this! Reminds me of what my mom says about me as a kid. I was ALWAYS getting in trouble in school, because I would question the teacher, always stood up for myself, and argue what I thought was correct, etc. My mom tells me now that it was a pain at that time but she also knew it meant that I would grow up to be a strong woman who could stick up for myself and knew the value of my own opinion and intelligence. (all certainly super super true of me now 😉 )

    Hang in there!!

  28. Awwww I love this so much! It’s a very raw look at the challenges of motherhood and I admire how you were able to reframe the situation. Everyone says that we have an “easy” baby but nothing feels easy to us! Maybe it’s that you never really know how hard parenting is until you are in the thick of it. Anyway, I love this sentiment and will keep it in mind on the challenging days!

  29. YES!!!!! My little girl was born about a month before Quinn, and girl, I FEEL YOU! Seeing other moms with “easy” kids and wondering what the hell I was doing wrong was a regular worry for me for months and months. Finally I’m (usually) at a place where I really see how she is who she is, it has nothing to do with me, but that when my husband and I change our energy and are respectful of her needs and feelings, she is such an awesome kid. We feel blessed to have her because she’s made us so much more patient and aware.

    P.S. A nurse told me to “put her in her crib and leave her when she has a tantrum.” Yeah right! Lol, that would not “teach” her anything and would make things a zillion times worse. If people didn’t have strong-willed/spirited kids, they don’t know what it’s like. Oh yeah, check out that book called “Raising Your Spirited Child,” it’s great. XO

  30. Our oldest is 5 and has always been strong willed and we had some very similar flight experiences. The great thing I can see in my strong willed kid is that as he goes to school he will not be the kid that folds to peer pressure or bullying. Also, our second little guy who was born in January is the most laid back little guy and you really appreciate the difference after the challenges of the first.

  31. We also did a cross country flight last year with our toddler son, and it was very difficult. I went to the restroom during the flight and could hear my son screaming the entire time. I got glares and stares from many people, but one sweet and gentle lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘it must feel wonderful to be so needed and wanted’ – I started getting teary-eyed right then and there. Not only was this woman very gracious during a stressful time, but she reminded me what is important….

  32. Thanks for sharing such a great and honest post. My daughter is also very, very strong willed and stubborn. I also struggled and felt like I was constantly telling her no. My personality is vastly different from hers so I didn’t understand. I’ve worked over the past few weeks to appreciate how strong she is and how much I know she will be able to accomplish. I’m even hoping some of her strength and self confidence rubs off on me!

  33. Sounds like my Ben! He is exceptionally independent and active! We half-jokingly say he exhibits “leadership skills”. 😉 It’s something that makes me proud but also makes it very difficult whenever we’re doing group activities with other kids (he loves reading but we CANNOT go to story time at the library — he’s running laps around the room!). He’ll be 2 in September, so I’ll have to check out some of those links!

  34. Wow! Thank you for sharing! My son is 6 and VERY strong-willed. lol! I thought he would out grown it or become easier but with every year he becomes more and more his own strong person, but, like you I have come to embrace it. Yes, some days are long, but I love that he is his own person and a leader in a way. My husband and I are always telling ourselves we don’t want to break his spirit, but it’s challenging being his parent sometimes. I will have to check out the links. Thanks again!

  35. My kid is super mellow (Quinn’s age, so who knows what our future holds!), but we’re just hitting that tantrum stage. I constantly say to my husband, “How do parents do this with kids who are more intense than ours?” I seriously admire parents who have been blessed with high-energy or strong-willed kids. I’m pregnant with our second now, and I’m scared he or she will be the complete opposite of our mellow first-born! Thanks for sharing this to ease my mind. Truthfully, all children are a blessing, and we need strong-willed kids to lead the way, fight for change, and improve our world! My husband and I always wish we had a little more fight in us to push for more career-wise or negotiate a better deal, so maybe if we have a strong-willed child we’ll learn a thing or two!

    P.S. I love watching your parenting journey. Our kids are only a few weeks apart, and even though they’re different I really love to see your perspective and approach!

  36. I love this post! I can see this being me very soon. Our 4 month hold already seems to be strong welled at times. He is easy going but will let you know what he does and does not want. I have no doubt you are doing an amazing job and he will do great things.

  37. Don’t worry. After raising 4, I found the toddler age the toughest and when I defo needed some . You’re not alone.
    They don’t call it the terrible two’s for nothing! Toddlerhood is absolutely the stubborn stage. It usually gets easier when they start school.

  38. I have a very strong willed 2 year old little girl! I hear you. Check out “you can’t make me – but I can be persuaded” by cythia Tobias.

  39. It’s amazing what kind words can do! How nice of that woman to say them to you. There’s a book by James Dobson called The New Strong-Willed Child. I haven’t read the new version, but the old version was very helpful raising my kids.

  40. i LOVE what this woman told you…definitely passing this along!
    as someone who does not have kids nor (probably) wants them, i do work with them all day, every day, and this is really informative…all the comments and links…and is really helpful believe it or not. i cannot even imagine what all you parents go through day in and day out, and i like to be able to at least have a perspective for that little 30-60 minutes i spend with them.
    you and mal are awesome parents and i know your little man is beyond well taken care of 🙂

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