Parenting a strong-willed child

Two-year-old Aaron Smiley and his father are eyeball-to-eyeball, sitting on the stairs.journey-cover

“Aaron, you will not win,” says his father. “I will be with you every step of the way and you will not win.”

Why did Aaron want to win and control his world?
Because he was a strong-willed child.

When parents are raising a strong-willed child, they need to know that they don’t have to take the journey alone. In their updated book, Journey of a Strong-Willed Child, authors and speakers Kendra and John Smiley share the story of their second son’s development, offering advice and encouragement for parents blessed with a strong-willed child of their own. And in a particularly delightful twist, Aaron – now a responsible adult and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – adds his own comments to his parents’ wisdom.

“What is difficult for most people to understand is the motivation of a strong-willed child,” writes Aaron, reflecting on the scene on the stairs. “The strong-willed child may choose the stated punishment in order to be in control, especially if the child considers the punishment moderate.”

Is it possible that a child’s behavior can actually be predictable? That others have gone before and lived to tell about it? That a strong-willed child can one day mature into a contributing member of society? The answer to those questions, according to Kendra, John, and Aaron Smiley is a resounding “Yes!”

Journey of a Strong-Willed Child will arm parents with the encouragement and wisdom they need to meet the challenges of raising a strong-willed child. From pre-kindergarten to college, Journey of a Strong-Willed Child addresses each stage of a child’s development and offers proven advice, accompanied by a myriad of delightful anecdotes. Along the way, you’ll gain a new understanding of your child’s heart and a renewed sense of gratitude for the special person God created him to be. Engaging, insightful, and irresistible, it is a book that will touch your family for years to come.

More about Kendra Smiley:

Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
I am the youngest of three . . . Youngest by 10 years. I am the adult child of an alcoholic. My dad was a “pillar of the community,” a very able and talented dentist and an alcoholic. I grew up in a small town and was an overachiever who attended the University of Illinois (BS 1974), and received an MS from the University of North Dakota. My husband, John, and I have been married for 36+ years and actually like and love one another. We have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law and three grand-girls (one yet unborn). John was a strong-willed child and has a great passion to help folks parent their strong-willed kids with confidence. His upbringing was much more functional.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
Spare time? Hmmmm . . . I’m trying to remember what that looks like. ) I truly enjoy what God has given me to do: my speaking and writing. When I’m not doing those two things, you can usually find me laughing with our kids and grandkids or reading or sleeping. John is a retired USAF reserve pilot. He no longer flies professionally but still reads pilot magazines when he is not reading something more inspiring.

What has God been teaching you lately?
That I need to fight for my quiet time and not let the tyranny of the urgent win the battle. Also that I need to beef up my prayer life.

Where are you headed next?
Physically? To many fun and exciting speaking engagements around the US. Specifically to Chicago, IL next. Spiritually? Closer to God.

How did you get involved in writing?
I actually thought that everyone wanted to write a book someday. I met the editor of my first book and hand no idea that that is what she did for a living. She heard me speak and encouraged me to pick up my pen and write. She was a wonderful cheerleader in my life. John began writing with me because we felt the need for parents to hear both the voice of Mom and Dad.

How do you find time to write?
I look at it like a math assignment and assign myself a certain number of words that must be completed each day or week. Then I pound out those words whether I want to or not. I forgo some of the fun things that might become available because I have committed to finish the assignment. My definition of adult is someone who “does what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether he wants to or not.” In my writing, I am an adult whenever possible. I write at different times of the day. The only thing I need is a quiet room with minimal clutter.

What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
Writing the acknowledgments. )

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?
Choosing the topic for the next endeavor. That and being introspective and transparent.

Tell me about co-authoring a book. What was that process like? What was enjoyable? Difficult?
I have co-authored with both my husband and with our son. It takes a little longer, but it does feel like someone is helping me shoulder the load. Writing with our son was very interesting. I learned things that moms don’t usually discover. Some that made me laugh and some that made me cry. Also, because he was married and living in another city (and was in vet medicine school), it sometimes became complicated. Working with my husband was easier when it came to location. We are both willing to evaluate and be evaluated, so the process went well. (Please note: when he “evaluated” me it didn’t always make me smile, but he was usually right.)

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Go for it! I never discourage someone even if I don’t understand precisely what their passion might be. Read! Attend a writer’s conference. Sing the song that God has put inside of you!

Where did you get the idea for the book?
Our strong-willed child became a responsible adult, but it was not without great effort on our part. We witnessed so many kids who were not only strong-willed, but misunderstood. God had placed a song inside of them, but they seemed incapable of singing that song. Many times it was because of the confusion and lack of confidence of their parents.

What are the major themes of the book?
We answer questions like: how do you identify a strong-willed child? What are the incorrect assumptions made about a strong-willed child? How do you discipline a strong-willed child? How can you encourage and appreciate a strong-willed child?

How do you know if you have a “strong-willed” child?
Dr. Dobson, noted expert on the strong-willed child, wrote that a strong-willed child “seems to be born with a clear idea of how he (or she) wants the world to be operated and an intolerance for those who disagree.” But wait…there’s more! A strong-willed child does not necessarily want to control everyone else; he simply wants to control his world.  And mom and dad, you are in the way! A strong-willed child has a strategy, so as the parent, you must have a strategy too. A strong-willed child is often defiant, but can also be charming or amusing in order to gain control. The strong-willed child is “gifted” in manipulation. He or she is willing to take punishment in order to “win,” especially if the consequence is deemed inadequate or insignificant by the child. These children are often misunderstood. They are NOT bad, or mean or stupid.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
We hope that readers will learn to love, encourage, discipline, and appreciate their strong-willed child. We believe that these kids are a wonderful gift from God and that he can give their parents wisdom to help each strong-willed child sing his or her song to God.

Meet the author of Journey of a Strong-Willed Child, Kendra Smiley.
Kendra Smiley is an author, speaker, and radio show host. She married John over 35 years ago and with him raised three sonkendrajohn-bws.

A natural-born entrepreneur, Kendra kept the home fires burning, while growing a home-based business, serving as a youth leader in her church for over 20 years, and staying active in her community. Her work as a mother, entrepreneur, church and community leader did not go unnoticed. In 2001, she was chosen as the Illinois Mother of the Year.

She has written more than half a dozen books, spoken to thousands around the country (and abroad), founded and distributed a daily radio program – today heard on more than 40 stations. Kendra connects with people wherever she is – teaching individuals to make the next right choice.

Learn more about Kendra at

Other Tour Stops:
A Peek at My Bookshelf
A Spacious Place
Book Nook Club
Bookish Mom Reviews
Dee’s Christian Fiction
Dishpan Dribble
Gatorskunz and Mudcats
His Reading List
In the Dailies
Inspired Reflections
Leaving a Legacy
Lighthouse Academy
Real Women Scrap
Refresh My Soul
Ross Road Kids
The Thinking Mother
Unique Parenting
Willing Hands


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