Fighting with Your “Spirited” Child

So, maybe you’re the mom to a child who seems to challenge you on every level.

You’ve read all the books and listened to all the advice from discipline techniques, reward programs, and food dyes. You’ve endured judgment and stares and tears in the car…and the bathroom…and the kitchen. You’ve felt the overwhelming burden of raising such a child and responded with both grace and haste to the calling before you.

You are a mother to a “spirited” child.


Maybe that child is no longer little and you’re wondering, worrying what the future holds.

Fighting with Your Spirited Child

It was one of my most humbling and embarrassing mommy moments. The room was quiet and attentive, a room full of eager moms. It was a Love and Logic seminar and we were learning techniques for parenting. Suddenly, I felt completely alone. I was mom to only 2 at the time. One was an infant and the other was a nearly 3 year old strong willed boy. I had read every book on parenting that I could get my hands on. I was consistent and clear. While I was by no means a perfect parent, I tried all the things other parents seemed to be using successfully only to feel exhausted at their failure.

Tears started streaming and I raised my hand. I don’t know what compelled me to raise my hand in that moment. That’s not exactly my style. I’m generally pretty private, but in that moment I felt as I might burst. I asked through overwhelming tears what to do when you’ve tried all the things the experts say, and they still don’t work. See, I realized in the moment, that there was some belief that given the right formula the child would respond perfectly regardless of the specifics of the child. I also knew that wasn’t the case.

Afterwards, a few moms came over to me and told me about their children who didn’t fit into these parameters either. Some told me that it would get better by a certain age. More than one mentioned age 10. That was a long way from 3, but at least there was hope.

Since everything was a challenge and the typical didn’t seem to work for my boy, I decided to do things differently, giving this anxiety over to the Lord. I prayed over him at night when he slept. I prayed through tears in my own bed and all throughout our day. We focused on scripture instead of just behavioral modification. I knew if the seeds were planted, God would do His work in him even when I couldn’t.

I went through this mothering journey worried and overwhelmed about my performance and my boy’s for so many years. Our challenges changed throughout the years, but we never seemed to be absent of them. Our journey was just not a smooth one. As I had other kids, each with their own unique personalities and smoother journeys, I began to watch as God taught me something about strong willed and spirited kids, especially my own.

As my first born grew, I watched him read his bible for hours, interpret the Word better than some adults, and be downright prophetic at times. The same kid that seems to test us at every turn, can also be the sweetest, most encouraging child. He is gentle hearted, loving, and so compassionate. He has big dreams and most of them involve saving others either physically or with the gospel. He adores his younger siblings and can be so very responsible. His heart is in line with the Lord.

I can see that God has huge plans for his life.

And then there is the struggle…the anger, the anxiety, the testing. It’s been a messy, exhausting, and yet beautiful journey.

What I’ve realized through the years is that some of this struggle is outside of him. It is beyond even his comprehension. The enemy pokes and prods and ruffles his edges. He makes seemingly simple things seem impossible to my young boy. He makes him question his faith, struggle with transition, and forget to be grateful. He is constantly tested, and why wouldn’t he be?

There is a reason “spirited” is so often the perfect name for these kids. They hold the very spirit of God. They have the determination, the perseverance, the fortitude to press on and seek the Lord. God built them this way for a reason. They are to be the very soldiers in His Kingdom.

The enemy, knowing this, fights against them, hoping to bring down a warrior and weaken the Kingdom. It is a battle so many of these kids face, a spiritual battle within themselves.

I’m not suggesting we don’t hold these kids accountable, or that we don’t encourage self-control or respect. But, when you can see who the enemy is, who you are fighting, it makes the journey a little clearer.

We aren’t fighting against these kids. We’re fighting with them.

When exhaustion hits us, we know who to turn to…the One who defeats the enemy. When our kids are struggling, we know where to point them without hesitation. We know to arm them with scripture and pray with them for the strength only Christ can offer. Our mission is clearer and somehow, though the path may still be riddled with hard days, exhaustion, and tears, we know that redemption will reign because we are in the midst of a Kingdom fight. We remember to seize the joy and take note of every bit of blossoming fruit.

These kids need our encouragement when we feel like punishing. They need to be reminded they are more than the sum of their past mistakes and see the vision of who God designed them to be. They need to be loved, like the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love, even when they’ve brought us to our breaking point. We need to link arms with them and fight against the accuser. There is so often shame and guilt within their struggle, and it is up to us to show them the freedom that comes at the foot of the cross.

When they grab hold of it with all their might, we can be certain they will never let it go. They are, after all, some of the greatest fighters we’ve ever known. It won’t be easy, as you already know. Some days we will be all too ready to throw in the white flag. But, you were handpicked for the fight you have in you. God knows a warrior when He creates one…what amazing work He is doing through you.

So, to all those moms out there, who have passed the toddler tantrums and continued on a trying path with their spirited child, fight the fight. You have been chosen for Kingdom Work. And, like Hannah who was blessed to mother Samuel or Mary who raised the Savior, there is such value to your days.

You are a missionary on a battlefield training a warrior for Christ.



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  1. Brandy, I rarely share parenting posts on Facebook because too often they are full of self-help tips and techniques that leave the reader feeling as though if they could only do the right things the right way than all would be well. As mom of a “spirited” child as well, I know the struggle, the tears, the anger, and sometimes the shame of feeling like a failure as a parent when all of the recommended techniques just. don’t. work. Bless you for sharing Kingdom truths for fighting for your child instead of fighting him or her. Hugs…

    • BrandyHynes says:

      Oh Wendy, thank you for those sweet words. I know exactly what you mean, as I, too, have struggled with sharing parenting posts that may leave a parent feeling defeated instead of encouraged. I have felt for some time that I wanted to encourage other parents of spirited children, but was so worried something in my words would leave them feeling not enough. So thank you. It is so important that in the raising of all children we see their God designed uniqueness and seek a kingdom perspective. Hugs to you too sweet friend. You are such an inspiration to me.

  2. Wendy Chin says:

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability! It seems rare these days.
    Oh, how we have to battle daily to protect ourselves and little ones He shares with us. I believe that we often do not take the spiritual side of things to be truth and look for an outside answer. Maybe it just seems easier or I assume, most are not aware. I know I wasnt.
    Thank you sweet sister for walking your path and keep up the good works! Xo

    • BrandyHynes says:

      You are right, Wendy, it is a daily battle for all of us. But, the Lord is faithful when we trust in His word. You are a blessing to me.

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