How my strong-willed child is changing me—for the better

They say that parenting is all about picking your battles, but most days I feel as though the battles are picking me.

How my strong-willed child is changing me—for the better

These days, everything is a battle with my strong-willed girl. She refuses most of the food I put in front of her, throwing it on the floor when I’m not looking, the thud causing every muscle in my body to tense.

She tries to squirm out of my arms when I lift her to the sink to wash her hands, as if I’m leading her into an act of torture. She thrashes around during diaper changes and arches her back as I try to buckle her into the carseat or the stroller or the high chair.

She’s also in the middle of the 18-month sleep regression, so my normally champion sleeper has become a champion sleep-fighter. She cries as I rock her and try to calm her down, cries when I put her in the crib, cries when I whisper reassurances that I love you and I know this is hard and you’re just so tired and everything will feel better after a few hours of sleep. (And everything will feel better after a few hours apart.)


She stands in her crib, crying in protest, and I return every few minutes to let her know I’m here and she’s safe. Eventually she calms herself, but in her stubbornness, remains standing, laying her head down on the edge of her crib. I watch her on the monitor as she starts to doze, her little legs wobbling and her eyelids heavy with sleep.

I find myself thinking a refrain from these last few months: When will it get easier? What I mean by that today is, Will we ever get to a day when not everything is a battle?

I long to be the calm, cool, collected mom. The one who navigates her toddler’s tantrums with empathy and understanding at all times. I pat myself on the back in the moments when I keep my cool even though everything in me wants to yell.

But too often I find that I’m bottling up my own feelings rather than dealing with them, and we all know how that story ends.

I know that my toddler’s whole job is to be an explorer of her world: to open cabinets and dump out the contents, to figure out which household items bounce when they hit the floor and which ones don’t, to push her limits and test her boundaries and determine what is hot, cold, bad, good, scratchy, soft, frustrating, fun.

I want to encourage her to be that explorer, even if it makes my house a mess. I want to let her feel her Very Big Feelings, support her through her meltdowns, remember that she’s not trying to be difficult.

But just as everything is a battle with my daughter, everything is also a battle with myself.

I battle my highly sensitive tendencies as she throws her tantrums. One of my biggest triggers is noise, so it’s so hard for me to remain calm in the moments when she’s screaming and I just need her to do this one incredibly simple task. I battle my need for order as she pulls an open bag of cheese off the counter (how did she even reach it?) and dumps it all over my freshly cleaned floors. I battle the guilt in the moments when her very normal frustration makes me irrationally angry, when I want to choose patience and instead I choose resistance.

They say that parenting is all about picking your battles, but most days I feel as though the battles are picking me, unrelenting and unyielding—and I know they will continue.

They may become less physical as my daughter grows, but they will be no less real and no less trying. Battles over chores and screen time and curfew and clothing will continue to consume me, if I let them.

For now, I’m trying to flip my perspective: I am my daughter’s ally, not her enemy.

It’s difficult to be her ally when she refuses my help, but I will keep offering this to her, extending not a white flag of surrender but an olive branch of peace.

I don’t want to discipline this wild spirit out of her, but I do want to help her harness it for good. I don’t want to punish her for doing age-appropriate things, but I do want to help her develop into a mature and responsible and capable human. My spirited Selah is a force to be reckoned with, and I want that to always be true of her.

There are no easy ways to measure the results of this parenting stuff—the daily work of shaping and shepherding, of disciplining and teaching, of showing up and telling the truth.

Even so, I set my long-term goals as high and far as I can: If my feisty little girl grows into a gutsy woman, one who knows the power of her no and the value of her body and the worth of her spirit, then I’ll have done my job.

The process to get there remains a mystery, one I’ll never stop trying to unravel for her sake, for mine, for the world’s.

In This Article

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    It’s science: Vacations make your kids happy long after they’re over

    Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

    Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

    Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

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    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.


    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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