Parenting the Determined Child By the Gospel of Grace

She digs in her heals and sets her face like flint, with this tenacious spirit she has — God will use. She is diligent and responsible. She is my most studious one. She loves deeply. She excels at anything she attempts, and succeeds at anything she puts her hand to. She is a runner, and the horse-loving one. She is also, the determined one. She will do great exploits for His Kingdom in her lifetime.

I know it.

But today, I parent her. No book or seminar could have adequately prepare this mama to walk day in and day out, and get through the days I’m not sure how to walk — parenting a strong-willed child. There are parts of her that are too big for me, but not too big for God, for she is just as He created her. She keeps me on my knees, leaning on the One Who provides me wisdom, despite my faults.

She was a mere nine months when I knew, as she tried to dominate her compliant 5 year old sister, that she was born with a fight in her. Sometimes, I feel so ineffective in teaching her God’s ways. How could she say the things she does, how she says them? The words, the tone, the inflection of her voice, they sound so familiar. My heart sinks low, in repentance. They are my words, my tone, my inflection. She is so much a reflection of who I am. And what is most challenging, is she emulates the parts of me I am least fond of.

How could I be the person of choice to parent such a determined one? Sometimes, I wonder. Then others days, I think, what did I do to deserve the privilege of parenting such a beautiful gift? Any given day, I cannot parent without grace — not without bowing low to receive it. I seek to parent like He parents — grace-based parenting — living the gospel of grace  — gospel parenting.

For Wisdom — I seek on my knees.

His Strength — I need unending.

Only the Spirit of God can truly reach our heart of hearts, as He said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63) His Word is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) I have seen before my own eyes, as she reads His Word, her heart melt like wax. Her eyes well-up as she sees her reflection in the mirror of His Word. This is how she is changed. This is how we are changed. The stealth working power of His Word — power to transform hearts. A power, working silent and unseen, until the harvest of it. I must be faithful in sowing seeds of His Living Word in the soil of her soul, their souls.

I must remember, “It is not my job to fix and change. My job is to depend, serve and equip. This is the work of grace.” (Jeff VanVonderen)

I cannot make her love.

The same way I cannot be made to love.

I love because You first loved me.

Let it be Lord that my life permeates Your love.

Help me aid her in seeking You so that she would know You —

know Your grace, know Your love for her.


I must love when it is hard.

Love like Christ, even when it is not promised in return.

In that moment, when in my weakness, I want her far, I draw her close.

In that moment when her behavior has me wanting to run the other way,

I draw near to her.

In that moment when she turns away and rejects me,

is the moment I pull her in, and hold her tightly.

When I feel her distant from me, in those few moments I could lose the connection I worked so hard to gain, I release the desire for outward conformity, and consider her heart. In that moment when my default is to say “Go! I cannot deal with you anymore.” She instead hears murmured in her ear, as I embrace her — ALL of her, “There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you less, and everyday I love you more and more. I love you no matter what I may find you doing or hear you saying. I love you no matter what choices you make in your life today, or any day after. There is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.”

I whisper until I know she knows, I love her fierce, no matter what.

Love is the only conquering force. I hold her until she concedes in my arms. I pray that she will surrender all to the Arms of the One that promises He will NEVER let her go. She rests her head close to my heart, as hers is pliable. I pray she turns to the One Who will not ever condemn it. I pray that she somehow knows that this love I demonstrate, I only can because of Christ’s love demonstrated. I pray she would know it — that we will know it together.

That she will be able to take in, with all followers of Jesus, the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Knowing, God can do anything — far more than she could ever imagine or guess or request in her wildest dreams! He does it NOT by pushing us around, but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Ephesians 3:18-20


  • Audra Silva

    The photo, desire for your daughter, and your mother’s heart – all beautiful. Thanks for expressing this mother’s heart, too.

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you 🙂 Thank you… Only by His grace can we parent by His grace. I rest in that, even through all my mistakes 🙂

      Blessings to you, sweet friend…

  • Court

    Grace to you and thank you for sharing. Would that I would respond that way more and not snapping: go away!

    • Michele-Lyn


      Truth be told… I still snap more than I would like, but less and less everyday. We can truly walk and parent His way, by the grace and strength He provides.

      Blessings to you… and thank you for stopping by here 🙂

  • [email protected]

    I have a strong-willed child. I admire the example you set here. I noticed especially how you spent the first paragraphs telling us how God will *use* her unique personality to do great things. Rather than killing her spirit, or dampening it, you see the beauty that is uniquely hers.

    Your words mentor me.

    I’m so.very.glad that you linked.

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you, again, for taking the time to comment here at my place. It truly humbles me. Ah… but I do need to say, this “example” of showing grace, has come after lots and lots of doing the opposite. It takes so much practice to positively parent and focus on all the amazing gifts my pre-teen beauty has. I get it wrong many more times than I get it right. Even today, I had to ask her forgiveness. I need His grace to show grace, and I am learning, a bit slowly, but learning 🙂

      Thank you for affirming me… I am so glad I found your place 🙂 Your light shining helps me find my way!

  • Pamela Swan

    I loved this article. I am on the other side of most of this, my oldest are 21, 20 and 13 now. Funny we had a discussion that my oldest was soooo strong willed, and would I have done anything differently. It amazed me that we decided no. The discipline she has gained, and wow did she ever test me as a mom, has made her into a very confident woman of today, who is going after what she wants in life! She is decisive, organized, a doit now girl. Funny how all the clean your room now, well if you could choose this or this what would you choose? all these parenting things, have shaped her into who she is today! So moms out there, hang tough, it will pay off!

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and wise words. I have a daughter who is almost 18 years old, and she was so easy to parent. Her sister, who is the determined one, is just entering her teen years and I pray for much more grace to help us navigate our way through. I do see so many incredible gifts that God has given her, and I pray that He would use me well, to help draw them out so they can be developed and used for His glory.

      Thank you again and I will “hang tough” 🙂

  • Shanda Oakley

    Your writing is beautiful and I felt like I was in your heart speaking. I also have a daughter and she just turned 18. I know a mother’s heart and I want my daughter (and sons) to love God above all else.

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you so much for this beautiful comment. You bless me here. I too, have a daughter who will be 18 years old in June. Only by His grace can we parent and lead these precious beauties 🙂

      Blessings to you!

  • Christina

    I have a strong willed child myself. In fact, that’s what his name literally means:) I can’t force or change anything about him. It’s only the work of God’s grace in his heart that will mold him. I have to reflect that grace to him. Thanks for this post! I needed it today, after a particularly difficult afternoon:) Blessings to you!

    • Michele-Lyn


      I spent a lot of time trying to force my girl to conform. The more I tried the harder it got. She does not respond well at all to negative reinforcement, which is my default. I had to learn and I am still learning how to parent positively and offer so much grace. Sometimes I think, “she doesn’t deserve this.” That is when I know she needs it all the more. Only by His grace, can we offer it.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your precious thoughts with me 🙂 Blessings to you!

  • Shaunie Friday

    Oh Michele-Lyn,
    Your post, including its breathtakingly beautiful picture, is just pulsing with the fierce love you speak of! As the mother of a son with parts too big for me (and not too big for God), I know how much parenting this one requires of you, how it drives you to your knees and how it lifts you to heights you could never have imagined before her! Also, as the mother of a daughter, I know too the complexities of a daughter’s emotions and the tendency to pull away–you are right on the money to hold her fast until she knows you’re not going anywhere, that your love only grows, and that there is nothing she can do that will lose you! You’re a rock star at this!! It’s obvious that you are that Rock Star mom because of how humbly you rely on God to help you parent this maddening/dazzling/going-big-places girl!

    I don’t really think you need any help, but just in case you’ve never read it, I will refer you to a book that was like pure gold for me in parenting my son–it is “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The subtitle captured me the moment I read it: “A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is MORE Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic”–sound familiar? It is a very positive approach to understanding and navigating some of the battles you may be experiencing–that can make all the difference. I know it did with my son who is now 21 and is one of the most passionate, gifted, dynamic people I know, and someone I feel so privileged to get to observe his life from the front row!! I truly believe that God thought an awful lot of you that He chose you to mother this one!!

    God’s richest blessings to you and your beautiful girl!
    In His Grip,

    • Michele-Lyn


      I had to re-read your words here. They just brought so much strength to my soul. Thank you for affirming me. I still get it wrong more than right, but I look at my weakness as an opportunity for God to display His strength and grace through me. You made me L.O.L with this… “maddening/dazzling/going-big-places girl!” That she is! And the Rock Star mom… now that just made me feel young 🙂 Love that!

      Oh, and I always need help, always a student and I love to read. Thank you for the resource. It sounds like a wonderful read. I love that you have seen fruit born in your son. It gives me so much hope! Mine is entering her teenage years in a few short months (although I think she has already started). I am going to need grace in very LARGE doses 🙂

      Thank you, again! You blessed me here…

  • Kris

    what a beautiful capture of you with your daughter. Stunning. the longer I walk this path of motherhood, the more I learn that the only way I will survive it, even thrive in it, is to walk it on my knees. Each of my children presents very different challenges for me, God is my only hope and strength to even dream doing this well. Beautiful words here, friend.

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you 🙂 My eldest took this picture and lots more last fall.

      I never, ever expected motherhood to be a work to be done in my heart, but I am glad that He has chosen it. It has changed me, challenged me and caused me to lean on Him more than anything else. I pray that I would bring Him glory as I answer this high call.

      You are a great example to me… and I am grateful to you for taking the time to leave such blessings here.

  • Laurie

    I’m a mother of a boy much like your girl…I can’t wait to see what God has in store for him and yet some days I just wonder if we (I) will survive the day 🙂 Ah, by God’s grace I know we will.

    • Michele-Lyn


      I think that only a mama with a determined child could truly, truly understand what it is like. I am learning to consider it a privilege to have been chosen to parent such a gifted, strong person, but it is very challenging, everyday!

      Yes and amen! Only by His grace and I am grateful He supplies it in large amounts 🙂

      Blessings to you…

  • R.elliott

    Michele…first the picture of you both is breathe taking. Oh great words here and she is a blessed little girl who has a momma like you…too big for you at times but not too big for God…blessings as you continue love her with all the love..grace and wisdom God has.

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you for the kind words about our picture. It was from last fall, and she has grown up even more so since then. Thank you for affirming me. I fail so often at getting it right when it comes to her. Even today, I had to ask her forgiveness. But, I do TRUST and LEAN on Him to do the work I cannot. Thank you for your blessing here 🙂

      With love,


  • Shelly Miller

    That photo of the two of you is gorgeous, she looks so much like you. And my daughter is the same. There were days that I was completely undone – many days – when she exerted her will and I saw myself. She is growing up gracefully, into a beautiful heart and I have changed too. We have been good for each other and I am thankful He carried me through those hard days. You shared your heart well, I felt it.

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you for you sweet compliment 🙂

      And yes, I have found myself many, many days undone, but God does use these struggles to change us. He uses them to conform us into His image. More and more my eyes are open to how God truly intends for us to grow together in Him. Thank you for sharing your life and your words that provide wisdom and strength.

      Blessings to you…

  • Barbie

    Your daughter is beautiful. It’s overwhelming, that God would gift me four amazing little people to show the way. Yet, I am still finding my way. I fail them miserably at times, and God picks up the pieces and covers me with His grace. These precious ones, I feel so inadequate, yet He is adequate. For in my weakness and comes and floods me with His strength. May He cover you with His grace and fill you with His wisdom as you lead your precious one!

    • Michele-Lyn


      Thank you, again, precious friend. How do you make time to share so much with me? I am humbled, and I am grateful. I read your words, and then re-read them. I thought, is this a quote from one of my posts because it shows my heart so perfectly? I have four amazing gifts that I am, too, trying to show the way. At the same time saying “Oh, wait! Not that way. Don’t do it my way!” as I stumble. But, Yes! It is only by His grace, and I could just see Him now, smiling down on us saying, “You worry too much. Lean in close. I know the Way and you know ME. That’s all you need.”

      Thank you for your prayer of blessing.

      With much love,