Several years ago after Pumpkin was first born, I began my research like most mothers do, of how to raise my child. I read all the books on pregnancy and now it was time to read everything on how to raise my child! Our first born daughter was amazingly stubborn. I remember crying over her so many times! She was the total package of “The strong-willed child!” After the first few years of struggling with her behavior and reading everything I could get my hands on about strong willed Children, I realized that the normal every day parenting books- and even Dr. Dobson’s Strong willed Child book- just was not going to cut it! At one point, my husband was on staff at a church and I began dreading Sunday’s because I had no choice but to put her in nursery! It never failed that every Sunday I was called back to the nursery because she had hit another kid, or wasn’t obeying instructions! I was humiliated weekly! I even had someone come up to me and tell me, “you know, you really need to start disciplining your child!” I mean what do you say to that? The only thing that I could feel after that was anger! Anger that these people do not see that I have tried everything from spankings to time-outs to gentle parenting techniques and that with each one I’ve tried- she was completely resistant! I remember one time when she was about 2 years old, my husband and I were about to walk out of the house and were already late. She did something so bad that we felt like it was more important to address what she did than to be on time. We made her sit in her little Elmo chair for a time out. This 10 minute time out turned into a 2 hour battle! For the next two hours my husband and I sat in front of her Elmo chair and took turns sitting her back in it! The whole time she was screaming at the top of her lungs like we were torturing her! I’m pretty sure eventually during that event we were all three crying at some point! But eventually she did sit in her chair!
One Sunday morning, I didn’t get a call to come back to the nursery. I was so beyond thrilled!! I began excitedly walking out to the foyer and saw a woman carrying her child from the nursery and overheard their conversation, “honey did you have a good time?” “Yes mommy but this little girl kept hitting me and hurt my feelings.” I immediately knew it was my child!! Dread and tears hit me all at the same time! When I got there, she was standing in the corner! By this point I began to feel that I needed to just stay at home with her- people was talking in the church- and I felt like I could train her better one on one than I could by putting her in the church nursery to be kicked out or stand in time out the whole time. (not that she didn’t need it). It was so much pressure! So I started pulling away from going on Sunday mornings.
One day I heard a friend talking about her daughters behavior and how they have started doing an elimination diet. She read the book called, “why can’t my child behave?” and started a diet that eliminated some natural foods, and foods with artificial colors and preservatives in them. It was called the Fiengold Diet. I immediately got that book and began reading as fast as I could!! I began the diet with her and within 3 days, she was a completely different child!! We learned her triggers (Yellow 5, Red 40, BHT (on cereal packages), HF Corn syrup, cherry’s). As we went along with the diet and eliminated these things from her diet, we discovered more things over time such as ALL artificial colors, and ALL artificial flavors. My daughter began listening better, wasn’t in her own world anymore, actually went to sleep at night!
I began back to church Sunday’s with my husband. This time she was moved up into the kids church. While she was doing a ton better than she had been she still had Strong Willed characteristics ingrained into her. We had a few more problems once we went back! Once she was moved into the children’s church, she was still about 4 years old. She really didn’t understand the whole concept. At home when praise music was on, we danced around and praised God and I think maybe that is what she thought she is supposed to do at church. I was told she ran from one door to another, running around the sanctuary, and wouldn’t sit still. Eventually, she got out of the sanctuary and no one noticed until an adult found her in the hallway wondering around. Another time- and this was the last straw for me- She was in the classroom and walked RIGHT OUT THE DOOR!! When I came out of the service she was standing in front of the exit door asking people if they knew where her mommy was!! The teacher had no idea she had gotten out and when I went to let her know her response was, “oh well!” REALLY!! I was furious!
I stopped taking her there after that because I felt like her safety was in danger. I could not concentrate during the service myself because I was constantly wondering if she was being watched, or wondering around outside, or if someone had grabbed her on their way out of the church and kidnapped her! It was really stressful!
We had several other issues with her strong-willed personality, such as potty training. IT WAS a nightmare! That child would just pee all over the carpet, open up her drawers and pee on her clothes, sit on the side of her bed and pee down the wall…you name it she did it! I was at a complete loss!! I finally just strapped on her diaper and told her if you wanted to act like a baby you will wear baby diapers till you decide you will be a big girl!!
I came across a website called Raisinggodlytomatoes.com. I was very intrigued with their method of discipline. While I had tried spanking and had no success with it with my oldest, they did implement that with their children; however, it wasn’t just the spanking that I was interested in it was the whole concept of “Tomato Staking.” They talk about how you should keep your children with you 100% of the time, this will allow you to notice their behavior and correct it immediately, without allowing them to continue in that pattern! Keeping my child with me 100% of the time seemed like something I was not able to do at the time! I agreed with the concept, but I just didn’t know that I was able to really do it! I liked my quiet times when they go off and play alone, and I liked dates with my husband. So I was really unsure how I was going to be able to play this out!
As I thought about it more and prayed about it more, God showed me that tomato staking does not have to look this way in everyone’s life. He also began to put people in my life to show me modifications of this. Through the years we began doing this little by little. At first it was just when she was being very disobedient or having repeat incidents of the same issues, I would sit her next to me and it became her punishment- “you act like this, then you will sit by me the rest of the day.” It was VERY effective!! Call it helicopter parenting, or hovering, or whatever- but it has been a lifesaver in situations with my children where I had no idea what else to do. Over time I was able to trust that my little strong willed child was going to listen to her sunday school teacher and was not going to run out of her class room anymore!
Now that she is older, she is still strong willed but I’ve been able to see God transform her heart. Once she accepted Jesus as her Savior her will changed from being about her, to pleasing her savior. She has a genuine, complete, and unfailing love for God. I have watched the Lord take that strong-willed child and use her strong will for good now that she is older! We’ve even had many conversations about the fact that she will still struggle with certain things at times because of her stong-willed personality but the most important thing is that she uses her strong will for good things and not selfish things! Just this morning I witnessed how sensitive the Lord has made her heart. She got upset and yelled at her daddy. I took her into my room and told her how disrespectful what she did was to her daddy, and how much he loves her, how many times he had sacrificed sleep to rock her when she was a baby because he wanted her needs to be met before his own, how hard he works for her, and how she is always one of his top priorities and he did not deserve to be treated disrespectfully by her. She looked up at me, and began sobbing saying “I never knew he did all that for me, I’m so sorry!!” I never in my life thought that our strong-willed two year old, would be that sensitive to the way she made her daddy feel just by understanding the love he has for her. It was such a blessing to see how far she had come in the last eight years.
I did get away from this method for a little while. Life happens and we let things slip through the cracks but recently the Lord has put it on my heart, as well as my husbands heart again. We both feel the need to bring this back into our home but again, this time God has given us a different perspective on how to use this method. A few months ago, my husband came to me and told me that he was thinking about this and that the Lord showed him that even JESUS tomato staked his disciples! He would always tell them, “Come follow me!” he would travel around with them all together and would have them watch him and observe his behavior and show them how to witness and showed them miracles. Never did Jesus just send them out and tell them, go into the world and learn it for yourself! He was right next to them the entire time- teaching them, correcting them, and loving on them. This is exactly how we need to discipline our children.
Yes children will make mistakes, they will be children, however; if those mistakes are not caught, talked about, corrected then they will go on to having a repeat pattern of those mistakes that will lead to other issues in their life when they get older. I want my parenting to be the way that Jesus would parent my kids, I don’t want to be frazzled all the time, yelling, and frustrated all the time because they won’t do what I’ve asked them to do- which has happened a lot! I want to be able to parent the way Jesus parented his disciples!
I really feel that the key to keeping my children on God’s path and not straying from it, is to really capture their hearts. Tomato staking will help me to do this as they grow older! Having them close to me during the day, doesn’t mean always having to have them under my feet while I’m trying to accomplish a task- but it means having them next to me- showing them and teaching them how to do that task themselves, talking to them about their dreams, their likes, dislikes, their future, things we need to pray about together, and spending time together while they are learning to be women of God at the same time! This is our quality time, the times that they will look back on as adults and say, “I remember the way my mom’s hands looked when I would stand next to her in the kitchen while she was cooking dinner” or “I remember sorting clothes with my mom during the day while we had heart-to-heart conversations about my future husband.” Tomato staking is making memories together, while being able to immediately address issues, and developing a great mother-daughter/or mother-son relationship! I’m very excited to get this back in our home soon and start making more memories!