believing the walls will fall :: hope for moms of strong-willed little ones

Apr 16, 2014

**a note to those of you reading this post who have never visited before. First of all, welcome! Secondly, I want you to know my heart a little. I believe God made each of us uniquely. Having passion is a gift. I also know stubbornness can be inherited (ahem). In writing this post I’m just sharing current struggle in our home and where I’ve found hope. I don’t think prayer will get rid of his personality. I just would love for he and I to be on the same team…no longer fighting against each other but with each other. Thanks!

An elevator button.

That’s all it took for him to firmly plant his green Lego crocs as we walked from the gym into the parking garage. My attempts to explain how level 1A had already been pushed, fell on deaf ears. He just kept repeating, “I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go home…”

I stood there feeling helpless, with a 2-year-old on my hip and a 6-year-old venturing out toward our car. If he was my only child I would have scooped him right up, carried him to the car and worked things out when he was calm. But letting my 2 year old down to walk where cars kept zooming around the corner, so I could pick up the statued one? yeah, that wouldn’t be the wisest solution.

I finally went right up to him, calmly told him all the trouble he was in, took his hand (firmly) and started walking. His chant getting fiercer and stronger, “I don’t want to go home….”

His refusals are common, “I don’t want to go to school.” “I don’t want to go to church.” “I don’t want to eat spaghetti.” I don’t want to…” (heck, he was the one who didn’t want to come out of the womb. . . laboring for a solid week, my large body sent home twice from the hospital because he wasn’t ready yet).

Yes, I’ve seen this stubborn behavior before. But just like most things, his difficulty is different from his brothers. Whereas his oldest brother would cry for an hour after a disagreement, and his next oldest would fight back and keep badgering me. His method is to retreat, to shut-down and disengage from the conversation.

My husband tries to remind me this is a 4-year-old boy. (And yes, I did write a post when our second son was challenging us at 4 years old.) But the daily battles wear me out.

Then my friend Tricia Goyer gave me a new image, one that keeps me going when I want to give up. She said,

View the walls around his heart like the walls of Jericho. Keep circling them, believe God that the walls will fall.


photo credit (text added)

I know that his heart is tender. And the behaviors are really just stubborn, stone walls surrounding and masking his kind heart.

The goal isn’t to change who he is but to help him realize I’m on his team and how to keep him on the path that leads to life.

But a harsher approach towards him, only strengthens his defense.

“Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voice, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout, then shout.” Joshua 6:10

Instead I’ll  let him know I’m there. I’ll walk with him, praising God and waiting. I don’t know how many circles, over how many days, I will have to make but eventually those walls will fall.

When the trumpets shouted, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed. . . they devoted the city to the Lord. Joshua 6:20

You better believe when those walls do fall? And his spirit is open to truth? Just be listening for my trumpet. There will be quite a celebration going on in the Mac home. 

It’s only fitting after capturing Jericho the Israelites devoted the city to the Lord. Because this son’s middle name is “Corban”, the Hebrew word meaning, “consecrated to God.”

We know whose he is. We know his Heavenly Father desires all our boys to know and love Him, serving Him wholeheartedly. He’s going to make that happen. And given his strength of will, I’m betting he is going to be a mighty warrior of truth.

I’ll do my part to #livebyfaith.

So, if you need me? I’ll be believing God and praying for walls to fall.

Do you have a Jericho-wall situation going on in your home?

Would love to join you in praying.

If you are looking for wisdom & encouragement for dealing with strong-willed kiddos, then check out the interview I did with Kirk Martin (

Calmly Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child


  1. Shannon Payne (@SimplySaidMom)

    We have 4 boys (+ 2 girls) all with unique personalities, struggles, and joys. They’ve all gone through seasons in life, some difficult and some not, that test the very fiber of my being – I believe that is purposeful to teach me how to handle any situation that is thrown my way!! The 11 yr old still struggles with defiance and a very strong-willed heart and mind – he’s hardened to the voice of God, but I pray that over time he will understand how to listen to that small, still voice and use God’s instruction for benefit. It’s all a process, and after 16 years of motherhood I’m still learning daily (keeps me on my toes).

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh thank you shannon for sharing your story and letting me know I’m not alone. Lord, I lift up Shannon’s 11 year old to you. I pray the walls around his heart will crumble, that his ear will listen to Your voice and follow hard after You. I pray for Shannon while she waits, be her strength and fill her with patience. Amen.

  2. christie elkins

    Oh friend. This is my August. We have a special, rare “Mommy + Augs” day tomorrow, and I am praying about those walls to crumble. There is a sweet heart inside. He is amazing.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Enjoy your day, sweet friend! Lord, I lift August up to you. In this time when he is putting up a hard defense, I pray Your spirit would break down the walls. Give Christie persistence in prayer and patience. Amen.

  3. Amy Grable

    I have an 11 year old who has brought me to my knees more than ever. I love to picture of walking around the walls waiting for them to fall. Just resenting the said 11 year old has started helping me make dinner. Most “chores” have been a huge battle for as long as I remember. He loves to be in charge of something and it is so helpful. I could see cooking dinner becoming a place where the walls will begin to crumble. My other mantra lately is “talk less and pray more”. I may have even heard that on one of your podcasts. Thanks for your ministry I feel such a kindred spirit with Moms of 4 kiddos like me.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Such good news to hear a little break happening with cooking dinner together. And yes, “talk less, pray more” is my mentor Leslie’s line, she frequently reminds me. Thanks for your encouragement. Lord, I pray you would direct Amy’s eyes and heart to you when she starts to feel a defense building with her 11 yr old. Keep the Jericho imagery in her mind, help her to keeping walking in faith. Amen.

  4. Erin

    Love this image. I have three of these, each exhibiting their strong walls in different ways, but all solid and stubborn. It is a challenge to learn and keep up with the ways each of them need me to help them process, but I know prayer is the most important part. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh yes. 3 over here too (possibly a 4th!). I think what is encouraging me to keep pressing is remembering the oldest two and how their walls have fallen. How they are tender to the Spirit and want to be on the same team as me. Lord, I pray for Erin. I pray you would give her insight each day for each son. Give her eyes to see how you crafted them and how she can keep them on your path of life. I pray as moms you would work on our own stubborn hearts as we get locked into battles of the will. Amen.

  5. Kellee

    I cannot express to you how this post has blessed me as a straight word from God to my heart. My strong-willed, beautiful, first born is now 15 and has always been and still is as you describe your son in this post (even the part about not wanting to be birthed!). I have persevered and given up, and then picked up hope again and persevered. His heart is hardened against me, his dad, and God. Through your post I now realize he has built a wall, for whatever reason, to protect himself. There is a heart in him of kindness and a knowledge of God’s love for him. I will keep circling and praying and look forward to the day I blow my trumpet too. Thank you again for having faith and for extending hope.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Oh sweet Kellee. I can hear your grief and sadness from the 15 years of pleading. Joining you in prayer. . . Lord, I pray for Kellee’s 15 year old, I pray he will turn to you. Even if it’s a trainwreck with grace…may He exchange his wants with Yours. May he hunger and thirst for righteousness. May he be so overwhelmed by your love, he can help but to love you in return. Encourage Kellee with little cracks in the wall, glimpses of the kind boy You have entrusted in her care. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

  6. Christy

    This is my Kasen, he is 5 and the 2nd of 4 children. Daily we have a ‘moment’ or ‘moments’ where I just want to scoop him up and hug him and tell him it’s going to be ok! We struggle every morning with who gets their hair fixed first, in the afternoon it’s a struggle with being tired after school and melting down over the smallest things. Supper time is the time of day I absolutely dread, it’s a struggle every single day. It’s exhausting but I know there is a little soft souled boy in there somewhere.

  7. LaToya Edwards

    Oh Heather this spoke to my weary soul! My oldest is VERY strong-willed, a first born, ADHD and ODD. So grateful for this new perspective on his stubbornness.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      you have your hands overflowing and I’m so proud of all you do for your boys. Praying with you. . . Lord, you have entrusted LaToya with souls that you desire to be with you for eternity. Give her peace of mind, strength of heart, tenderness of spirit and perseverance to love her boys well. May they know your unconditional love through her acts of kindness. Draw her son to you, break down the defense, and help him see LaToya as his biggest advocate and co-laborer, cheering each other on toward the prize. Amen.

  8. liz

    Tears run down my face as I reas this. My 10 year old is our strong willed one always has been but it seems harder lately as his heart is pulled toward wordly things that we aren’t allowing him to do when he feels like he is the only one not doing them. I am so exhausted thank you for the encouragement to keep praying I know my soft hearted boy is in there. He could really use a good friend who he can stand with. Could you pray he could find one. Praying for all you sweet ladies today.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Oh praying with you for sure. . . Lord, we are 100% confident you knew what you were doing when you made Liz the mother to her son. Thank you for her awareness of what is helping her son stay on the path that you desire for him. We pray most of all for a kindred spirit, for a like-minded family, to come alongside them and live counter-culturally. Encourage her heart Lord with a sign of tenderness from her son. Help them remember they are on the same team and may he be overwhelmed by your great love for him. Amen.

  9. Rebecca

    Tears streaming down my face! I have a 9 yr old Joshua who put me in the hospital twice before delivery because he too didn’t want to come out. He’s been stubborn everyday sense and even this morning I needed a new perspective. Thank you!!! God is good all the time.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      so thankful it is helpful to you as well. To me it really helped me stop being made that he was stubborn and really feel sorry for him stuck behind those walls. To believe God can do anything (move mountains. . .) and truly seek Him in this area. Lord, I lift up Rebecca to you. I pray you would cover her with your unconditional love. That she would know she is the perfect mom for her son. Continue to keep this imagery before her, may she believe You can do anything. Move the walls around her son’s heart. May he drop his defenses and work with his mom as a team. In Jesus’Name, Amen.

  10. Wendy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. As I sit here bawling. I so needed to hear this today. I have a hard-hearted 13-year-old son, who I yelled at to shut up this morning. I know he’s in there somewhere, hurting, but I can’t find my way in. What a great new perspective, circling the walls. Thank you!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Lord, I lift Wendy to you. She is tired and weary. She longs to be present with her son without the walls between them. I pray you would give her peace, faith and persistence in circling. May her change in manner be evident to her son and draw him out. May you open her eyes to ways she can encourage her son without him shutting her out. Move in him. Overwhelm him with your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  11. Audra

    I would covet your prayers for my strong willed 3 year old. Fits for everything. I feel like he thinks I hate him, that I’m a tyrant to.him. he doesn’t even acknowledge me or say hi back. He often calls me daddy instead of Momma. I’ve tried all different methods to reach him, make things fun now I’ve given up hope. Some of this might stem from a new sibling but it’s not changing no matter what I do. thank you <3

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh girl you are in a hard season. 3 year old with a new sibling is a challenging time. Don’t know if this would help in your situation. When I was where you are, I started something we called “mommy time”. I would spend 10 minutes (2x a day) with my son, doing anything he wanted to do (puzzles, swing, tag, read a book). If I was busy with the baby and he needed me I would say, “Have you thought about what we are going to do for mommy time? I can’t wait for mommy time. I love having mommy time with you.” Then after would I would talk about how great our time together was. Also going to pray with you, Lord, I lift up Audra and her sweet son. I pray you would give her patience and peace while helping this sweet boy manage his strong emotions. Give her wisdom to know how to help him regulate. Bring friends and family into her life to encourage her. Fill her with your love. IN Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  12. Deb Esling

    Wow! It is amazing to read posts from all the Moms in the same situation. My strong-willed child is my oldest, a daughter, now 13. We joke that when she was born she came out and slapped the doctor! She’s been headstrong since day one! But hope for you Momma’s out there … that breakthrough is coming! My girlie and I have struggles of will and personality every day, but I see the cracks in her tough exterior every day too. She is finding her way. She is, little by little, learning to trust God and me. She still wants to be in charge, but I am believing even that will come around in time. Hang in there mommas!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Thank you Deb for sharing your story and encouraging the other moms. So wonderful to hear. God is using you in mighty ways. Keep it up! Lord, I praise you for Deb. Thank you for giving her glimpses of the work you are doing in her daughter’s life. Give Deb wisdom and patience as the walls crumble. Help her direct her daughter to know you more and more. Use her daughter’s strength of personality and leadership for your Kingdom work. In Jesus’Name, Amen.

  13. Pamela

    Like all the other moms that have commented, I too have a passionate strong-willed son. It took me five hours to push him out, that should have been my first clue. Now almost 7 years later I still find myself asking God why he chose me, but I know it is because I am the best mama for him. On the days when we aren’t on the same page, I often try and figure out what it is that he needs that I haven’t been giving him. Most times it is my undivided attention. Have the picture of the wall in my head is going to be helpful for me as the years go by, however many that will be.

  14. Cassie

    This is my 6 year old, to a T. So strong willed, high need. He has ADD, PTSD (from watching his father abuse me and the divorce that followed) and he is so darn stubborn. I pray that God will show me how to guide that tenacity as he grows, because I do believe that it can be a gift. In the meantime, thank you for this post. I never would have thought to envision my son’s heart as Jericho.

  15. Ann

    I am the grandmother of a four-year-old boy who has decided he wants to be a girl. His parents are not believers and are now exploring the transgender path with him, out of fear of what he might do to himself if he is not affirmed. Thank you for your post on how to pray for our strong-willed children.


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