Are you like me? I am the mother of a very determined and inquisitive 13 year old. Some have described her as head strong, stubborn, and disobedient. I have been given lots of advice on how to “deal” with her. I have been told that I should “make her obey” or I should “show her who is boss.” Even the less direct advice has been some variant on the theme. Well meaning people have given me the advice that I should force her to obey, crush her spirit, bend her to my will to mold her into a docile and well behaved young lady, or to somehow force her to be less than who she is. I confess, at times, I second guessed myself. I wondered if I were doing enough for her. But whenever doubts are raised, she does something remarkable to remind me that she was wonderfully made just the way God intended her to be.
My daughter is very determined. While it can be challenge to manage this as a parent, I have found that determination is a helpful coping skill. She tries and tries and tries again to do what she is passionate about. She lets failure roll off her back like water off a duck. With every disappointment, I think, “Is this the one? Will this be the time she throws in the towel? Will this be the one that stops her from putting herself out there?" But each time, she dusted herself off and tried again. Thank God, I never crushed that determined child. Thank God, I never taught her to accept the final word, or blindly obey. At 13, she has more backbone than I could ever have, and that will take her far in life.
My daughter is very inquisitive. She asks tons of questions. This can be especially difficult to deal with when she questions something I have instructed her to do. If I ask her to clean her room, and she asks me ,“Why?” or “Does it have to be right now?”, it can feel like disrespect. My daughter has taught me that questions aren’t always bad. A little negotiating may even be okay.
One evening we had a discussion about room cleaning. It went something like this…“Why can’t you help me clean my room?”“Because I have the rest of the house to clean, and laundry to do and dinner to make.”“If I helped you do all those things, you could get them done faster.”“Yes, I could.”“And if you helped me, I could get it done faster.”“Yes, you could.”“So let’s help each other.”The result was a lovely afternoon spent with my daughter. We worked together, laughed together, and talked about school and boys. By the end of the day, the house was clean, the laundry was done and dinner was made, and I spent the afternoon with my child.
Having a child who doesn't automatically follow directions can seem challenging, but it shows that she has her own thoughts and feelings about matters. It means that she is not easily persuaded and not easily pushed around.
Last year, she told me of a boy who was being picked on at school. One of the people picking on the boy was a friend of hers.
“What did you do?” I asked
“I told her to back off!” She said, “I told her that if I ever heard her picking on that boy again that I wasn’t going to speak to her anymore.”
In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”
My strong willed child will be less likely to bend to peer pressure. She will be less likely to lose her inner voice in an attempt to impress others. She will be less likely to allow herself to be mistreated by a romantic partner. She will approach life with passion and zeal.
Do you have a strong willed child? Here is my advice.
- Be mindful of why you want your child to follow your directions and obey. Are you trying to impress others? Are you afraid it will reflect poorly on you? Try to let go of all that to see the bigger picture.
- Avoid power struggles. You will both just end up tired and exhausted and unhappy. If your child is young, try to rely more on routine. If a child knows what to expect, there will be less conflict. Anything new will probably be met with resistance.
- Don’t make your child work for your approval. Avoid commentary on what they do, positive or negative. Their triumphs can’t earn your love, any more than their failings will lose your love. Don’t make them feel that it is the case by over doing it with praise or criticism. Allow them to be self motivated and make sure they know that you love them regardless. (some might disagree with me on this, but your attention and unconditional love will build your child up much more than empty praise ever could.)
- When something is not negotiable, take the time to explain your reasoning. Try to be patient when they ask why. Avoid phrases like, “Because I said so” or “That is just the way it is.” Imagine yourself in their place. If your spouse was asking you to do something, how would you like to be asked? If you had questions, how would you like them to be answered? How do you expect to be spoken to by someone who loves you? Are you speaking to your child that way?
- Remember, your child is a person too. They will have their own feelings about things; they will have their own reactions, fears, frustrations, and even their own plans. Respect their feelings. Don’t ever try to squash them.
Up coming topics
May 1st -Determined Children @ Sense of Wonder