Cervantes said, “Faint heart ne’er won fair lady.” As a matter of fact, a faint heart never won much of anything. But put a little determination and will into that heart, and it can shoot the moon.
What you hear, though, is that parents should prefer the faint heart, that is, the passive heart. It’s promoted as the answer to their prayers.
Authors make fortunes with books bemoaning the problem of strong-willed children. They preach passive, all day, every day. Parents, they decree, need to break their children’s will–or at least their willfulness.
Are these people kidding? Passive isn’t wonderful. Passive is lumpy, as in “sit there like a lump.” Passive hardly makes a dent in the world, let alone changes it. Passive sits by and lets life happen, whether for good or ill.
Passive is easy to ignore, easy to take advantage of and easy to exclude. If watching your child be mistaken for the wallpaper sounds good, work on the passivity level. If you like the idea of your children not speaking up when others take advantage of them, by all means, push passivity. Passive kids spend junior high crammed in their lockers, if that appeals to you.
The absolute fact is, a strong-willed child is exactly what we should want. Strong enough to fend off peer pressure. Strong enough to set good goals and work toward accomplishment. Strong enough to put off current, brief pleasures for better, long-lasting rewards.
A strong will creates a determination that grabs life by the throat and makes it happen. Channeled for good, it can make wonderful things happen.
Unchanneled, the optimism and good cheer that come from being born with the ability to make decisions can get lost. You could end up with a bully or a brat, which, while more likely with a frustrated, inadequately-parented, passive child, can happen.
Without committed parents, a strong-willed child can run amok and create all kinds of chaos. Raising these kids is bracing and a lot of fun, but it ain’t easy.
The parents need to be grownups. They need to be parents who realize being a parent is different from being a buddy. Parents who accept the fact that raising kids means it’s about the kids. Parents willing to do the right thing when it’s not the easy thing. Parents whose lives set an example to follow. Parents who understand that strong-willed children usually don’t “fit in” all that well because they are, in fact, exceptional.
All kids, but especially strong-willed children, need to know they’re loved “just because.” It’s not about performance, although self-control and good behavior are good. It’s not about being better than others, which is a calculation for losers. In fact, it’s not about a lot of things. It’s about raising emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy children, confident that the strong will so many people fear will give them the gumption to face life with enthusiasm and courage.
Keeping up with–or even harder, staying ahead of–the strong-willed child takes determination, creativity and energy. And humor. Lots of humor. They’ll put you on your knees, in prayer or exhaustion or both. Fortunately, the prize is worth the effort.
About the author: Bette Dowdell, the mother of two strong-willed children, now adults, is a former IBM Systems Engineer, small business consultant and software company owner. At the same time, she studied and taught the Bible, including some years of successfully teaching seminary-level theology to grade school children, not a job for sissies. Check out her books at http://ConfidentFaith.com While you’re there, sign up for a free, weekly e-mail subscription to Bette’s original quotes.
You may post this article on your web-site, include it in your newsletter, and send it as far and wide as you’d like if you include the entire article along with the title, “About the author” attribution and copyright notice in one piece as presented, with no text or graphics added.