Really, if you think about it…what gets you outta' your comfy warm bed in the morning?
What keeps you from eating that slice of chocolate cake when you're on a diet?
What keeps you from blowing all your money at the mall on stuff you don't need?
What keeps you from flippin' the bird to that person who just pulled out in front of you and almost caused an accident?
What keeps you from trying drugs?
What is it that keeps you from picking up your phone and reading/replying to that text while you're driving?
What is it we all wish when we have issues with our weight?
More WILL POWER.
Everything in life that makes us into productive contributors to society involves our will.
So, in practice, we all know that to have a "strong will" is a good thing. It's a desirable thing. It's a thing that will help us succeed in life. So, why when we see it being expressed in our children do we want to snuff it out? I believe it is a misunderstanding...
If you have a "strong willed child"…what is the REAL problem when there is conflict? Their will? Is it the fact that they believe they're in the right and are willing to fight for that? No. That's not a problem. An annoyance, yes. But, if they think they're in the right and are willing to fight even a giant (mom or dad) because they're right that's actually awesome, don't you think?
Their "problem" is not their will at all...it is simply…the wrong belief that they are right which is based in their lack of maturity and reasoning skills. That's it. It's not their will that is the problem it is that their will is being used to fight a wrong battle. Our job is to teach them to fight the right battles, and taking the "fight" out of them isn't the way to do it.
When your child is stubbornly sticking to their guns about something…it is because they believe they are right. They believe in their cause. They believe they should be allowed to have that toy! They believe they should be allowed to eat that cookie right now because it looks good and they are hungry! From THEIR perspective, their reasons are right! They are not trying to "push your buttons" or make you mad. The last thing any of us want, even as adults, is for our parents to be mad at us! So, if your child is insisting on having their own way…the problem is not their "will"…the child's "problem" is immaturity and lack of reasoning skills which has led them to a wrong conclusion that they are right.
And, so how do we encourage maturity and proper reasoning skills? Can a person learn to become more mature by being "controlled"? Can a person learn to become more mature by being "punished?"
In order to learn to reason…they must be reasoned with. They must learn the process of comparing two choices and looking at the potential effects of each…and they can't do that on their own. You have to show them how to do it.
Does it take more time to do this than to give them a whack on the hiney and tell them to "not do that again or else"? Sure. Controlling someone is always the quickest way for someone to get a behavior to stop. But, stopping your child from making CERTAIN bad choices (like the things which you forbid and punish for) doesn't teach them the broader picture of what is a good choice and what is a bad choice and how to decide between the two.
So, you lay down the law with punishments and rules about things that are issues for little kids…you teach them that when they do "X" they get a butt-whacking. OK. So, what happens when they get too old and they don't even want to do "X" anymore…what then? If you have not spent the time to teach them how to reason…once they no longer feel the urge to hit their sister or to run out into the street…what now when the temptation is to try drugs? To go to 2nd base with their boyfriend? To drink at a party? To text while driving? What then?
You cannot think that you can simply stop your children from making bad choices by punishment and threats and control when they are 1, 2, 3, 4 yrs old…then then expect that somehow that they now learned how to REASON and make good choices now that they're older.
This is why it is common for teens to "rebel". The only thing that's really happened is that they've gotten too old for parents to punish and "control" and now parents are simply seeing the "reasoning abilities" that their child has learned up until that age.
So, back to having a "strong willed child". It is not a curse. It's those with "strong wills" in life who have been the trail-blazers thru history. Your "strong willed child" may have a fantastic future ahead! Don't break that will! Harness it!
Something else to consider is how protective a "strong will" can be.
Are you infallible? When it comes to conflict with your child are you really, always right? You know that there are occasions that you are actually the one in the wrong. Do you think your child notices this? In the case of the spanking/controlling parent, what does a child learn of reasoning when their parent will hit them and punish them even when the parent is clearly in the wrong? What does the child learn of reason from a parent who does not reason but makes sure that kid knows who's boss and only controls and punishes?
What does a child learn when they are challenged by an adult when they know they are "in the right?" but are forced to comply with the adult anyway…and even suffer pain/punishment for pushing their side? Would a child who is trained this way respond in a healthy self-protective way when approached by a pedophile? Would a child who has been trained that no matter what the adult is "right" be able to stand up and say, "NO! Your'e NOT touching me there and I AM telling my mom!"
You want to train your child that if they are right and they know they are, that it's right for them to stand up and fight for that even if it is an adult they are fighting. You need to teach them how to know they are right, and the right way to fight...
Your child's will is also what makes them like God…
Don't squash it…harness it!
Our wills can make us into super heroes... :)