My husband and I have been at a loss on how to raise this child of ours. Our number two little dude is nothing like big sister, and he’s very opinionated. He’s actually our most cuddly and loving child, so I feel compelled to note that he isn’t all terror. He’s sweet and sort of funny, but he wares me out just keeping up with the proper way to handle his three year old tantrums.
He’s a passionate one, I know all the battles he fights with me or with anyone really are more a matter of integrity than that of defiance. He doesn’t like to be told what to do and it shows. I know how I should handle struggles with children typically, but I recently got to the point where I felt it wan’t working. What works on his older sister and his younger sister just doesn’t work on this little boy. So I turned to the internet. There are a lot of stuff on the internet, both good and bad.
The articles I’ve read started to contradict one another pretty quickly, and I started realizing real quick most people are guessing. I’ve literally researched for two weeks and read probably one hundred articles (at the very least). I finally decided I don’t believe in the “strong willed child” as the world does. I believe you can be strong willed but you also have to follow directions once in awhile. There are times in my life when I’d like to have a say in the matter, but that’s just not the case. Though giving my child a choice each time may stop the tantrums, but it doesn’t solve the problem. I will not let my little boy believe he has full control over every detail of his life. It doesn’t leave room for God.
What I really discovered was my first approach was the best approach. Be consistent and follow through. The reason it wasn’t working as well as with the girls was because our sweet boy can hold out longer. He’s resilient. Also, may not have worked as well because there are two parents with a different idea about how little boys should be raised, which is very inconsistent. Inconsistency doesn’t just cause the child to wonder what the consequences of his actions will be, it creates a child who pushes his boundaries. That’s what we had/have (still in progress and probably will be until he’s 18). The smart little three year old was working us because he didn’t really know how far he could take it because it was different each time, and he would do his absolute best to persevere and see it through to the end, whatever “it” may be.
So here’s where the Holy Spirit handed me the answer to all my questions regarding my son’s undesirable behaviors. I finally stopped researching and decided to go back to my original disciplinary actions, which gave me more time for leisurely reading. I picked up and opened a book my husband has been basically demanding I read for seven years or so. It’s a popular book, and really didn’t think I’d enjoy it, so it just kept finding it’s way to the bottom of my reading pile. The book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey struck a nerve in the very first chapter, really the second page. I stopped searching and worrying, only to find my answer in the very next moment. If you’re a parent, go read this book if you haven’t already, and if it’s been more than a few years since you’ve read it, pull it out and read it again. You’re in a different stage of life, you’ll probably gain something new.
Stephen Covey discuses character ethics in his first few pages. He discusses that character traits such as integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. Why does this pertain to the strong willed child? Because our society has moved over from character ethics to personality ethics. Personality ethics is about being likable, putting a smile on your face, and in some cases tricking people into thinking you’re a friend, good partner, etc. by your personality. Still wondering about the strong willed child?
We have been focused on what we consider “undesirable behavior”. It is less than attractive, but it isn’t necessarily wrong, it just isn’t preferred. His screaming and dropping to the floor in the middle of Target is embarrassing, for me, not him. He’s making a statement, he just doesn’t have his negotiation skills figured out yet. If my husband and I lay our focus on his needs, meaning giving him the tools to show the character ethics I mentioned above, then the end outcome, who he is as an adult, for our little guy will be me more desirable than if we just pacify him, put band-aids on the “wounds” like giving choices ALL the time, or by yelling at him to get his act together.
As parents we have to give our children what they each need individually. The way you raise one child will not always work on any other child, and definitely not for every single one of your children. Listen closely to what your child is trying to tell you with their actions. My guy doesn’t know how to say what he needs. He only says he’s mad or sad. We’re working on calm down techniques so he can communicate with us. We need to work on his ability to reason, to show self-control, to be patient, and much more. We can do that best by staying calm and modeling the behavior we hope the child can achieve.
I highly recommend this book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. It will help you in these difficult times. Parenting is hard, but effective parenting is even harder. Showing good character will help you help your children.
I also recommend some negotiating books… That’s what we do as parents. We negotiate.