Thursday, January 12, 2012

A strong-willed child

If you're a regular reader of this blog (or know me in real life), you know that we've been struggling lately (or for quite a while) with Annika's behaviour.  I won't link back to all the posts I've written about it, but if you click on the label "challenges" on the side bar, I think almost all the posts are about her. :P  She's always been a strong-willed child, but it wasn't too much of a problem till she turned three (other than when she was 3 months old and I had to switch her from nursing to the bottle - probably the worst 3 weeks of my life.  Stubborn little girl).  Terrible twos - nope, not a problem.  She was a great two year old - I actually thought when she turned three, "that was easy".  Ha, little did I know what was in store....

I'm not usually one to read a lot of parenting advice books or magazines.  I learned pretty early on that usually I'd just end up feeling like I and/or my child was doing something wrong (or not developing properly, etc), if I paid too much attention to the "experts".  And with all the different schools of thought out there about parenting, how do you even make sense of their advice, when it's all so different?  So I usually just go with my gut, my faith, and a hope and a prayer that what I'm doing won't end up being the topic of discussion at a therapist's office some day.  Sure, I'll occasionally consult family/friends, the web or our family doctor for some specific advice, when I need a little reassurance, but that's about it. 

However, I was starting to get the feeling that I needed a bit more guidance with dealing with Annika's behaviour.  I wasn't confident with what we were doing, so I checked out a book from the library to get some advice - "The New Strong-Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson.  I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm glad I'm reading it.  One thing that he has emphasized a lot so far is that, with a strong-willed child, you need to find a way to control their will (or teach them how to control it), without destroying their spirit.  I've already started to pray that for Annika every night - for her will to be controlled without her spirit being destroyed.  The goal is not to have an obedient little robot at your feet.  That strong will is an important part of the child, and hopefully some day it will serve them well (to stand up for their beliefs, etc), so you don't want to completely squash it.  And you don't want the child to feel belittled or that they're a bad person.  Dr. Dobson talks about parenting with a balance of love and control.  Kids need to know that they're loved, but they also need to know who's in charge.  It reminds me of some advice a friend passed along to me, shortly after Annika was born.  It was good advice, and I'm often reminded of it - "pick your battles, because when you battle with your child, you need to win."  Not everything is worth fighting over, but if you do choose to "fight", then you have to make sure that you're in it to win it, otherwise the kid will start to question your authority.

So, we'll see what other gems the book has to offer.  I'm looking forward to getting into some nitty-gritty, practical advice for discipline.  Already at this point in the book he has said that he advocates spanking, so I'm looking forward to the chapter where he discusses that more.  I always feel a bit conflicted about spanking.  We have spanked Annika (not often, it's usually a last resort), but I always feel like a bit of a hypocrite doing it, when we tell her that it's wrong to hit people.  So I'm interested to hear Dr. Dobson's views on it.  Or any of yours for that matter (although I may be opening up a can of worms saying that!).

Has anyone else read the book?  Did you find it helped?

4 comments:

LaughingLady said...

My two cents: I think if spanking is done correctly (NOT in anger and frustration!) and if there's discussion with the child about why it's become necessary, and how mommy and daddy will answer to God for how they've raised their children and tried to teach them to love obedience and to know right from wrong, there will never be any confusion regarding hitting and spanking.

Our problem is not so much with a strong-willed child as one who's the quintessential FREE SPIRIT. I love that about her, but when it translates to not listening, not paying attention, and not doing as told WHEN she's told, it gets very frustrating. And yet, we find it so hard to punish her because she isn't willfully, deliberately disobeying ~ she's just off in her own little world! (Does Dobson have any advice for that??)

Kristin said...

Haven't read it, but perhaps I should also check it out...

Pamela said...

Kezia was my most difficult and there were many times I struggled with her (especially since Kezia was so radically different from Kiandra who was so obedient). We did spank, not often, but when warranted and was also used time outs all the time with the words "It's ok to be angry but it is not ok to *fill in blank here* You can come out of your room when you have calmed down (this often resulted in carrying her back to room multiple times). It was tough but consistency does pay off-I agree with the "pick your battles" quote, some things are just not worth fighting about and for me it was meal time.

Remember that this too shall pass...I was worried about what kind of battles Kezia and I would endure as she got older and I have to say that her strong will and determination has served her well. She is not easily swayed to go along with others and her determination to catch up in her school work last year was astounding as she started French with a 63% and achieved an honours excellence award in June (all marks above 90%). Strong will and determination will be a good quality trait if you can direct it.

Good luck! You are not alone.

Gin said...

I have no advice but will pray for wisdom for all of you parents!! Thanks for sharing your lives and your kids with us.