Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The strong-willed child?

I don't believe in 'the strong-willed child.'

I know what you're thinking... She's only saying that because she hasn't had her's yet. Wait until her third or her fourth comes along.

I still don't believe.

And not because I think any resistance, no matter how strong, can be spanked out or loved out or in any human way tamed.

Here's the story:

One day, DH and I are disagreeing. He comments that I'm so stubborn. The idea dumbfounds me. How can he not realize that he is the stubborn one? I stand, stubbornly clinging to the idea that he's the stubborn one while he stubbornly refuses to accept it.

Aha moment: We're both right. I'm the stubborn one who married the stubborn one.

Maybe we're just an unlucky couple balanced in the universe by a perfectly meek, submissive couple. But I doubt it.

The same week, a friend commented on how volatile small one's temper was, how strong-willed she was, and wasn't I in for it later. Again, I was taken aback. Small one is my easy keeper. Haven't they seen big one in action? Once, she fasted 24 hours rather than try a bite of soup. Then again, library trips are temporarily out of the question because I cannot wrestle the books from small one's arms without such a scene that CPS might rappel from their all-seeing helicopter in the sky.

Another aha moment: We're both right. I'm the stubborn one who married the stubborn one who birthed two strong-willed children.

Again, I see no evidence for cosmic balance.

My conclusion: There are no weak-willed children, not really, not in their hearts. Sure, the defiant ones wear their heart condition on their sleeves. But the more subversive strong-will are the people-pleasers who pretzel-fold their comfort to avoid conflict. The root is the same: stubborn hearts wanting self-will.

And those outwardly stubborn children who fight our every word: disobedience is addressable {not easy, but possible}, and the fruit of obedience out of love for God is a great encouragement.

But the inwardly stubborn child who obeys to shut you up, how do you address that heart issue? Obedience is not the requirement: A broken and contrite heart is what the Lord desires. But it's so tempting to reward and encourage people-pleasing children and ignore the strong will and hard heart underneath. We risk creating tiny hypocrites.

My conclusion:
Parenting is never easy, whether you have openly defiant children or not. I think labeling is dangerous - certainly, we don't want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy from a difficult developmental stage.

I don't mean to diminish your struggle. We're in a phase of persistent rebellion with small one. It's exhausting. But I take heart from realizing that my child isn't the exception to the rule, isn't the greatest challenge known to mankind. Their will is not too strong for God.

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