Your Strong Willed Child
How should you deal with your stubborn, strong-willed child? Woody is stubborn. Quick to anger, dig in his heels, furrowed brow, can't let go of anything stubborn. When he decides he wants something, or thinks something has happened unfairly, he pushes and pushes to the point of tears. It is completely and utterly exhausting - emotionally, and often physically - for both of us.
Learning how to manage and direct this inherent part of Woody's personality is an ongoing lesson for all of us. Some days we have good days, some days we have bad days. Mostly we try to focus on the goal of channeling that trait positively into learning and leadership, and away from bullheaded, bossy, and unable to let go.
We've been dealing with Woody's stubbornness a little more lately, I think because of regular 9 year old development issues more than anything else. It is a good time, however, to think again about what it means to raise a stubborn child, the challenges and the positives.
The bright side
Even when we are in the middle of one of Woody's stubborn meltdowns, I strive to remember the positives to his stubbornness. Yes, positives.
Woody will always, and I mean always, stand up for himself. He is not a boy who will be walked on. Woody has the ability to focus like no other 9 year old I have ever seen - and had that ability at a young age as well. Woody was the one who achieved complete potty training in one day, taught himself to tie his shoes and ride his two wheeler, and on and on. Woody is extremely confident and unafraid of leading.
These are traits that, channeled effectively, can mean tremendous success in many different areas for Woody. While I might have day-to-day concerns about getting school work done, scheduling extra-curricular activities, regular kid conflicts, and so on, I worry very little about his long term success. I know he will succeed in whatever he chooses. I just know it.
Parenting a very stubborn child has many challenges. I have a fairly strong stubborn streak myself (my father is looking down on me and laughing as I write this I am sure), and I have learned the hard way that the right way to deal with Woody's stubbornness is not necessarily digging in my heels just as hard. It's taken a few teary (both of us) impasses to recognize this. The key for us is heading off the standoff before it starts.
We try to talk things out as much as possible, to explain in a certain amount of depth, and to set realistic expectations for all of us. We talk a lot more about give and take with Woody, essentially negotiation. We're clear that there are some things at home that are non-negotiable, but if he is respectful and clear, we can work for a compromise on other things. Sometimes this works, sometimes not, but we keep at it.
We have found we have to be as consistent as possible in example and discipline with him; he can identify, and will focus on, any inconsistency from a mile a way - then the issue of it being "unfair" takes over from the initial issue. We try to stay calm ourselves and not give in even when it might be easier to do so - also harder than it may seem sometimes - and remember we are in this for the long haul. Parenting is an endurance race, not a sprint.
In the end, though, we are the parents. Woody does have to listen to us and abide our decisions; he's only 9! Slowly, slowly, through hard work and probably more tears, I am hopeful we'll help Woody learn how to manage this stubborn streak. One day he'll understand how to discern when to keep pushing and when to let go, when he's leading and when he's being bossy, and so on. Through it all, I'll know that whatever he chooses to do in life, he will succeed.