Pri­vate Ed­u­ca­tion Guide

Nav­i­gat­ing school and more with a de­ter­mined child

Richmond Hill Post - - Music - by Joanne Kates

Pages 47 - 63

We all know this kid. This is the kid who says no more of­ten than yes. This is the kid who al­ways has an an­swer when you say it’s home­work time, or time to turn off the TV. Or time to go to bed. And it’s never the an­swer you want to hear. This is the kid who pushes all our but­tons. Daily. At din­ner par­ties (and our own per­sonal ver­sion of the of­fice wa­ter cooler) we get off cute one-lin­ers about our ju­nior lit­i­ga­tor and how smart they are.

But as they say in the sappy old coun­try songs, inside our heart is break­ing. Be­cause we have no clue how to par­ent this child, and we worry for them (as well as want­ing to slap them in our worst mo­ments): What will be­come of them, if they can’t even be made to do their Grade Three home­work?

Teach­ers and other pro­fes­sion­als of­ten re­fer to th­ese chil­dren as strong­willed… or stub­born… or dif­fi­cult to man­age. All th­ese terms are true. Any­one who has tried to man­age a strong-willed child knows what

doesn’t work. What doesn’t work is push­ing this child. Push­ing them to do what we want almost in­vari­ably re­sults in this child dig­ging in their heels. For the long haul. Be­cause they’re strong-willed, and strong-willed means just that. They can and do hang on to ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing their re­sis­tance.

The other tac­tic that usu­ally fails with this child is of­fer­ing con­se­quences: “If you don’t do your home­work, you won’t get your al­lowance… If you don’t turn off the TV, there’ll be no play­time after din­ner.” The strong-willed child hears and de­codes th­ese state­ments as a chal­lenge to their power. And this child never met a power strug­gle they were will­ing to lose.

At camp we say to staff that when a child be­gins a power strug­gle, don’t pick

up the rope. This means do any­thing but a tug-o-war. Be­cause the strong-willed child is the stub­born child is the child who can’t tol­er­ate los­ing. Which means you can never win a power strug­gle with that child.

They’re of­ten re­ally smart kids who sense a power strug­gle im­me­di­ately as it starts, and they then say: “You can’t make me.” This is the child re­duc­ing the sit­u­a­tion to its pared-down ba­sics. You can’t make them do any­thing if they put their mind to re­fus­ing; they know it, and what they’re telling you is that power re­ally mat­ters to them, so they can’t af­ford (emotionall­y) to give in to you and they’re not go­ing to. That’s why you shouldn’t have picked up the rope. This child, who is smart, sen­si­tive to power is­sues and can’t tol­er­ate feel­ing dis­em­pow­ered, is well-suited to self-man­age­ment — pre­cisely be­cause of their strong will. This child seeks mas­tery. They won’t ac­cept your man­dated bed­time, or home­work time or chore time? Let it all go. Tell the child that they get to make their own de­ci­sions about th­ese things. Their first re­sponse will be joy. Ha! I showed mom!

Their sec­ond re­sponse (a pri­vate one) will be to use that strong will to make a decision to show mom that they don’t need to be man­aged. Again, here’s that de­sire for power man­i­fest­ing it­self. This child may have a few slips: Fail­ing to do home­work, go­ing to bed too late, not wear­ing a win­ter coat. Here’s where strong parental self-dis­ci­pline is re­quired. You have to al­low nat­u­ral con­se­quences to be the child’s teacher. Don’t say a word. Let a school con­se­quence oc­cur. Let them be cold. Let them be tired the next morn­ing. Let them be late for school if they over­sleep. Don’t write a note. They’ll learn from their ex­pe­ri­ences.

When they’re in a calm mood, you can ask if they’d like some help with those rou­tines, but only of­fer the help they’ve ne­go­ti­ated with you. Be­cause un­til the strong-willed child per­ceives them­selves in the driver’s seat you will be suf­fer­ing the mis­ery of daily power strug­gles.

Try this: You’ll be shocked at how much sweeter this child be­comes — and way more fun to par­ent.

Some kids are far more head­strong than oth­ers, re­sult­ing in power strug­gles

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