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April 12, 2014
Strong-Willed Children are a Blessing
There’s a lot of talk about strong-willed kids. These children know what they want and are not easily deterred. They’re often driven, inflexible, and know how others should fit into their plans. They have the determination to face resistance, even if that resistance is some kind of authority in their lives.
The reality is that these kids will likely be leaders in the future, and they demonstrate many of those qualities now. However, all good leaders need to learn how to follow and if not trained, these kids can become tyrants. So, parents of these gifted children have their work cut out for them.
We’re finding more and more that these kids challenge the typical behavior modification system of rewards and punishment. Parents lament, “nothing works.” They say, “He doesn’t care if I take everything away, he won’t change.” “She doesn’t care about the star chart, the trip this weekend, or dessert.” In that reality the key to parenting them is revealed. Children who are characterized as “strong-willed” have an internal motivation toward their agenda, and are less affected by external motivations so a heart-based approach is essential.
A parent’s use of rewards and punishment have less influence on this child because the motivation is coming from inside. So, how do we help this internally motivated child move in the right direction? Since external motivation has little effect, parents must learn to mold and guide that internal motivation.
It starts with a good understanding of the heart. The heart contains the child’s desires, emotions, passions, beliefs, and convictions. As the heart is molded toward Godly character and responsibility, then the strong-willed child develops convictions to motivate right behavior, desires to do what’s right, and an internal sense of satisfaction when being responsible, caring about others, or telling the truth.
If you find your child unresponsive to attempts to motivate with reward and punishment, try to identify a heart quality that needs to develop. Heart qualities are things like kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, initiative, and diligence.
Talk to your child about the heart quality and build vision for why it will be helpful in life. Then work together to develop a plan for building this quality in your child’s heart. Pray together that God would increase this quality, and then talk about it regularly. Overtime you’ll see your child make right choices due to the change on the inside.
For more ideas about developing a heart-based approach, consider the book Parenting is Heart Work by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.