Article by Bob Lancer
(see many more articles at www.boblancer.com)
Exploding the Myth of the "Willful Child"
How To Win With Your "Strong-willed" Child
When our repeated attempt to improve, direct or redirect a child's behavior proves futile, or even proves counterproductive to the point that it sends the child into more disturbing behavior, conventional perspectives label such a child "willful" or "strong-willed".
The behavior that we are usually trying to "fix" is a disruptive, unruly, disrespectful, overly self-centered or extremely unreasonable display, as when the child refuses to accept "No" for an answer or hysterically demands to have his own way when it would be impossible or irresponsible for us to let that happen.
However, this pattern of resistance to improvement actually expresses a weakness of will. Calling it "strong willed" displays and projects upon the situation a deep level of misunderstanding that conceals the real cause and, therefore, the real solution of the problem, leading us into misguided reactions that can worsen rather than improve the situation.
The fact is that it is easier to behave in selfish, chaotic, inconsiderate ways than it is to function in a more orderly, intelligent, considerate manner, just as it is easier for a toddler to destroy a tower of blocks than to build one. It's easier to lash out when we feel taken advantage of than to maintain our composure until we get the facts straight; to speak to those we love in a cold and condescending tone when we could just as easily reach them in a loving way; to argue aggressively with our spouse despite the pain that causes the child exposed to it, rather than wait a few minutes to discuss our issue in private.
For adults and children alike, it takes a stronger will to overcome previously established habits that express lower levels of performance than to backslide into them. For a child or an adult to function at the highest level possible, one must surmount the natural, downward drag of less mature tendencies, and for this the will needs to be strong.
No matter how hard you work at improving or controlling your child's behavior, your child's behavior ultimately remains up to your child to direct. In order for your child to function at a higher level, he needs the strength of will necessary to overcome the natural resistance to change and the natural pull of previously established levels of behavior upon him. He also needs to have developed the necessary skills or ability to perform at a higher level.
For a child to perform at a higher level, the child must want to try a bit harder for the satisfaction of a successful job well done. He must concentrate on making an effort to attain a higher level of self-mastery. Only the power of his desire for the higher level of attainment can drive him to strive until he attains that level.
So it is not the child who performs poorly that demonstrates a strong will. The child who demonstrates loving, responsible self-conduct is the truly "willful" child.
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