Parenting the Strong-Willed Child
In a favorite comic strip, a little boy tells his Dad, “You’ll never be as smart as me Dad. Back when God built your brain…he was using older technology.” Pretty clever, huh? Probably hits home for many parents like me who rely on younger children to tweak their websites, blog posts and download all kinds of materials that seem beyond our older antiquated computer competencies.
There’s another aspect of this cartoon that I like to focus on: How is this kid wired? What is his personality style? Not hard to guess if you are familiar with the DISC personality profile. Sounds like a ‘D’ profile to me. Often represented as a lion or an eagle, here are some words to describe them: determined, decisive, demanding, takes charge, bold, self-reliant, independent, confident, direct, competitive, challenges the status quo. In a word, strong-willed. Sound like anyone in your house?
If so, I bet you are wondering how you can create a climate that promotes peace in your household while still ensuring success for the ‘D’ wired child. Here are a few recommendations:
Celebrate their unique qualities. The same characteristics that make them a challenge to parents, can also be traits that put them in charge of their own corporation or make them the next president of the country. Find ways to channel that talent into productive pursuits. What can they be in charge of at home? In the community? At church? If you can pique their interest and develop in them a passion for excellence in a productive arena, you will make your job as a parent much easier.
Provide challenges. Give a challenge as well as some control and choices in order to get their best cooperation. Create room to not only grow but fail when necessary. ‘D’ wired children especially need to learn that there are consequences to their behavior. Crystal clear boundaries, preferably written down, so they know your expectations will be essential. The more you can encourage ownership of the situation, the better will be their cooperation and participation.
Develop Empathy for Others. ‘D’ wired children are not naturally sensitive to the feelings of others. Instead they tend to focus on the the task at hand. Help them recognize how their behavior and words affect others. Ask them, “How do you think he felt when you said that?” “How would you feel if someone treated you like that?” Teach them how to express compassion and to work from a servant’s heart while accomplishing their goals.
How Are You Wired?
Your own personality profile often determines the type of struggles you may have with the ‘D’ wired child.:
- If you happen to be a ‘D’ wired parent, there is the possibility of power struggles and as you both vie for control. Be firm but consistent, avoiding threats and ultimatums.
- If you happen to be an ‘ I’ wired parent you may need to focus on establishing rules and clear expectations, while following through with consequences and discipline.
- If your own wiring is the ‘S’ personality profile, you will need to visit the ‘D’ traits in order to maintain control and teach her to recognize and respect authority other than her own. Be firm and consistent.
- Finally, ‘C’ wired parents may need to give their ‘D’ wired child some responsibility while refraining from stepping in when their own perfectionist goals aren’t met. Keep in mind that while ‘D’ wired children are similarly task oriented, their pace is faster and less exacting than the reserved ‘C’ wired individual.