Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
First out in 1999, a new revised and updated version of You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded) by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, M. Ed., hits book stores today. It’s all about living with the strong-willed child without constantly wanting to shoot yourself in the foot. How do you know if you have one?
You just know. Estelle, my 6-year-old twin daughter, bosses us around. She knows what I should wear and how I should do my hair. She plays long after her lights are out. When she doesn’t get her way, she stomps up the stairs, slams the door and screams, “You hate me!” (For the record, we don’t hate her.) When she was four, she buckled her brother and sister’s seat belts for them in the car. Nice, right? But when they finally wanted to complete this task themselves, Estelle screamed. She had lost some power and control she had over them.
Being strong-willed isn’t a bad trait, Tobias writes. These kids aren’t stubborn, defiant, difficult and argumentative. Those are bad behaviors of a strong will that has taken a wrong turn. Instead, this is a very positive thing to be. “A strong-willed person is not easily daunted or discouraged, holds firm convictions and doesn’t often accept defeat…is fiercely loyal, determined to succeed and often extraordinarily devoted to accomplishing goals,” Tobias writes.
The book speaks to parents of toddlers all the way through high school. I especially like the chapter about handling a meltdown.What do you do when your kid is writhing on the floor at church because you won’t let her pick the flowers on the alter? How do you react when your normally well-mannered kid refuses to say goodbye and thank you to a mom on a playdate? Tobias has written many helpful and popular child-rearing tomes, and she knows what she’s talking about. Here are some of her best tips:
Managing a Meltdown Crisis
1. Back off. Talking to a kid who’s lost her temper slowly and loudly won’t work. Neither will yelling, screaming or threatening. Take a deep breath and say to the child, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.” Then walk away. Refuse to be pulled into the argument or baited into losing your cool. Deal with the problem after the tantrum–when you’ve both calmed down.
2. Let her make decisions. Give her ownership and responsibility to help her maintain control over her own actions and decisions. Make her believe that she’s she’s got a say in her bed time. She’ll be more cooperative when she feels you’ve taken her opinions into consideration.
3. Be honest. If you lose your cool with your kid, don’t be afraid to tell her you’re sorry. Tell her how it’s going to go down the next time. A strong-willed child can smell BS a block away, and she will act out if she thinks you’re pulling a fast one on her. By all means, don’t be indecisive or tentative when you deal with her. She’ll eat you alive if you’re weak. Just be clear on what you want and true to your word. You have to be a person she wants to love and respect.
Estelle’s latest thing is to write simple sentences on Post-Its she leaves around the house–and all over the floor. Her first written words are things like, “Eat your dinner,” “I am older than my brother,” and “I play my way.” Do you have a strong-willed child? What kinds of things does she or he do?