Saturday, December 01, 2007

Strong Willed Part 4

What should parents of strong-willed children do?
Understand yourself. Are you strong-willed? How do you make decisions? How do you communicate and learn?

Understand your child. Love him unconditionally. Be humble. Rely on God. Be willing to let Him be the ultimate authority in your child’s life.

Until conversion from dead in sins, a child has two options: either he is subject to influence, in which case a parent has an easier time getting a child to obey, but risks producing a child who follows whichever prevailing influence, be it human, media, or substance. Or the child is what is called strong-willed, which means he worships something. No threats of punishment; no bribery of food, toys, privileges, or love will avail. To such a child there is no question of comprehension (he knows what you mean) or the easy way out. He doesn’t want the easy way. He doesn’t want fun, or gentleness. At least he might, but it is not his primary will.

You can tell this child what to do. Tell him what you expect. Tell him consequences. And follow through. If you do not follow through on his expectations, he will see that what you tell him about rules are not facts, but manipulations. This must not be a contest of wills, you against him. Never punish any child for doing something you simply didn’t want him to do. If you didn’t tell him it was a rule, he wasn’t disobeying you. If you were displeased, simply tell him so, make a new rule if necessary, and move on.

Facts are influential here. The fifth commandment is repeated in the Bible several times, rephrased. In one place it says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The last part is a statement of fact. “This is right.” Tell your child what is right and what is wrong. He may still do what is wrong, but decisions are made on facts, and eventually the facts might bring him to change his mind. Know that “because I said so,” won’t go a long way with him, though.

If a strong-willed child asks you why, he is seeking more facts. His decision-making faculties need more information. Some parents see this as a challenge to authority. From one light it is. From the child’s perspective, authority is largely irrelevant. He isn’t demanding you give him an answer or else he won’t obey you. He is learning to make decisions of his own. He will make his decisions on his own, and he will acquire his facts from you if he trusts you and you’re available, or from someone else, if you’re not. Take his “why?” as a sign of trust and respect. He considers you qualified to answer.

You’ve no idea how many times I took tests and saw trick questions because there was insufficient information. I wanted to interrogate the questioner, to get all the facts.

Unfortunately most of the authors of questions didn’t see things my way. They were actually testing my ability to assume what they were asking. True or false questions were the exception. Those were my kind of challenges. One word could be different or omitted, and the statement would change. There was the place for trick questions to be detected.

Tell him stories. Don’t tell him allegories or fables. Strong-willed children will see through these. But tell him stories about noble characters. Tell him Bible stories. If your child remembers facts, this is a sign that he is going to be influenced in the same way.

Don’t confuse an affinity for facts with a dismissal of concept. If concepts are reality, they are facts as well, and your child will comprehend them. My mother and sister learned math by memorizing formulae. “It’s magic,” my mom’s geometry teacher taught her. Math was a series of tools, a means to an end, but not a truth to her. To me math is a reality. I follow concepts. When I was learning to reciprocal fractions in order to divide them, I could not understand because my mom/teacher gave me rules, but not facts. The rule was to invert the second fraction, then multiply. But the concept was as simple as the top number is divided by the bottom number. Notice the difference in those statements. One has the infinitive, “to invert,” implying a command or an action. The second is a statement of fact indicated by “is.” There is a third type of person, the creative, who sees outside the box. I encountered my deficiency in geometry. My mom memorized theorems. I learned concepts, could anticipate theorems. But doing proofs was incredibly hard, especially if it involved adding a fact (constructing one or more lines).

For theology the same applies. Don’t just teach simple facts. You can teach concepts that are realities. Just be ready for a lot of questions (don’t get worried about them; your child is not losing his faith, but owning it, allowing it to expound into his decision making).

To God be all glory.

No comments: