I have a three-year-old boy who was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his poor little ankles--like one of those crazy cows at a rodeo. Wait. He looked exactly like one of those crazy cows at a rodeo.
He was downright angry to be out in the big, cold world, under those bright and glaring rodeo lights. The cowboy in me said, "Woo! That's over! Let's check childbirth off the list of things I need to do today!"
Well, that newborn turned into a one-month-old, who screamed. All. The. Time. Isaiah was "spirited," "assertive," and "passionate" from day one.
That little boy had a special place in my heart. He could be the sweetest and cuddliest baby. But for some reason, as he got older it seemed like he wanted to find out all of the things that we wanted him to do, so he could do the EXACT opposite.
Having a strong-willed child is difficult. You want them to get along with authority figures. You want people to like them. Sometimes, YOU want to like them. I often wondered why he couldn't just do what I told him to do!
I was completely unhappy and stressed with whatever it was that we were trying to do to reign our little calf in. Spanking didn't work. It only made him angrier and that was hard to watch. Every day was a full-fledged power struggle with an increasingly defiant two-year-old. Plus, I had just given birth to a baby girl and was pregnant with our third--another girl (We had three kids under three years old). I was tired of yelling and screaming, and maybe just tired in general.
Someone introduced me to the Love and Logic parenting techniques when our little guy was around two years old (that's a little over a year ago). That's when I stopped telling my kids what to do.
Following the Love and Logic technique, we began giving him options. I gave him the power to "choose" when I felt it was appropriate. For example, "Do you want one stuffed animal or two stuffed animals in bed tonight?" or "Would you like pretzels or a granola bar for your snack?" Giving him freedom in these areas gave him a feeling of power. When I give choices, I empower.
I've found that even in difficult situations, I'm able to give Isaiah a choice. He has the ability to make the right decision in a given situation. For example, I ask "Honey, would you like to hold my hand in the parking lot, or do you want me to carry you?" Did you notice that both of the options that I gave were ones that I would be happy for him to pick? I did that on purpose. I can live with whatever he decides, and I'm able to follow through without making empty threats. Questions like these have become second nature both for my husband and I and our children. We've gotten used to phrasing things in positive ways and giving opportunities for success, or allowing failure and its consequences--often the most powerful teacher of all.
If you want a cure-all for every uncomfortable situation that will arise with your child, this is not it. Love and Logic techniques are tools to equip you to raise your child. They aren't the answer in and of themselves. We've found that with our faith in God, love for each other and our children, Love and Logic techniques can make our days a whole lot smoother and our kids a whole lot more prepared for the real world. Love and Logic parenting is smart parenting. It takes some extra thought and planning, but it's absolutely worth the effort.
If you're looking for a quick run-through of these techniques for strong-willed children, I recommend this 'Webinar.' I watched it and learned quite a bit, even though I had already read most of the Love and Logic books. In fact, my husband is a teacher and these ideas have been great for getting control of his high school classrooms. I imagine they would be just as effective with grade school kids.
Here are some other resources we've found especially helpful in laying foundations for positive behavior with our young, strong-willed children.
*Love and Logic did not reimburse me to do this review. They did provide the Webinar and related material for me to watch.
**Calf photo courtesy of Isanti Fire District