Monday, March 24, 2014

Strong-willed, to the HNL

There is a child in our family who takes strong-willedness to the HNL. If you know our family personally, you know who I'm talking about. This child is intense, to say the least. When he was a toddler, I spiraled into depression, thinking I had failed, not only as a parent, but as a person, because I didn't know how to deal with him. As he and I have grown as people and have learned more how to control our respective emotions, I have found much delight in his intensity. He is all-in, for better or worse, reminding me of the old poem about the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: "When she was good, she was very good indeed, But, when she was bad, she was horrid."

In the last year or so, we have been learning better, through trial and error, how to handle this strong-willed one. What he craves and demands is respect. We are embracing a discipline system that utilizes those needs of his. Just today, I videoed him throwing a passionate fit while refusing to do his Math assignment. He despised having to sit and watch it when he finally calmed down enough to see it. But, then, I gave him an opportunity to make a new video that he could be proud of. One in which he could see himself as a hard worker and a big boy. He loved the second video! I asked him if he wanted me to delete the first video, which, of course, he did. Then, I made a deal with him: As long as he was behaving in a way that he would be proud to watch on video and be proud to show to others, we would keep the second video. But, if he chose to revert to the previous behaviors, we would make a new video to replace the one he was so proud of. Throughout the day, just the mention of making a new video was enough to get him to change his tune. It was a discipline method that worked. For today. I fully expect to have to come up some other creative means of reigning him in at some point in the future.

He is, according to this article (that I unfortunately didn't come across until I had already discovered most of these things for myself, but that I'm glad to have in writing to refer to on my less confident days) "a person of integrity who isn't easily swayed from his own viewpoint." Hmm. That's some really useful perspective. Thinking of him as a person of integrity, rather than a disobedient rebel helps me help him through the struggle of growing up and will hopefully allow us both to escape mostly unscathed from this tumultuous childhood.

Perhaps your family also has a very special, HNL, strong-willed child, who will someday change (or rule) the world. Maybe you are beating your head against a wall, like I have done so many times (and still do so often). I want you to know that you are not alone. If you can glean anything from my experience or the tips in the article, I definitely want you to do that. And, if, in your experience, you've come across a thing or two that works (even if only occasionally), I'd love for you to share.

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