Monday, August 13, 2012

Balancing our Strong Wills

When I agreed to review You Can't Make Me, I thought it would help me with one daughter. It turns out it's the other daughter who meets more of Tobias' description of a strong willed child, or SWC. They both, however, meet the description. Big surprise, it also turns out that they get their heavy doses of strong will directly from me.

My strong will came out in full force when I saw the new sign posted in our laundry room of our apartment building. Among other things, it said "no loads of laundry can be started before 8 a.m." This really screws me up because I usually start my laundry before 7 a.m. on Sundays so I can be done before noon. My second thought was, "why do they care?" The laundry room is in the garage so it can't be bothering anyone. I only use one of the two so that someone else can also do their laundry. I hate rules merely for the sake of having rules without a point. Tobias points this out as a common conflict with SWCs. Don't just tell us to do or not do something without giving us the rationale behind it. 

I was truly surprised at the many references to God and religion. As many know, I'm more of an agnostic atheist myself. Most of the references seemed unnecessary, but Tobias' conclusion seemed like an awfully long chorus of "Amens" rather than useful, practical advice that could help all parents.

Still, the majority of what I read will be useful. Because what I really took away from the book is that when I'm in high conflict with one (or both) of my SWCs, what I really need to ask myself is, "what would persuade me?"

Tobias says that ultimatums pretty much never work because a SWC will usually choose the "or else." While I've certainly tried to use an ultimatum from time to time, I have also found them lacking in results. Particularly with the daughter with the highest SWC quotient. And I know, from my own SWC perspective, ultimatums rarely motivate me.

Being strong willed is not necessarily a good or bad trait, which I already knew. As usual, it's about balance.

A strong will can change the world. For better or for worse. And once those of us know that we have a strong will, you better believe we want to try it out!

That's awesome when parent and child are in sync about what needs to be accomplished. Of course, it doesn't always work that way.

Tobias includes many strategies to try, and she is quick to point out that maintaining the relationship has to be the number one goal. An SWC must know that in the end, their parents love them and believe in them. And the parent of an SWC needs to understand that it's not personal; your child does love and respect you, but the SWC believes that it will cost them something too great to just do it because we said so.

Oh sure, I have said that phrase many many times, and sometimes it works depending on the situation. But when both of us (with either child) are resolutely determined to get our way, I can almost guarantee that neither of us will.

Then it's up to me as the parent to take a step back and evaluate what's really important about what I want. Is my child willing to do it, just not in the way that I want? In that case, I need to let go and let her do it the way that she wants. Is the goal itself the problem? Then we need to work together to solve it.

Over the years, we've gotten much better at reading each other; both of them will accept "because I said so" when they can see that there's no way I'm going to bend and to try me would be a big mistake. Other times, I will take the time to explain my rationale, and sometimes, as Tobias says, that is enough. If that's not enough, they negotiate and we come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

There are some looming concerns I have for both of them. And after having read the book, I think I'm more equipped to ask myself the right questions before I discuss those concerns with them. How would I want to be approached? What would motivate me? And what would make me feel like I'm
backed against a wall?

Once I can answer those for me, I will know a better approach for them. We're not exactly the same, of course, but understanding that our minds work similarly is a great start.

In the meantime, however, I will definitely be seeking a reason from my apartment manager about why it's okay to do laundry at 8:00 a.m. but not 7:58!

Disclosure: I was given the book to read. No other compensation was given.  All opinions expressed in this post are my own. The Amazon link above is associated with my affiliate account, and would generate a (very) small fee for me.

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