Being a parent does not only lead to life's greatest joys but also to big challenges. I'm sure you'll agree with me, especially if your boy or girl gets various labels -- the aggressive toddler, the self-propelled preschooler, the hyperactive or the stubborn child.
Dr. James Dobson particularly addresses the Western culture in his book, "The Strong-Willed Child." Nevertheless, the following principles he has highlighted are relevant to all families regardless of geographical location:
When a child behaves in ways that are disrespectful or harmful to himself or others, his hidden purpose is often to verify the stability of the boundaries.
Every child's misbehavior has a reason. According to Dr. Dobson, it is usually to test his parents' authority and see how firm they are in implementing certain rules. He explains further that a child who assaults the loving authority of his parents is greatly reassured when their leadership holds firm and confident. The child actually finds his greatest security in a structured environment where the rights of other people (and his own) are protected by definite boundaries.
Parental submissiveness does not avoid unpleasantness; it makes it inevitable.
Dobson warns that if you don't take a stand early, a child is compelled by his nature to push you further. Being a permissive parent has negative consequences. It might turn out that you're raising a brat.
We, mothers, are often guilty of this permissiveness. But if we resolve to make a stand, we will no longer yield to our child's whims just to prevent dealing with an unpleasant behavior.
There is no more ineffective method of controlling human beings (of all ages) than the use of irritation or anger.
The author points out that disciplinary action influences behavior, but anger does not. Instead, adult anger produces a destructive kind of disrespect in the minds of our children, especially when they perceive that our frustration is caused by our inability to control the situation.
Dobson reminds that we don't need anger to control our children; we do need action, occasionally. It is of course easy to be angry because of our child's misbehavior. But then, we can minimize raising our voice by taking action and not just uttering "plenty of angry words."
Some children are naturally compliant and others are exhibiting a wild and wooly will. Dobson says, however, that the overriding principle is the same for men and women, mothers and fathers, coaches and teachers, pediatricians and psychologists: "It involves discipline with love, a reasonable introduction to responsibility and self-control, parental leadership with a minimum of anger, respect for the dignity and worth of the child, realistic boundaries that are enforced with confident firmness, and a judicious use of rewards and punishment to those who challenge and resist."
The author also brings to emphasis that some things in life are more important than academic excellence, and self-esteem is one of them. Every child is just of equal worth in God's sight. It is an irrational cultural bias to measure the worth of children according to their abilities and special features they may (or may not) possess.
The parenting tips and guidelines covered by the Focus on the Family founder and chairman emeritus can be summed up into one verse: "And now a word to you parents. Don't keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice." In practical terms, Dobson concludes that a child learns to yield to the authority of God by first learning to submit (rather than bargain) to the leadership of his parents.
"The Strong-Willed Child" offers a very balanced and biblical view of parenting or child rearing. Please feel free to share your feedback in the comment section below if you have already read Dr. Dobson's book.