Creative Child

The Upside of Raising a Strong-Willed Child

by Deborah Song on Jun 1st, 2016

Strong-willed Children

When exacting scenarios like this used to play out with Phoebe, I often wondered if she was conducting an experiment to see how frazzled mommy could get, testing her boundaries, as they say. I pictured her going to bed at night rubbing her fingers together with a smirk on her face. For the past year, though, her position on cereal remains unchanged. She will only eat firm cereal with the right amount of milk from a blue bowl. For Phoebe, these aren’t antics. She’s not trying to be difficult for the sake of difficulty. She is a child with high standards and confrontation doesn’t deter her from making her opinions known. For Phoebe, obedience only happens when things seem right and make sense to her.

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Her stubborn character makes parenting challenging at times. But her strong moral compass for the right cereal-to-milk ratio and her will to stand by it may prove her well in the future, according to a research study.

Research shows that strong-willed children are more likely to earn higher incomes and become successful entrepreneurs. Defying authority, challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries, as it turns out, are the precise qualities necessary for start-ups to succeed.

But I don’t need to look that far ahead to see the upside of her stubborn streak if I think about it. Her willingness to stand up for what she believes in has already proven commendable. On more than one occasion, a parent has informed me that Phoebe helped a fellow classmate from being victimized by the class bully.

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So maybe in light of the big picture, I can let the little things go. As a parent, of course I have to insist she listen so she doesn’t burn her hand on the stove or run into the street. There are times I want her to listen to me simply because I said so. But demanding absolute obedience would come at a hefty price. Unquestioned obedience to someone “bigger” lends itself to being susceptible to peer pressure and has even cost the lives of millions of people throughout history.

It’s not always convenient, but we want our children to listen to us because of trust—trust that comes from empathy, understanding and discourse—not from fear of punishment. As a parent, there’s nothing I want more for my child than for her to grow up to become the kind of adult who makes decisions based on sound judgment, even if that means relegating cereal from an easy breakfast food to an intricately prepared meal.

Deborah Song is a Los Angeles-based writer and the mother of two girls. She received her master’s in journalism from New York University and writes about parenting, business and kid entrepreneurship. You can read more of her work at lemonadepost.com.

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