Tag Archives: children

Different Parenting Techniques for Introverted and Extroverted Kids

I was one of those mothers who’s firstborn child made her look really good.  My firstborn was (and still is) a really easy kid, sweetly introverted, and geared at pleasing.  As a matter of fact, my first two children were really easy.   When the second one came along and was equally obedient, polite, gentle, and brilliant, he confirmed my suspicions about the world’s greatest parent thing.

What I asked them to do, they did.  When I told them where we were going, they were excited about it.  When I told them to go to bed, they did without fussing.  They made eye contact when being introduced, were quiet when I needed them to be, and were flexible with my schedule.  They were introverts who enjoyed just being with me, without trying to drive the agenda.

And then my third came along.  He was different from day one.  He was born with opinions about everything.  He cared about when he ate, he cared about the condition of his diaper, he cared about who was holding him, he cared about the position of his head and how he was being held.  He wasn’t a cranky child, but just an extrovert that came into the world with ideas about how the world should listen to him.

He made parenting an adventure.

And then my fourth came along.  From day one, she ruled the roost.  She was a healthy baby, but from months 3 – 10, she cried constantly if she wasn’t being held.  And being that she was my fourth child and I had 3 others to care for, she wasn’t held all that often.  Those months were very, very loud.

If I thought that my third born had opinions, I found that I was redefining what that meant based on my fourth child.  My youngest came born to rule, and she let everyone know it.

Very early on in the life of my youngest, we realized that we had to completely relearn how to parent.  Things that I took for granted with the other 3 were now complicated.  Ways that I enforced discipline had to be modified.  Styles and tones of communication had to change.

Some people call kids like my 3rd and 4th strong willed.  I choose to say it is having strong opinions.  The difference to me is perspective.

Strong willed has been portrayed as negative.  A strong will is just asking to be broken, to be put in its place.  It is a challenge to the authority of adults and must be taught who is boss.

But I believe that the opinions, leadership, and strength of a classic strong willed, extroverted child are gifts that will lead them directly into the will of God.  If we break them, sideline them, or communicate how frustrating they are, then we are running the risk of destroying the very gift that God has placed in them to accomplish things greater than we can imagine.  Their passion, emotion, stubbornness, etc are exactly the kind of traits that can be used in radical ways – and I want to be able to step back and know that I did nothing but encourage and shape those gifts.

My two extroverted kids are the spice of our family.  Their ideas are never-ending, their spunk is enlightening.  They have motivation and drive to accomplish anything to which they put their minds.

However, they also need to be parented differently than my two that are more compliant and introverted.  Every strength in our character/personality has an opposite side to it, and the opinionated kids among us are no different.

If you have an opinionated, extroverted child, you know that:

 – While they have the potential to be great leaders, they have a tendency towards bossiness.
The most opinionated of my children has the capacity to be the strongest leader among us.  She can walk into a situation, assess what needs to be done, and then with ease assign tasks to people.  What a gift!

And yet, as the youngest of four, she has no one to lead.  When she walks into a situation and starts assigning tasks to her older siblings, they look at her like, “Umm…who do you think that you are?  Do you realize that you are YOUNGER than me?!? ”  They are quick to remind her that she has no authority to be bossing them around.

Without the maturity of tact and relational skills, leadership becomes bossiness.  With no one around to train a young leader how to be tactful and strategic with people, they will grow up to be the condescending, tactless boss that we all know.

I believe it is my role, as her mother, to train and develop those tendencies within her.  It is my job and privilege to help my gifted daughter to temper her strength with character, patience and love.
* * We do that with many reminders throughout the day.  From a very young age, I have found myself so very often asking her to take another shot at whatever she had just said, saying it in a different, more loving, tactful way.
* * We practiced communicating kindly.  In non-stressful situations, I have had her practice phrases that would be more tactful options, and I have had her work through various circumstances where she could either jump into a situation and take over, or jump into the same situation and lead tactfully.
* * We found places for her to practice her leadership gifts (she became a teacher’s helper at dance class, for example).

 – While they are able to express their opinions with great passion and emotion, they have a tendency to be moody.
My two younger children walk in extremes.  I have often said that when there are tears, you don’t know whether they just stubbed their toe, or cut the whole toe off.  The emotions are the same for either situation.  If you cross their wills, even if it is just a simple command that they don’t wish to fulfill, the emotion you’ll get is as if you just asked them not to save the world from a cataclysmic catastrophe.  It can be exhausting to try to reign in an opinionated child.

Once again, training kicks in.
* * We don’t overlook/ignore the emotional roller coasters, we discuss them.  Even as little kids with limited verbal abilities, we’d talk about where the strong emotion was coming from, and how they could manage it better.
* * We’d offer them tools to manage extreme emotion, such as, as little kids, jumping up and down, or as a little older kids, taking a few minutes alone to depressurize, reflect and pray.
* * We don’t let strong emotions bully us into changing our minds.  If the idea that an emotional outburst, or a display that they feel strongly enough about something, makes them think that they actually get what they want, then they will continue to do so without ever maturing and learning better coping skills.  We don’t allow for emotional manipulation in our home.

 – While they won’t settle for less than what they believe is right and just, they have a tendency to believe that everyone else is wrong.  

Unlike my more compliant children, my extroverted kids love a good debate. They love to take a rule and test the limits to see if it really applies to them. They love to see if you, as a parent, really mean what you say.  They are the toddlers who, when you tell them not to touch the lamp, walk right over to it, look you in the eye, and touch it.  As they get older, they are the kids that will take a boundary that you set and, without hesitation, will defiantly tell you that you are wrong or unreasonable.

While the other statements I previously made have been more about training the child, I believe this one is more about training the parent.
* * With an opinionated, strong child, you have to mean what you say.  You have to give direction and boundaries without hesitation, but don’t require something of this child that you don’t really feel strongly about.  The reason for that is that they will test you, cause you to question what you’re asking, and more times than not, will convince you you’re wrong.  If you’re  not careful, you will end up backing down on the majority of rules that you put in place.  Sometimes you’ll back down because you change your mind, but  more often than not, it will be because the requirement isn’t worth the fight you encounter.  On some days, this will be how you spend most of your day.
* * Pick your battles.  This is very similar to the suggestion above, but brings parenting outside of just the rules, and takes it to the specifics of your day.  An opinionated child can argue about anything:  whether they will wear their coat today, whether they want cereal out of the green or red bowl, whether they want their hair color to be green or red.  In each situation, decide whether or not this is a battle to be fought, or a situation to let go.
* * Offer them choices.  Choices where you can agree with either option.  Such as, “Do you want to wear the striped shirt or the orange one?”  “Do you want to ride with your leader, or do you want to walk home?”  Giving your child options helps them have an outlet for their opinions.  They will feel a little more in control of their lives, and you should have fewer arguments.
* * Find support for yourself.  Surround yourself with others who will either back you up on the stands that you take, or will be a source of encouragement and building you up.
* * Journal/write/be well rested/have you day well planned out.  Being organized, being at your best, and taking time to review your day are all helpful strategies to staying filled.  Being with a combative, strong child can be quickly draining, so you need to make sure you are ready and organized for each day.
* * Look for the delightful aspects of your child.  Maybe it is just me, but in the heat of a confrontation, it is easy to lose sight of the gentleness within your child.  It is easy to see your child as one-sided, as the one who makes life difficult.  Stop, take a break, and remind yourself of all of the beautiful things about that child.

 – In their weakest, most tired moments, or when they’re under stress, they tend to move into control.
I state this just so that you, as a parent, can be aware of it.  Most opinionated kids will become more bossy (controlling what others do), and more disagreeable (controlling their circumstances).  That doesn’t mean that you let all training slide, but it hopefully will give you understanding, that in turn will give you more patience, and therefore allow you to parent with more love.

I want to close with that idea that in our home, we place very high the value of knowing what our personality styles are and accepting each other for who we are.  We teach them that we were placed in this family together to make each other stronger, and that we are not to put down, belittle, or judge each other based on our weaknesses; however, we also recognize that we are not perfect, there are more areas of immaturity than maturity, and we don’t expect our kids to react lovingly every single time.  I hope that these ideas shared help you feel normal and give you some ideas on how to parent (and enjoy) your highly opinionated child.

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I left my newborn in a grocery store

So yes, I must confess:  I left my newborn in a grocery store.

Before you freak out on me and deem me a terrible mother, I should also say that it was my 4th (because that makes everything better…:-) and it wasn’t for very long.  This same child locked herself in our car when she was 2, in the middle of a Texas summer, while we  searched the neighborhood for her. She thought the idea of playing in the car was fun and climbed back into the car when noone was watching.  (I’d guess the temperature inside the car was about 120 degrees.)  This same child also walked off from me in a huge shopping mall the last few days before Christmas when she was 5.  Security was called, we all frantically looked for about 40 minutes, and were 5 minutes away from locking down the entire mall when someone spotted her and returned her to me.  She is, and has always been, a very independent thinker.

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Of course, that doesn’t explain me leaving her in a grocery store.  I just shared all of that to free some of you up from the grip of perfectionism.

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On the day in question, she was probably 2 weeks old and it was the first time I was venturing with all four of my kids to the grocery store.  Admittedly, I was quite distracted.  My  hands were really, really full.  So full, in fact, that while I had come in to the store with my hands very full, I left with my hands still very full – just not quite as full as they should’ve been.

I approached checkout, set my daughter in her car seat carrier in the next checkout lane over to free up some necessary space, finished my transaction, and walked out.  It wasn’t until I got to the car, having secured my other 3 kids in their seats, that I counted.  Yep – I was missing one.  I ran back in, very discreetly picked her back up, and walked out.  No one had even noticed.

As parents, in spite of our best preparation, reading up on all of the latest theories on parenting, things happen.  The baby that you eagerly anticipated for 9 months won’t stop crying.  The bliss that was supposed to be the first few weeks of your child’s life is shrouded with postpartum depression.  All of the great advice that you’ve been given fails the first time your child looks at you and says, “No!”

I’m not advocating a cavalier, carefree attitude towards the supervision of your children, but even with the best of intentions, mistakes happen.  Let’s free each other up to have honest discussions of what we’re going through, and strip the veneer of perfectionism.  I am so far from perfect – and yet my kids have survived, are respectful, love each other and love their dad and me.  And this was achieved in spite of the fact that I might’ve, maybe, possibly, occasionally left my children unattended in public places.

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Confession: Labor and Nursing May Not Go As Smoothly As You Expect

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The go-to book for pregnant moms for a decade has been What To Expect When You’re Expecting.  I had it in my newly created parenting library during the years that I was producing children.  It is so much fun to try to connect with the development of this little life as it is happening, instead of having to wait until birth day to see what has been cooking inside.

However, one of the drawbacks of this book is that at the same time that it logs day by day the development of your baby, it also logs all of the things that can possibly go wrong.

If you are a mom that dwells on fear, you have to selectively read that book, drawing out the things that spark your imagination and faith, and skipping the parts that provide a feast for your fear.

There are so many great resources out there to help moms-to-be have great experiences with labor and the first days after having a baby.  Some are really helpful.  But some seem like they might have been written by people who don’t walk in the same reality that the rest of us do.  They promise things that I certainly didn’t experience.

My advice for labor is to put together a great plan for the delivery room that helps you be intentional about the experience that you’d like to create, but be willing to set that plan aside if things don’t go as you expected.  The goal of labor (besides having a healthy mom and baby) is to walk out of the delivery room saying, “That was awesome!”  For me, that meant fighting through the pain and fear and not using pain meds.  For others, it means walking in declaring that you’d like to be fully medicated/anesthetized.   For yet others, it means water birth, midwife-led, or home birth.  Whatever the case, remember that not all things go as planned, and emotional flexibility is really important.

And let me also say that for most people, nursing a newborn hurts.  It is valuable, the most natural and healthiest route for your baby (and for the new mom), but it also can be quite painful.  I certainly am not trying to be Debbie Downer, but again, I think that it is important to walk into the process with all of the information possible.  It might be a glorious experience from the first time your baby latches on, but odds are that it will be a bumpy road in the beginning, and that a lactation consultant will be your best friend.  Use their expertise liberally.

It is my opinion that our lives are neither about being perfect, nor avoiding pain at all costs, but about going through it, together, and finding grace for the experience.

(Image courtesy of imagerymajestic found on http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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Confession: I Really Wanted a Son

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I was talking with a dear friend who just found out she is pregnant with her first baby.  While she has initiated conversations about child raising in the past, the conversations have just gotten more desperate and specific.  The impending arrival of her bundle has brought a lot of insecurities to the surface.  What I heard in her concerns has been reflected in conversations I’ve had with many others over the years.  There seems to be a pattern of expectations on how the new mom will feel – how the new mom will function.  I thought that I’d do a little series on exposing expectations that we have as parents that aren’t talked about much in the mom circles.  The things that a “perfect” mom wouldn’t feel (or admit to feeling).

The first one:  I’ll be happy with whatever gender my baby has, as long as its healthy.

Beautiful, loving, and gentle sentiment.  To some it may actually be true; however, my guess is that more often than not, we have strong opinions/wishes/hopes of what the make-up of our family will look like.  We certainly wish/hope for healthy children.  And if we’re honest, most of us have hopes about how many we’ll have and what gender they will be.  We need to permission ourselves to have hopes, be disappointed as often as not, and to be honest about it.

So here’s my raw confession:  I really wanted the opposite gender.  I mean, really wanted.  As in, I cried when I heard that I was having a girl.  Sobbed.  I always thought having a son first would set the stage for the perfect family.  My husband would be the world’s best dad to a son, and this perfect boy would step into the natural responsibility of being a great, protective, and comforting big brother.  And then we had our little girl.  Of course, I loved desperately and deeply my daughter when she arrived.  She was an ornament in our lives, and the exact personality and gender that we needed to begin our parenting journey.

Did I learn my lesson?  Of course not!

When I found out that I was pregnant again, I once more had strong opinions about what gender should be next.  This time, I had imagined that having 3 girls would be the perfect family composition.  I was sure of it.  Convinced of it.  I had allowed my imagination to see myself floating through flowery fields with my 3 lovely girls, their golden hair flowing in the wind.  I would dress them alike, teach them the wonderful ways of femininity, and watch them share deep secrets amongst each other.

But a sonogram revealed a little boy’s anatomy which quickly burst my bubble, and had me bursting into tears yet again.

Repeat the scenario 2 years later when I found out that I was pregnant with my second boy.  Seriously, I cried immediately outside of the Dr.’s office after seeing a boy on the sonogram.  Not the pretty, serene crying that sophisticated people call “weeping”.  I grieved.  Ugly crying.

With each birth of these amazing babies, I was instantly smitten.  I was able to step back and bask in God’s wisdom for my family, snuggling with my three amazing children.  His ability to manage my life was and is indisputable.  They are irreplaceable and forever have my heart.

(When my 4th baby’s gender was identified, I didn’t cry.  That, however, wasn’t because I’d matured and had learned to control my expectations, but because I actually desired the gender that I was getting!  My eldest daughter had prayed for a baby sister, and when I turned up pregnant, I knew that we HAD to have a girl for her desires to be fulfilled.  When the Dr. told us that we were actually having a girl, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I’d not once gone into a gender-revealing sonogram appointment and left with my expectations fulfilled!)

I’ll have to let someone else speak who has adopted children, but I’m sure there is an aspect of this to which you can identify.  I’ve seen and heard enough to know that not all things go as planned in the adoption process!

I felt like it was important to get out on the blogging world that it is normal to have hopes and wishes of what our family will look like.  It doesn’t disqualify us from being parents, nor does it diminish our ability to nurture and love these little offspring.  If you are a natural planner who likes things in order, there are a lot of things in your parenting journey that you will have opinions about, but that won’t be in your control.  We all have to learn that it is completely OK to have opinions, and it is also healthy to relax in His wisdom for the things we can’t control.

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Curbing the Competition

Today, my home is filled with the unbelievably loud antics of my kids playing with each other.  Most of the time it is goofy wrestling (and believe me, that’s not just the boys).  Sometimes it is the made up family game of “Can We Make Them Laugh Hysterically”, with one of my kids who laughs really easily as the main target.  It could also be playing card or board games, playing on the Wii, or any number of activities.

It wasn’t always this way.  Just a few years ago, the kids were constantly operating in strife, angry with each other, so easily offended, and very competitive.

One of the tactics that we employed to end the sibling strife was to cut down on the competition.  One of the phrases that we heard around the house was, “That’s not fair.”  If you hear that statement floating around your house, that is clue that there might be comparison between your kids, and comparison births competition.

As I analyzed where the competition was coming from, I realized that I was treating my children as a group.  When we went anywhere, we went as a group.  If we went grocery shopping, my goal was to get all 4 into the store, get all 4 to keep their hands to themselves, and to have all 4 not screaming at the same time. Keeping them alive, safe, and quiet was a huge task, and thinking of them as one unit instead of four little individuals allowed me to wrap my brain around my overwhelming goal.

I called them my herd.  My herd went in, my herd went out.  My herd went to bed, my herd got up.  For me it meant that each one had been grouped as a collective to make my job easier.

Recognizing this, I started to change the way that I talked and thought.Instead of giving time to the herd, I started pulling each one aside for individual time.  Instead of planning my days with all of them involved in every activity, I started scheduling outings so that I could take just one or a couple with me.

I also started calling them out individually.  Instead of calling them all to dinner, I started by inviting each individually to come.  Instead of assigning a general clean up time, I started assigning specific chores to specific people, listing them out by name.

What each child wants is to feel individual, unique and special.  When you treat them as individuals and focus on each child alone, you’ll be surprised at how much comparison and competition is limited in your family.

I’m not saying that this simple change of thought – from the herd to individuals – will stop all arguing and fussing in your home, but I am suggesting that it is a good place to start.  After all, we like to be thought of us special and contributing something unique to the family.

In the family of God, He knows us.  He says that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that we’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), and that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26).   He says that we were wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).    I could go on and on – the Bible is full of references to how He special He thinks that we are.

Give it a try!  Make a practice of treating your kids, or kids around you, as unique and special individuals, without trying to treat them all equally or the same. Tell me how it makes a difference!

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10 Survival Tips for Introverted Parents

Being an introvert can make parenting a challenge.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I had a personality/giftings expert tell me that, based on my personality alone, I should never have kids.  I function best with plenty of solitude, being able to start and complete a task in one sitting, and to have my day structured and organized.  In short, I am an introvert.  In this expert’s opinion, child raising and introvertedness create a difficult pairing that is almost too great to overcome.

While I wholeheartedly agree that being an introvert and being a parent create unique challenges, I also believe that it is absolutely possible to do, all the while remaining sane.  There are a few strategies that I’ve found can be put in place to help the process go more smoothly.  I wanted to take a minute today to submit several ideas that I’ve found that make parenting as an introvert a bit easier.

#1  Require a no-unnecessary-noise zone.
One way for me to cope well is to keep noise to a minimum.  I recognize that having kids around intrinsically means there will be noise, and often times fun and noise go hand in hand.  I realize that I can’t have (and really don’t want) a completely noise-free zone.  However, we do have a rule that there will be no unnecessary noise.  Unnecessary noise means things like tapping, yelling, repetitive mouth sounds, loud singing, etc.  The phrase, “No unnecessary noise…” is heard often in our home.

#2 No two noisemakers going at the same time.
This relates closely to point #1; however, it zeros in specifically on things that make noise that might compete with one another, such as:   TV, computer game sounds, radio, toys that make noise, instruments, videos, singing, etc.  In our home, no two noise makers are run simultaneously.  And yes, there have been many fights discussions as to whose noise maker wins out – but in the end, it is better for me to wade through the dispute and have a relatively quiet place to reside.

#3 Mandatory nap/quiet time.
This suggestion incorporates creating emotional and physical moments of rest. When my four were little, we had mandatory nap time.  As they grew older, we shifted to enforcing a mandatory quiet time.  That time included reading books, resting in bed, or drawing.  Any activity that involved me or involved a potential fight between the siblings was nixed.

#4 Early bedtime.
Of course the time is negotiable, but having your kids go to bed early gives you space to rebuild your reserves for the coming day. My kids’ bedtime was always 7pm.  Even as they got older, we still maintained that time.  (Even until they were 10 or 11, they still went to bed at 7.) They could read in bed, listen to tapes in their rooms or play quietly, but they knew that I was “off duty” at 7pm. Since the time that my kids have barely been able to have real discussions, we have talked about how their early bedtime was much more about my need for replenishment than their need for rest.  I explained that it was motivated by my personality, and that I would be a better mommy if I had time in the evenings to recharge and refuel.

#5 Having kids stay in bed in the morning until an agreed upon time.
Even from the youngest of their ages, my kids have had a set time when they could get up.  When they were really little, they were to stay in their beds until we came to get them.  As they got older and could tell time, they knew to stay in their rooms until the designated time arrived.   That gave me a predictable beginning to my day, and allowed me to get mentally and physically prepared to handle the busyness that was to come.

#6 Have the day planned.
For me, having a structure/schedule is essential to my peace of mind.  Looking at the day as a blank slate is paralyzing; therefore, having a general agenda planned is so helpful.  Taking the few minutes that it takes to plan out events is well worth the mental energy saved throughout the day.

#7 Plan quiet activities for yourself (journaling, walking outside, etc).
Having activities that provide refilling, that fuel the introvert within you, are so key to being able to stay positive and pleasant throughout the day.  Find those things that restore your soul and regularly participate in them.  Plan your day with those elements included.

#8 Find activities to do with your kids that replenish you.
It is important that you recognize which activities throughout the day fill you or drain you.  The activities that both entertain my kids and replenish me are reading to them, playing board games, going on walks, etc.  I encourage you to think through the activities that you do with your kids and pinpoint which ones have a better chance of being replenishing to you.  When you plan your day, plan more activities that fall into that replenishing category.  Recognize which activities are draining, and if trying to creatively craft (or something like that) stresses you out, schedule it in very limited amounts.

#9 Use your introverted strengths.
As a whole, introverts are good with attention to detail and researching. Schedule your day so that most of your energy is spent moving in your strengths.  In one of my previous posts, I talked about how one of my daughters wanted Valentine’s Day cards handmade.  Not considering myself very creative, I realized that I could use my strengths of research to look up what handmade crafts might be available on the internet.  Instead of stressing over completing a task that took me out of my natural abilities (which is always draining), I found a way to use my strengths to see her project completed.

#10 Be intentional about face time with your kids.
If you spend quality time with kids – make eye contact and listen actively – they will feel really heard and connected to.  Parenting children who truly feel heard makes the parenting interaction so much easier.  Throughout the day when they get annoying, try to stop and intentionally listen to them (instead of brushing them off or making it clear how busy you are).  You might just see that the escalation of distress will cease.

Your unique personality, whether it be a demonstrative extrovert or a reserved introvert, is a gift from God.  As a parent, you have unique gifts that you pass on to your kids, and understanding your personality and working with the gifts that you have make you more effective in your role as a parent.

Let me know what other techniques you use to thrive as a parent!

 

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Raising the Opinionated (Strong Willed) Child – Part II

My two opinionated kids are the spice of our family.  Their ideas are never-ending, their spunk is enlightening.  They have motivation and drive to accomplish anything to which they put their minds.

However, they also need to be parented differently than my two that are more compliant and introverted.  Every strength in our character/personality has an opposite side to it, and the opinionated kids among us are no different.

If you have an opinionated child, you know that:

 – While they have the potential to be great leaders, they have a tendency towards bossiness.
The most opinionated of my children has the capacity to be the strongest leader among us.  She can walk into a situation, assess what needs to be done, and then with ease assign tasks to people.  What a gift!

And yet, as the youngest of four, she has no one to lead.  When she walks into a situation and starts assigning tasks to her older siblings, they look at her like, “Umm…who do you think that you are?  Do you realize that you are YOUNGER than me?!? ”  They are quick to remind her that she has no authority to be bossing them around.

Without the maturity of tact and relational skills, leadership becomes bossiness.  With no one around to train a young leader how to be tactful and strategic with people, they will grow up to be the condescending, bossy, tactless boss that we all know.

I believe it is my role, as her mother, to train and develop those tendencies within her.  It is my job and privilege to help my gifted daughter to temper her strength with character, patience and love.
* * We do that with many reminders throughout the day.  From a very young age, I have found myself so very often asking her to take another shot at whatever she had just said, saying it in a different, more loving, tactful way.
* * We practiced communicating kindly.  In non-stressful situations, I have had her practice phrases that would be more tactful options, and I have had her work through various circumstances where she could either jump into a situation and take over, or jump into the same situation and lead tactfully.
* * We found places for her to practice her leadership gifts (she became a teacher’s helper at dance class, for example).

 – While they are able to express their opinions with great passion and emotion, they have a tendency to be moody.
My two younger children walk in extremes.  I have often said that, with them, when there are tears, you don’t know whether they just stubbed their toe, or cut the whole toe off.  The emotions are the same for either situation.  If you cross their wills, even if it is just a simple command that they don’t wish to fulfill, the emotion you’ll get is as if you just asked them not to save the world from a cataclysmic catastrophe.  It can be exhausting to try to reign in an opinionated child.

Once again, training kicks in.
* * We don’t overlook/ignore the emotional roller coasters, we discuss them.  Even as little kids with limited verbal abilities, we’d talk about where the strong emotion was coming from, and how they could manage it better.
* * We’d offer them tools to manage extreme emotion, such as, as little kids, jumping up and down, or as a little older kids, taking a few minutes alone to depressurize, reflect and pray.
* * We don’t let strong emotions bully us into changing our minds.  If the idea that an emotional outburst, or a display that they feel strongly enough about something, makes them think that they actually get what they want, then they will continue to do so without ever maturing and learning better coping skills.  We don’t allow for emotional manipulation in our home.

 – While they won’t settle for less than what they believe is right and just, they have a tendency to believe that everyone else is wrong.  They have a tendency to test the limits.
Those of you with highly opinionated (strong willed) kids are out there stating a sarcastic, “No…”   This is life with an opinionated kid.

Unlike my more compliant children, my opinionated kids love a good debate. They love to take a rule and test the limits to see if it really applies to them. They love to see if you, as a parent, really mean what you say.  They are the toddlers who, when you tell them not to touch the lamp, walk right over to it, look you in the eye, and touch it.  As they get older, they are the kids that will take a boundary that you set and, without hesitation, will defiantly tell you that you are wrong or unreasonable.

While the other statements I previously made have been more about training the child, I believe this one is more about training the parent.
* * With an opinionated, strong child, you have to mean what you say.  You have to give direction and boundaries without hesitation, but don’t require something of this child that you don’t really feel strongly about.  The reason for that is that they will test you, cause you to question what you’re asking, and more times than not, will convince you you’re wrong.  If you’re  not careful, you will end up backing down on the majority of rules that you put in place.  Sometimes you’ll back down because you change your mind, but  more often than not, it will be because the requirement isn’t worth the fight you encounter.  On some days, this will be how you spend most of your day.
* * Pick your battles.  This is very similar to the suggestion above, but brings parenting outside of just the rules, and takes it to the specifics of your day.  An opinionated child can argue about anything:  whether they will wear their coat today, whether they want cereal out of the green or red bowl, whether they want their hair color to be green or red.  In each situation, decide whether or not this is a battle to be fought, or a situation to let go.
* * Offer them choices.  Choices where you can agree with either option.  Such as, “Do you want to wear the striped shirt or the orange one?”  “Do you want to want to eat cereal or oatmeal?” “Do you want to ride with your leader, or do you want to walk home?”  Giving your child options helps them have an outlet for their opinions.  They will feel a little more in control of their lives, and you should have fewer arguments.
* * Find support for yourself.  Surround yourself with others who will either back you up on the stands that you take, or will be a source of encouragement and building you up.
* * Journal/write/be well rested/have you day well planned out.  Being organized, being at your best, and taking time to review your day are all helpful strategies to staying filled.  Being with a combative, strong child can be quickly draining, so you need to make sure you are ready and organized for each day.
* * Look for the delightful aspects of your child.  Maybe it is just me, but in the heat of a confrontation, it is easy to lose sight of the gentleness within your child.  It is easy to see your child as one-sided, as the one who makes life difficult.  Stop, take a break, and remind yourself of all of the beautiful things about that child.

 – In their weakest, most tired moments, or when they’re under stress, they tend to move into control.
I state this just so that you, as a parent, can be aware of it.  Most opinionated kids will become more bossy (controlling what others do), and more disagreeable (controlling their circumstances).  That doesn’t mean that you let all training slide, but it hopefully will give you understanding, that in turn will give you more patience, and therefore allow you to parent with more love.

I want to close with that idea that in our home, we place very high the value of knowing what our personality styles are and accepting each other for who we are.  We teach them that we were placed in this family together to make each other stronger, and that we are not to put down, belittle, or judge each other based on our weaknesses.  However, we also recognize that we are not perfect, there are more areas of immaturity than maturity, and we don’t expect our kids to react lovingly every single time.  I hope that these ideas shared help you feel normal and give you some ideas on how to parent (and enjoy) your highly opinionated child.

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