You think I would be better at raising a strong-willed child seeing as she is a carbon copy of me. She doesn’t do it to be defiant, or rebellious, to impress her friends or act out. She doesn’t do it in a malicious way or to prove a point. She does it because it is in her nature. It’s part of who she is, just like it was in my nature at her age.
I understand why she is like that because if I go back to my 7 year old self I can remember feeling the way she feels and doing the things she does. I can remember wanting explanations of what to do; not to back talk or be disrespectful but because I genuinely wanted to know why I was being told to do something, what was the end goal? I can remember wanting to be in on making the plans not to be nosey but because I knew I could help because I had ideas too.
I hated being bossed around. Always being told what to do like I was a robot and not a person, a little one yes, but a person with clear thoughts, ideas, and reasoning skills. They might have been on a younger level, but they were still there and developing. Looking back they were being stifled. My adult self can understand, but the child in me felt wronged. As if I weren’t capable of making a decision, any decision. Looking back I think that may have played a part in me wanting to grow up so fast, to be able to have a say and make decisions about me for myself.
As I write this I think I am finding the answer to be a better parent to my own strong-willed 7 year old. I need to remember the frustration and disappointment I felt when I wasn’t being listened to. When my opinion wasn’t heard much less taken into consideration and I was often punished for trying to voice. I need to be more considerate of her thoughts and feelings. I need to give her a platform to voice her opinion. I need to offer explanations when reasonable and allow her to have some influence and say so. It will make her feel better to have her choices valued and respected and it will teach her how to make decisions. I need to explain that there are times that she won’t be able to offer an opinion and others that it is encouraged.
There will be an adjustment period because of course I’m used to being the dictator so the change to a democracy won’t come overnight. I can start small though so that I can practice the habit and then over time it will come naturally. I can start by offering her two choices- what would she rather do? Which would she rather do first? Sure it makes more sense to me for us to get ready for bed first then read a story or for her to brush her teeth first then put on her jammies, but does it really matter? Not really. If it makes her feel like she has some control and that she can influence something in her day instead of being told what to do by others all of the time, then I think doing things differently than I would is a small price to pay.
Like I said, I know this won’t be easy but I also know it will be worth it. The 7 year old in me is excited for her and as an adult I realize that this will lead to her using good decision making skills because she will have lots of practice. I’m going to make a conscious effort and will periodically update on how this goes.