“The Strong-Willed Child” — THE INTRODUCTION, pp. 7-10

The intro is rather wordy, so I’m not going to reproduce much of it verbatim. He waxes on about how difficult parenting is, but about how it’s insanely rewarding and speaks of his own children and how much he loves them. He does use the phrase “the thrill of procreation” which made me snicker a little.

Anyways. Then he describes this so-called “strong-willed child” and here is where the book starts to become disturbing. I’ll go through it line by line.

“Even in infancy, he fairly bristles when his dinner is late and he insists that someone hold him during every waking hour.”

First of all, ALL babies cry when they are hungry. This has nothing to do with temperament, this is basic human survival. Secondly, if a baby “insists” that someone hold him at all times, then one of two things is going on: either this baby is young enough that this is a legitimate need, or, assuming this baby is old enough to self-soothe, this could be a parenting mistake. I don’t care what the temperament of a baby is, if you give a child no opportunity to learn how to self-soothe, they will not ever learn to self-soothe. This is not rocket science. But, hey, blame a baby for a parent’s mistake. That’s great. And to add a caveat here: I fully realize that some babies will be ready to learn self-soothing at different ages than others, and that’s fine. The point is that Dobson is blaming either legitimate needs or parenting mistakes on a child have a strong-willed temperament. And that’s not remotely okay.

“Later, during toddlerhood he declares total war on all forms of authority, at home or abroad, and his greatest thrill comes from drawing on the walls and flushing kitties down the toilet.”

First of all, what exactly does it mean for a toddler to “declare total war on all forms of authority?” Dobson doesn’t say, and spoiler alert! This kind of thing occurs frequently throughout the book. So now we move to drawing on the walls. Ironically enough, I never did that, but my very compliant, non-strong-willed sister did. Hmm… Maybe some kids just like to draw and at toddlerhood aren’t yet mature enough to realize the damage that can result from drawing on walls? And, as was the case of my parents, maybe you weren’t watching the toddler closely enough if they get more than a few strokes in?

Okay, this brings us to the most disturbing part: flushing kitties down the toilet. This isn’t describing a strong-willed child, this is describing a possible and potential sociopath!!!  Extreme cruelty to animals is a major red flag that the VAST majority of children do not exhibit. What the hell??? I’ll revise a little. The child that would even THINK about flushing a kitten down a toilet is either sociopathic, or has not been told ANYTHING about how life works. I’m sorry, but even the most permissive parents out there would tell a child to be gentle with a kitten, or simply keep the kittens away from the child. This. Is. Ridiculous. And I cannot believe anyone, ANYONE, kept reading this book after that little gem.

“His parents are often guilt-ridden and frustrated people who wonder where they’ve gone wrong and why their home life is so different than they were led to expect.”

Well, if your child kills baby animals, then yes, you absolutely should be guilt-ridden. You should also be getting yourselves and your child to a psychiatrist, stat.

This is not describing the strong-willed child!!! This is describing normal babies, followed by potential sociopathic children. And if a parent reading this doesn’t happen to make that distinction, then no wonder my parents always thought so little of me. They were primed, in a way. Ugh…

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6 comments

  1. To me the most important word in your post is: Primed.
    Once primed, you are wearing a pair of glasses through which you see actions. Your baby is no longer crying because they are hungry, they are crying because they are greedy and trying to control you. Your toddler is no longer drawing on the walls because of their developmental level, they are acting out the evilness and desire to hurt that lurks inside. Shudder.

    1. That is why I included the caveat about assuming they are old enough to self-soothe. Some babies will reach that point earlier than others, and that’s fine. But at some point, yes, it can become a parenting fail. I’ve seen it enough times, when parents do not allow their child any independence – the results are never good. My overall point also stands: it is patently unfair to blame a child for either having a legitimate need or for a parenting mistake. Neither means that there is anything wrong with said child’s temperament.

      1. I see your point. A child needs independence, yes. Babies, not so much. Some don’t self soothe until they are toddlers. That was my concern. But truly, we are both on the same page about these teachings. 🙂

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