Upon thinking some more about my post from yesterday, especially about Dobson equating strong-willed with entitled brat, plus him saying that strong-willed children don’t want parental acceptance/approval, I had some additional thoughts I wanted to share.
First off, let me reiterate that the compliant child and the strong-willed child are not coming from opposite vantage points regarding parental acceptance/approval!! They just have different emotional needs. All children, no matter what their temperament, desperately need their parents’ acceptance.
I really bristle at being told that because I was strong-willed, I was also an entitled little brat. That is NOT true. I didn’t need to be right all the time. I didn’t need to get my way every time. What I needed was to be told that I was okay the way I was born – that my talents and interests were valid. What I needed was to be listened to, to have my opinion matter, even if it wasn’t technically correct all the time. What I needed was to have some control and some sort of a say over my life. What I needed was space and freedom to pursue my passions, not forced to pursue someone else’s passions in the name of molding my will. What I needed was a little bit of autonomy and the freedom to learn from my own mistakes. (And for that to happen, I suppose I needed the freedom to make mistakes in the first place!) What I needed was some space and patience to figure things out on my own, even if my parents already knew the answer. What I needed was a creative outlet that I chose, and some genuine support in pursuing it. What I needed was a parent that trusted me and accepted that sometimes I knew what I was talking about when it came to my desires, needs and boundaries. What I needed was to have explanations given for why: why certain rules must be followed, why I couldn’t do something, etc. What I needed was, in effect, to be accepted.
And that doesn’t mean I should get my way all the time. In fact, although I vehemently disagree with their parenting philosophy and model, I am actually quite grateful that I didn’t always get my way. I’m grateful that I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I’m grateful that I was made to do chores, eat my vegetables and pick up after myself. I’m not grateful for my will being molded and shaped. Not for a minute, not one little bit.
You know, I’m still here, Mom and Dad. I’m still me. You may have crushed my spirit, but you didn’t actually break my will – because no one can do that. You may have ruined a lot of my childhood and given me lots of things to work through in therapy, but you didn’t fundamentally change who I am and my basic needs. You didn’t snuff out my creativity, though you surely tried. You didn’t rid me of my ambitious nature and my ability to dream big. You didn’t change me from an abstract thinker to a concrete one. You didn’t quell my curiosity about the world or my love of animals. You may have forced me to set it on the shelf for awhile, which made me miserable, but it was always there. You read this book and were determined that you could mold me into a compliant child who never asked questions, who didn’t care about being creative (except on your terms), who was only interested in the sorts of things you were interested in, and who only valued the things you value. But I’ve got news for you, Mom and Dad: you failed.