Project Parenting II: Strong-Willed Kids

This is my second post in my series entitled Project Parenting. Join me every Monday as I try to figure out how to parent my strong willed (and totally awesome) kid. 


The funny thing about the internet, and the universe in general, is that when you lay down your troubles, on the page or in the air, beseeching the fates to help bring you a solution, well, the universe listens. 


We've had a good week. There's been compliance; helpfulness; long naps; solo, imaginative play, and most amazingly, sleeping thorough the night. Basically, the issues I wrote about last week have evaporated. Part of this, I attribute to Indonesia and it's general awesomeness fairydust.


Still, I'm pressing on with Project Parenting. The only motivation I need is the memory of the four-hour crying-screaming-hollering bedtime resisting that was at one time kind of a regular thing, oh, and the rage poop. Which is a thing that has happened more than once.




I'm following Rex Forehand and Nichols Long's book, Parenting The Strong Willed Child, a book that is both clinically proven (he SAYS), and totally in line with my hippie leanings. The book follows a five week program, and each week, I'll post about what I'm learning and how things are going. 


So, strong-willed children, what's up. Why do you cry, and argue, and refuse, and insist and cry, and never sleep and cry cry cry.


Well, according to Long and Forehand (long forehand, hahahahahahah), it's part temperament, part behavior.


Temperament is fixed. Some kids are born totally chill. Others are born insistent, fussy, persistent, intense. Some babies will let you change their diapers, put pants on them, and strap them in the car seat. Some will fight you to the death, and scream four hours all the way to Toronto. These children are strong-willed wonders. 


Mine, surprise surprise, leans towards strong-willed. She gets it from her father. PS. Let's just be clear.


Temperament isn't destiny, though. (Indulge me for a moment while I get metaphorical. No wait, this is a simile). Temperament is kind of like a tree trunk; it might straight, or bent depending to how the wind blows. 


While temperament is inborn, the way a kid behaves is a function of how his temperament interacts with the environment. Behaviour is learned, and parenting choices can intensify or mollify a strong strong-willed child. 


Long and Forehand outline how strong-willed children  prefect their strong-willededness, or, conversely, to exhibit positive behaviours, and reinforcement is a key element in molding and tempering a kid's reactions. There are positive reinforcements (I want the iPad. Mum says no. I cry. Mum gives me the iPad. Therefore, I surmise that crying gets me my iPad. Next time I'll cry sooner, harder, and longer.) 


Next, negative reinforcements. I react, and what I don't want stops. (I don't want my car seat straps on, so I cry and then they go away. Hooray. Now I'll cry harder because I know it makes the terror stops.)


This learning process can be labeled The Coercive Process. Kid hates to play alone, you say tough cookies, so he cries, you feel guilty and then give in. That little imp figures out pretty quickly that he just needs to intensify his negative behavior, and he gets what he wants. Then, you act like a bigger jerk, OMG KID I JUST NEED TO DO THE DISHES, and he sees you being a jerk, so he models your behaviour and the cycle continues. 


So far, I've figured out that I'm a big sucker. Part of this has to do with being terrorized by a certain unnamed doctor (ahem I'm talking about you, Moctor Mears) who put the terror of crying in my heart and convinced me to never ever ever let my kid cry. Ever. Not once. My kid, consequently got a pretty major case of positive and negative reinforcement and knows that tears = hugs, kisses, attention + whatever she wants. Especially when it comes to sleeping. Or, rather, not sleeping. 


I've also figured out that I have to be the bad guy sometimes. And that blows. I want to be the funtime happy YES parent, but that's murderface if you have a strong-willed child. I have to say no, and mean no. I have to set limits. I have to be the boss. (I hate being the boss.) So, that's what I've been up to. Parenting like a boss, and not giving in. Things are improving and i haven't even started THE PROGRAM yet. Holy crap.


Anyway, puppy dogs and unicorns in parenting land. I'm sure that some of this is due to the fact the turmoil of the last several months has subsided. Part of this is due to the fact that I don't have to cook dinner or do dishes right now (a previously MAJOR battle ground). And part is because I'm in Indonesia and there's magic here. But I know it won't last forever. We'll be moving into our apartment one day soon. And I'll start cooking dinner again. And doing dishes. And expecting some solo play. So, onward, Project Parenting.


How are things in parenting land for you? If you feel like joining me in writing about parenting, link up in the comments. I promise to visit each and every one of you, and highlight a few interesting posts next week.