You Can't Make Me

Wendy Klein

2 Stars

October 6, 2012

(to be posted 10/8/2012)

“Instead of becoming exasperated and irritated with the [strong willed children] in your life, you can honor and value what they do best while still holding them accountable for moral and spiritual values.”

In this revised and edited version of Tobias’ 1999 book, the author describes the strong willed child (SWC) and attempts to relate how a parent a child who is “difficult to discipline and seemingly impossible to motivate.” These children may struggle with obeying authority, following rules, and have a strong need to control themselves and their environment. After defining the SWC, the author then gives general guidelines for dealing with them, followed by some chapters of specific struggles.

This was a quick read that included many personal and secondhand stories about SWC and the parents who raise them, as well as their struggles with them. It was presented from a Christian perspective, which I appreciated, focusing on God’s grace to us and quoting Bible passages for encouragement.

A lot of the suggestions given for helping SWC are great, and would be helpful for any parent. In fact, her top ten tips for bringing out the best in a SWC are really good things for practically any child, even compliant ones — things like making the most of their strengths, giving them ownership, respecting who they are, keeping a sense of humor, choosing your battles, and remind them how much you love them. In fact, in some ways this was a weakness of the book, since most of it was straightforward, logical parenting advice that could apply to any child, not something necessarily specific to SWCs.

One thing I struggled with while reading this book, though, was that so many of the solutions given were so situation-specific, and with the situations in the book being presented as personal stories, the “solution” given in the book may not work with your particular SWC. I have a number of examples from teaching SWCs where the nice and neat “and-then-I-said-this-and-the-problem-fixed-itself” solution found in the book would have only escalated the situation. Some of the specific examples from the book found me wondering whether the author was being too permissive, and using the SWC label as an excuse for oppositional-defiant, or simply rude or disrespectful behavior (such as the boy in the classroom that turned his desk 360 degrees instead of 180 when the teacher asked him to turn around to face her). Though I suppose without any background on or familiarity with the kids involved, its hard as the reader to tell the child’s motivation.

The author also focused almost entirely on what parents do to help their SWC, and lacked in information about how to help your SWC deal with the rest of the world. Even if you decide it’s fine to let your SWC skip doing his or her homework and take the failing grade, the teacher might not be so happy about that. The fact remains that others are going to have expectations for your child and they are going to be under other authority than your own, and part of parenting is teaching them how to get along in the world, regardless of personality type. I’m certain a police officer pulling over a teenager isn’t going to utilize the author’s favorite reply “Nice try” when your child mouths off to them; it’s up to the parents to teach a child what is appropriate when and how to use their strong personality in a way that’s God-pleasing and respectful of others as well.

Overall: Includes some good advice for all parents, but seemed a bit overly-simplistic. There’s perhaps better books out on the market for this particular topic.