QUESTION: My son certainly fits your definition of the "strong-willed child." But tell me how to get him through these tough years. He is as tough as nails. What specific suggestions do you have for us?
JAMES DOBSON: Here is a summary of some approaches or ideas that I think are important:
1. You should not blame yourself for the temperament with which your child was born. He is simply a tough kid to handle, and your task is to rise to the challenge.
2. He is in greater danger because of his inclination to test the limits and scale the walls. Your utmost diligence and wisdom will be required to deal with him.
3. If you fail to understand his lust for power and independence, you can exhaust your resources and bog down in guilt. It will benefit no one.
4. For parents who have just begun, take charge of your babies. Hold tightly to the reins of authority in the early days and build an attitude of respect during your brief window of opportunity. You will need every ounce of "awe" you can get during the years to come. Once you have established your right to lead, begin to let go systematically, year by year.
5. Don't panic, even during the storms of adolescence. Better times are ahead.
6. Don't let your son get too far from you emotionally. Stay in touch. Don't write him off, even when every impulse is to do just that. He needs you more than ever before.
7. Give him time to find himself, even if he appears not to be searching.
8. Most important, I urge you to hold your children before the Lord in fervent prayer throughout their years at home. I am convinced that there is no greater source of confidence and wisdom in parenting. There is not enough knowledge in books, mine or anyone else's, to counteract the evil that surrounds our kids today. Teen-agers are confronted by drugs, alcohol, sex and foul language wherever they turn. And, of course, the peer pressure on them is enormous. We must bathe them in prayer every day of their lives. The God who made your children will hear your petitions. He has promised to do so. After all, he loves them more than you do.
And a concluding word: Remember that anyone can raise the easy kid. Guiding a strong-willed child through the rebellious years takes a pro with a lot of love to give. I'll bet you're up to the task!
(James Dobson is president of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO. 80903; or www.family.org. Questions and answers are excerpted from "The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide," published by Tyndale House.)
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