The New Strong-Willed Child

by Dr. James Dobson
Reviewed date: 2008 Jul 26
219 pages
cover art

Here's the new and updated version of James Dobson's classic book. Dobson explains that children are born with different temperaments, and some are predisposed to challenge authority and test boundaries. This is not due to poor parenting but to the child's innate personality.

Nevertheless, these strong-willed children need boundaries and discipline just as much as other children--perhaps more. Their propensity to challenge authority will lead to a contest of wills with their parents, which too many parents sadly lose. The proper response to willful disobedience is swift and immediate discipline. Reasoning with a small child--particularly a strong-willed child--is fruitless. A spanking is far more effective.

Spankings should only be in response to willful disobedience, not in response to childish immaturity. Children break things and drop things and lose things all the time. They must suffer the natural consequences for these childish actions--if they lose a toy, then it's lost and they can't play with i anymore. But they shouldn't be punished for it. Discipline should come in response to willful disobedience or deliberate defiance.

It is crucial that the child learns he cannot win a contest of wills with his parents. If he wins, then he is the master of his own life. A child without guidance is lost.

Contrary to popular theories of child-rearing, you can't just love a child and treat him as an adult in the hopes that he will grow up out of his rebellion and become mature. That's foolishness. A child needs rules and boundaries. It gives them security and makes them feel safe. Strong-willed children instinctively push against these boundaries, but they need them nonetheless.

There is nothing wrong with strong-willed children. Their strength of will is an asset later in life. Parents must understand this and not despair. They must be willing to win a contest of will at all costs.

Here's the scary part: when children become teenagers, parents have little real control over them. Most of their threats are bluster, and if the child has a mind to resist authority, there is little or nothing his parents can legally do. That's why it's critical to train them up from birth.

Interestingly, Dobson notes that it's the junior high years that make the most impact on a child's mental health. These years can and often are brutal.

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