Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Strong Willed?

Recently I've noticed that so many parents seem to think their toddler is strong willed or some variation of the term.  I'm not just talking about the word; I've heard some say "high maintenance" or "high needs".

It doesn't bother me in the least that parents label their children this way.  I have been known to call Graves a "high maintenance" baby and I recently blogged abut Ann Peyton's independent streak.  I guess that's what got me thinking- my mom mentioned seeing some my strong willed nature in Annie.  NOW, I'm sure part of her stubbornness is hereditary- she does have two pretty bull headed parents.  But I also wonder if  much her stubborn nature and independent assertions are just typical toddler behavior.  I still maintain that she's a pretty compliant child.  But.  BUT.  She has bit me, spit in my face, and hit her brother more than once.  She wants to do things her way and she stomps her feet and throws herself on the floor.  I'm still not sure I'd call her strong willed.

I guess it's just strange to me how full the Internet is of strong willed children.  I know they exist and I'm not trying to degrade anyone's experience.  My mom has said countless times that she wished had known about such a label and the subsequent Dobson-esque research that comes with that title when she was in the throes of parenting me.

But, again, what with the abundance? Is this a new phenomenon? Are there more really difficult kids? Have children gotten harder? Has mothering? Are we just more honest and transparent about our (and our kids') struggles? It's hard for me not to, in my mind, compare it to the frustrating ADHD epidemic sweeping the nation, whereby many normal, albeit hyperactive young boys are labeled as disordered.  [Disclaimer: I'm not going to go all Jon Rosemond on y'all.  I fully believe the thing is real.  I live with someone who works through the limitations of such a disorder daily.  I also (and he also) still contend that it's over diagnosed and highly over medicated.]

I guess the difference, though, is that while many a child may suffer from an errant ADHD dx, by and large, a child will not suffer from a parent labeling them as strong willed and seeking to inform themselves on how to better parent that child.  In fact, they may benefit.  I just think it's interesting how widespread it seems to be.  What do y'all think?


Kodi said...

Oh sister. I totally, totally know where you're coming from on this. Manning is very independent, headstrong and particular. What toddler isn't? Isn't toddlerhood about learning the limits by testing them, learning independence by insisting on it etc? Personally, I'd venture to say that ones traits as a toddler are less than indicative of their actual character traits and more indicative of their maturity level. Well written. Oh, and about ADHD, same page. Nate has it, for sure, and was on medicine for awhile. I truly, truly believe that had he been diagnosed as a child, his entire academic career would've been different, but for him, medicine wasn't the answer. Alternative learning techniques were. Sorry for the longest comment ever.

Carrie said...

I think different people define "strong willed" differently, so it ends up meaning a ton of different things (and therefore, there are a TON of "strong-willed" children out there). I have called Aubrey strong-willed in the past, and I still do at times, but I agree that a lot of it is just "normal" (although still sinful at times) toddler behavior. When I refer to her as strong-willed, really what I mean is that she has a BIG personality. She isn't passive about much of aything. But again, a lot of that is just normal for her age, and I don't know what she'll be like as she gets older. I have seen a difference in Aubrey and Jude's personalities so far, and I've never referred to him as strong-willed (and I had SEVERAL times called Aubrey that when she was Jude's age ;). Anyway, all that to say, for me, strong-willed is a term that describes a child's whole personality and not just behaviors when they are acting defiant. I guess it just means stubborn to me -- but all toddlers are stubborn at some point, so I see what you're saying!

Allison said...

I think that all toddlers are "strong-willed children". They're learning autonomy; learning how to do things themselves and they take pride in completing a task on their own. I've never known a toddler that didn't want to do things for themselves. I kind of think that some parents are just looking for labels for their kids. They've heard the term "strong-willed" and just decide to apply it to their developing toddler. And sometimes it's in a negative way! I don't know about you, but I WANT a child that's independent-thinking and autonomous. I mean, I can't say I'm dying for a child that spits in my face, but that happens, too ;).

Just my not-a-mom two cents.

Christi said...

I think that sometimes we are enabled to "label" our children more easily than when we were young. Maybe good and maybe not as it could be used as an excuse for this or that. I think sometimes it's a coping mechanism for us parents until of feeling less fit. Who defines the labels are made in the eye of the beholder. My youngest is definitely more strong-willed than her least so far...but they are three different independent thinkers. She was more hi needs as an infant in comparison to her siblings...but what does that mean? My oldest does have special needs which we only learned about after school started...but once again ho's to compare? Does OT, PT, and ppdnos define that? But in my eyes God has blessed me with the most perfect kids who often know how to wear momma out. Life is so good.

Candy Jones said...

I also believe that ADHD is overdiagnosed. I worked in a Pediatric office for 7 years and seeing SOME of the kids that were on medication seemed to simply need discipline in there life. I know there are tons of opionions on discipline. I believe, though, it is something much needed. Otherwise,you will have this child that will grow up and then they will be the one in control. Not the parent. Scary.

I have 2 "strong willed" or independent girls. Their mom and daddy are both as stubborn as they come. So, I guess they get it honestly. But they know they have limits on their behavior. We have tried to keep routine and consistency in their life as much as possible so they will know what to expect. They are not perfect by any means! We have battles every single day! C :

And I certainly am no expert. I just know what I used to see. And I felt so sorry for many of those kiddos.

Anonymous said...

Great topic!

I definitely think that much of what is labeled as "strong willed" is simply normal toddler behavior. Isaac knows what he wants as well and throws fits at times to get it...but what toddler doesn't? I don't think that makes him strong willed.

Also, for the record, I hate the term "strong willed" (even though I've been guilty of using it). I just think it has a bad connotation and I don't like assigning bad intent to Isaac (which I think the term strong willed does). Determined, lively, perseverant...those are the term we use for a "strong willed" adult. Why can't they be applied to kids as well?

I think in general, if as a whole, our society had a better understanding of normal child development, we would see that term used a lot less and we would be a lot less concerned with the "strong willed" moments when they do pop up.

Just my two cents. :)