Friday, January 4, 2013

The Strong Willed Child and the Persistent Widow

Last night, my daughter had a request and I said no.  Instead of giving up, she came to me over a dozen times to ask it again.  To tell the truth, I was a little embarrassed at first, because we had guests who believe in spanking their children, and I know that so many parents feel very strongly about their children accepting something the very first time and not arguing.  My daughter's friend seemed a bit shocked that my dd wouldn't just give it up.  I wondered if it was coming across to them as backtalk.  Then I remembered the parable of Luke 18:1-8.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow 
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Jesus seems to be praising a woman who kept going back to the person in authority over her and wouldn't take no for an answer.  :)  He didn't scold her for being "rebellious" or for not cheerfully accepting the judge's decision.  

I Mean No
Image credit: R. J. Ruppenthal

There are some parenting authors whose primary goal for children seems to be that they never inconvenience their parents.  That isn't my goal for my children.  I want my kids to be healthy in every way and every relationship, to be successful in the things that matter most to them, and to enjoy life and God.  Giving up their dreams the first time someone says no to them, even if that person is in a position of authority, is not likely to lead to any of those goals.  

Certainly, they need to develop a sense of timing, respect and courtesy to others, and to know how to best direct their energies.  But how will they get the practice of persistence if not with us?  Where will they learn how to channel determination if not in our home?

I still believe that my initial boundary was a healthy one, and I did not change my mind and say yes to my daughter.  But neither did I scold her for continuing to ask.  And there have been several occasions when I *did* change my mind rather than cling to foolish consistency.

There are many beautiful things about having a strong willed child.  It is something I am learning to celebrate rather than squash.  And I think that Jesus would agree.  


Lana said...

Love this. I'm one of those strong willed children. :) Then again, I'm mostly just stubborn. said...

I was an extremely strong willed daughter of a single/abandoned mom. I had a lot of rage and other issues and mom was an exhausted school teacher. By God's grace, counseling and meds, I have dealt with the anger and remain bold, stout hearted and assertive. I think it is a personality thing. Mom always pushed me ahead, but didn't like my "sass".
However, upon our children's arrival and walking and talking I immediately began to deal with their back talk/disobedience, having been influenced by the Dobson ideas during the 70's. Our children have all dealt with struggles with self doubt, lack of confidence. I was bigger than life to them, (seemed like a bully, really). There is balance to be had in these issues. Thankfully, my husband grew up in a liberal Christian family that only encouraged their children to be their best...(which brought it's own problems, like failure to see sin) but all in all, God works it out...eventually)