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by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

A friend asked me a great question the other day. She said, "How do you get your other more compliant children to understand and get along with your strong-willed child?" That gave me real food for thought. We have talked a lot over the years about how parents might best manage a strong-willed child, but have never really thought about helping siblings cope with their strong-willed brother or sister.

While being strong-willed has its great points, these kids are often bossy, intolerant and impatient. They want to get their own way and insist their opinions are fact. All of these traits demand much parental attention, often causing the other kids in the family to feel frustrated, angry, jealous and bereft of their parents' time and energy.

So, how can we best ensure that each of our kids feel they are not only included, but also equally valued? The first thing is to recognize each child's personality. It would be a really helpful idea to research the different personality traits that may be displayed in your family.

You might note the following:

  • A strong will creates great leadership qualities when channeled appropriately e.g. the pursuit of excellence, determination not to give up when things get tough, refusal to take drugs, not have promiscuous sex and/or not getting in trouble with the law. On the negative side, strong-willed kids are hard to be around when they want their own way and act out when they don't get it. Conflict is common. They acquire negative attention from those in authority and the need for discipline is frequent.
  • A compliant child is one who does not want to cause trouble and can see that getting along with others has definite advantages. They generally do as they are asked without fuss and, because of that, receive positive responses from those in authority. On the negative side, they may swallow their anger and frustration rather than letting it out, thus exhibiting passive- aggressive traits.
  • Quiet, shy or sensitive children tend to be tenderhearted, caring but retiring by nature. They flourish around people who encourage and value their character. The negative side is that they may not attract many friends and easily feel bulldozed over or left out by kids with stronger, 'out there' kinds of personalities. Sensitive, compliant children are often the target of bullies. They may not have the courage to persevere in the face of adversity because they don't have the confidence to know they can succeed. They definitely do not want to draw attention to themselves and often shy away from anything that will make them feel afraid or embarrassed.

Second, talk to your kids about your discoveries. They need to

understand that we are all different, but that each trait of our personalities has value. Third, having understood what the various personality traits are, create a plan to encourage the positives and curb the negative ones. Parents, we need to give each child the amount of time and attention that will bring out the positive side of their personality. We need to be aware that a strong-willed child will soak up a disproportionate amount of our time so channeling their energy in a positive direction is paramount and urgent. We cannot afford to give up and allow them to rule the home. They need to learn to take their turn, play fair and act unselfishly.

We need to protect and encourage our quiet, sensitive children. When we give them one-on-one face time it allows them to talk about what they are feeling and what they need from us as well as their siblings to feel happy and secure. Watch out for aggressive streaks in your kids and accept that fighting usually comes from frustration and jealousy. Dismissing it as, 'Oh well, kids will be kids' is not addressing the disharmony in the home.

Every personality has value and it is our responsibility to bring out the best in each other. If you have any comments on this subject we would love to hear from you at sally@forefrontfamilies.org. Also, check out our blogsite at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.com or our website with its hundreds of parenting articles www.forefrontfamilies.org

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