How do you discipline and train a strong-willed child without damaging the self-concept and destroying the spontaneity inside? It’s a question that I’ve been asked often.
To answer it, you really have to come to an understanding of the difference between breaking the spirit and shaping the will of the child. The human spirit relates to the self-esteem or the sense of personal worth. As such, it is exceedingly fragile at all ages, and it just has to be handled with great care. Anything that depreciates a boy or girl’s self-worth can be very costly to the spirit. However, the will is made of steel. It arrives full-strength at the moment of birth. Anyone who has ever witnessed a full-blown temper tantrum knows what I’m talking about. Some two-year-olds can become so angry that they’ll hold their breath until they lose consciousness. Such is the strength of the will. How, then, do we deal with these two components of the human personality: the will and the spirit? We do it by setting up and defending reasonable boundaries while never resorting to that which attacks the personhood of the child.
To say, “You must do what I tell you to do” is proper, and it’s addressed to the will. But to say, “You stupid brat! Why don’t you do anything right?” is an assault on the spirit. The bottom line, again, is to shape the will without breaking the spirit. You can contact Dr. Dobson at myfamilytalk.com.