Here is my (open) letter to Dr. Dobson...
Dear Dr. Dobson,
Have I said it enough yet?
I sometimes watch other families and wonder, "Why?" I see these children, prim and proper, following their parents' directions without even a syllable of complaint coming from their lips. I watch them in school, sitting so nicely, shining as the teacher's pet. I notice that these are the children always selected as the stars of the play, held up as "leaders" of the school, and that they come home with a birthday party invitation weekly. I also watch those families watch mine with their mouths open in disbelief.
Dr. Dobson, I have felt like for some time, we are doing the things we should for our kids. We taught them to fall asleep independently at a young age. We limit their t.v. watching and don't even let them have caffeine (if you met them, you would understand why). We sit down for dinner almost nightly together (just like the statistics support) and share many family bonding times together, such as hikes, travels, and athletic events. We are loving but very firm, and even more importantly, we are consistent. Consistent in pretty much all we do. We have been determined from the very beginning to not let children run our household.
I guess I didn't think to be determined that they didn't run my emotions.
This is a hard job.
Some people have those compliant children I mentioned above. I imagine they are the ones sitting around, smiling proudly that their children are doing the things they are told, being the people they want them to be.
I am not one of them.
After some soul searching and emotional wrestling with children of mine, I borrowed a copy of your book, The "New" Strong Willed Child. I haven't gotten very far YET. But just the few pages I have read make one thing clear.
Every stinking one of them is a strong willed child in their own way...some more than others. They are very comfortable in their own skin and believe in their own independence. And while I wish I could influence their thoughts, their words, their actions, in the end, they make their own choices.
Don't get me wrong, Dr. Dobson. We love our kids. And we are proud of who they are. After all, they were uniquely designed by God just for our family. We know that these "leadership" qualities will serve them well one day, once they learn how to channel their personalities for good, not for evil. (Not really "evil", it just flowed with the sentence :) Don't get me wrong. It isn't that every moment is a bad moment or filled with strong will.
It is just that more of them are than not. :)
As I read the first few pages, I found myself alternating between laughing and crying. Crying because I could understand. Laughing because I could understand.
More than anything, your book has reminded me that I am not alone. That maybe, just maybe, I am not failing like I often feel. And that families who have only the "compliant" child will never truly understand what our life is like.
Every day I wake up prepared for battle. I am learning to choose my battles carefully. I am also learning that my children do make their own choices (much like we do with God), and that ultimately their choices rest upon them. They are not always a reflection of me or my values.
Yes, there will always be those who judge. "What kind of parent would let their child act like that?" I am guessing those would be the ones with compliant children, not "children who have moments of compliance".
To them I say, try living our life. I say, "Don't judge us unless you have spent a week, a day, or even an hour with a strong willed child." I also say, "Just wait. Your children may be compliant. Or maybe, just maybe, there is a strong will child within who will emerge when you least expect it. Or it could be that your future grandchildren will give you a run for your money, leaving your head spinning.
Know that while our life is not an easy life...it requires decision making and structure and discipline/behavior management all day long...we are stronger people because of it. And our children will hopefully emerge in the end victorious.
So, dear Dr. Dobson, thank you. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone.
The Cloud family
PS Okay, maybe a little bit written in tongue and cheek. Please know that much of the time our children are delightful little people with huge potential in life. But some days, I do go to bed feeling defeated. Okay, many days. In the end, we will just be using a lot of prayer to get through each day. :)