PHOTO: MOHAMED SAID
Diana Gorman opens her article for Time Magazine by telling a story about her youngest child, Ainsley. Ainsley's pre-school teacher had sent her to sit by herself until she was ready to discuss something she had done wrong. Ainsley wasn't willing to talk until lunch time. Gorman says, "The teacher was surprised by her determination. Me? Not so much." Gorman says she was constantly battling with her daughter.
Though those day-to-day battles over pajamas and snacks are tiring, Gorman is happy she has such a strong-willed child because a study found that children who break the rules or go against their parents often go on to overachieve educationally and earn more as adults.
As part of the study, Gorman says, "Children between the ages of eight and 12 years old were evaluated for non-cognitive personality traits like academic conscientiousness, entitlement and defiance. Forty years later, researchers checked back to see how they turned out; rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority turned out to be the best non-cognitive predictor of high income as an adult."
Personally, I believe this. My older brother Alex was basically the spawn of the devil as a child. He started stealing my mom's car when he was 11 years old to visit his 14-year-old girlfriend in the middle of the night. He got caught because he left Rolo wrappers all over the floor. Basically if my parents set a rule, he broke it. He is now getting a dual Masters degree in Nursing and Public Health. He's the smartest person I know.
This article is not advocating letting your kids break all the rules. Don't hand over your car keys and a pack of Rolos. Gorman says that you can use your child's natural instinct to defy into a motivation tool. She says the key is communication. "Listen to them. Ask them to explain their view. As they talk out what they think, they may catch their lack of logic," Gorman says. "You may even find they win you over. And if they make a compelling case, negotiate."
Good advice, though I don't think anything would have stopped my brother.
Bonus info: For some sneaky stragegies for dealing with your stubborn child, check out Parenting Magazine's "How to Win Over Stubborn Children"