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Posts Tagged ‘peer pressure’

On the problem of teaching children right from wrong – of teaching them wisdom – especially in the abstract circumstances:
 
I sit in my office listening to a mother interact with her young daughter over a Highlights magazine.  Seeing a picture of a child riding a vacuum, the girl recognizes, “That is no, no, no, no, no.”  The mother supports her child, “Yes, that’s silly.” 
 
So we see that the girl knows the word “no,” and that it indicates something which should not be done. 
 
The mother takes a psychological approach today, creating the association of silliness with things which might be dangerous or wrong. 
 
My problem with this is that youth – and at times even adults – are supposed to be silly.  They can make faces and jokes, stand on their heads, and draw pictures of fish in trees.  A court jester is silly for entertainment.  He is humble, too. 
 
In the old days a jester was also called a fool.  But here we meet the same difficulty.  Foolishness is rejection of God, emptiness, the opposite of wisdom and faith.  Fools we should never be if we can help it. 
 
Riding on a vacuum cleaner is more accurately described as foolish.  The consequences are not foreseen, authority and respect for property overlooked, and no justification given for the activity.  Is that what the mother wanted to teach her daughter? 
 
The danger in teaching children that wrong things are silly is that there are many things silly that are not wrong.  If you say it is silly to eat a peanut butter sandwich only from the left-hand side, or to sing a song of sixpence, then either the child will be terrified, considering all things unlike his parents to be wrong – or he will learn that wrong things are merely silly, and one day he will try them anyway, just to be funny or just to be curious.  “Silly” takes the seriousness out of disobedience. 
 
What do I recommend, then?  Usually when I have parenting ideas, they seem quite logical, natural, and easy to implement.  In this case I cannot think of an easy way to overcome this tendency.  Adults – especially worn out parents who have had little but two-year-old style conversation – are not creative or attentive enough generally to accurately describe why they disapprove of a certain course of action.  Thus they resort to the “silly” tactic, or “because I said so.” 
 
Now “because I said so” is a valid thing to teach.  Authority must be obeyed even when we do not understand the reason.  Unto parents is committed a more complex responsibility of bringing up a child to be able to make his own decisions when there is not authority to instruct.  So most of the time a parent should accompany an instruction with a reason, sharing their rationale. 
 
“Don’t take your pennies out of your pocket.  That isn’t careful.  If you lose them that would be irresponsible.” 
 
“Thank you for taking your own plate to the sink.  That was very responsible of you.” 
 
“Good job carrying the cup of water to Daddy.  You were careful it didn’t spill.” 
 
“You shouldn’t make fun of your brother or call him names.  That is unkind.” 
 
“Jesus said to be kind to one another.  Mommy is kind to you when she helps you tie your shoes.” 
 
“That was your sister’s toy.  Don’t steal it from her.  That is selfish.  Love your sister and share with her.” 
 
“Telling mom no is wrong.  God gave you a mom to take care of you, and He made her the boss.” 
 
Jane Austen’s grown-up characters responded well to the more descriptive rebukes.  Some were accompanied by explanations, and others were one-liners.  Mr. Knightley does not tell Emma “That was silly,” but the much more potent, “Badly done!”  Jane checks Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice by saying, “Lizzie, that was unkind!” 
 
How much better would we all respond if, rather than a culture that hints and manipulates (psychological influence, peer pressure, teasing, silent treatment, “that’s silly”), we had a culture where good friends and family could tell each other they were wrong?  And doesn’t the descriptive version reinforce values?  If I scolded to a little boy that he was being “ungentlemanly,” I am implying that there is such a thing as a gentleman and that it is a high calling.  On playgrounds children still value courage, by taunting each other with “coward” (or its loosely associated, “chicken”).  Jane valued kindness and knew that, in principle, her sister did, too.  Mr. Knightley appealed to Emma’s goodness. 
 
I might say, “That was dishonest,” or “That was imprudent,” “that was unwise,” unsound, inconsiderate, selfish, malicious, dangerous, destructive, unhealthy…
 
Any other suggestions, experiences being descriptively corrected, examples, arguments, etc?  Comment!
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
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How can you tell if someone is strong-willed?

He will act and think independently.  Peer pressure will not be a problem, and neither will authority be influential.  Big decisions will be made on personal counsel, or counsel he requests.  Because he will not follow a crowd, and because of his expectations, he may not have many friends.  In a large group of people, he will sit apart.  Though strong-willed people make leaders, they are the lonely-at-the-top kind, not the popular center of a circle.  Those who wish to follow the crowd will feel threatened by the example of someone who doesn’t.  Or they will make a hero out of him, in which case he will be considered sacred and above them.  One way or another, he is lonely. 

 

He will not be shy, though.  Fear is not a problem.  His ideas may be accepted or rejected, and will do him no harm.  If he finds someone who is like-minded or willing to listen, he will share everything.  This can come across as debate or persuasive speech. 

 

If a tendency to independence is seen at very young ages, most likely the allegiance is to self.  I believe oldest children of families are born almost universally with this inherent stubbornness and strength (though those not born the oldest can also have it).  It makes them leaders, or in the very least prevents them from being followers.  A child with this personality may appear stupid if misunderstood, as if he doesn’t understand what is required of him, or cannot connect actions with consequences.  Don’t be deceived; there are some children who do not think ahead, and live on the impulse of the moment.  Strong-willed children are much smarter than that.  They may even be anticipating their parents, or analyzing motives.  When a child is intentionally pushing its parents’ buttons, you may suspect strong will. 

 

Strong-willed people do not always fight with each other.  They do not bicker.  Life and convictions are taken very seriously.  At first encounter, strong-willed people may not like each other.  If they become well acquainted, they will have great respect for each other.  If they are Christians with strong wills, they will be fast friends.  I condition my statement for Christians because a Christian is humbled.  They are united in allegiance, and thus also in standards.  Those who do not agree with them or do agree but are still worshiping self will be respected enemies, the kind worthy of combat. 

 

An independent person must work to be kind.  Those who are more emotional (Jane Austen would call them governed by sensibility) will be viewed as weak, silly, emotional, and incomprehensible.  In clashes there is a lot of frustration, because a strong-willed person will argue the facts, whereas another person will defend their feelings.  I am not saying one is more valid than the other.  Communication between the classifications of people takes time, caution, and deference.  People who rattle off platitudes and act on emotions will annoy the more stable, stubborn person. 

 

Plato said that plot is everything.  Forget motive and character.  Focus on what a person does.  The strong-willed person will deny this.  He lives based on what is.  He connects dots, and anticipates actions based on what he knows to be true about a person and their situation.  A strong-willed person learns definitionally.  He wants to know what something means. 

 

In a seeming contradiction, stories will be popular with him.  If a person can tell stories that are complex and logical, he is probably strong-willed.  The stories he loves will be heavy on character development, though.  He may prefer movies and books with lots of dialogue and description, and less action. 

 

Fictional stories are also popular.  As long as the story has inner consistency, it will be acceptable.  In fact, the more challenging to maintain consistency, the more a strong-willed person will applaud a successful narrative.  Beware, because strong-willed people can be liars, very good ones.  If their conscience does not betray them, nothing will.  (Others can lie, too.  They will lie for different reasons, and often illogically.  The child who spits his food out in front of you and then tells you he swallowed it is not strong-willed.) 

Questions?  Other behaviors you’ve observed?  Disagreements?  Feel free to comment! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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What is a strong-willed person? 

Some people are born strong-willed.  Others work into it.  We might think of them as leaders, independent-minded, strong-willed, or stubborn.  They do not go with the flow.  Usually we recognize them in rebellion. 

 

Let me draw a comparison.  The majority of people are driven by emotion and beliefs.  It has been said that facts are far less powerful than what people believe.  These people feel that the most important thing is being sincere.  Inconsistency means nothing.  Life is lived as though relative.  If they felt it at the time, they did it.  They can be impulsive.  I don’t mean they seem impulsive, but that they really are.  (Wisdom can appear impulsive; if someone has an alert comprehension of a situation and an inherent sense of right and wrong, he will confidently choose very quickly and act on that decision.)  If a person is always true to himself, he is able to be manipulated.  His decisions are thus the floating, sleepy subjective of “follow your heart” – almost animal. 

 

However, a different kind of person is always trying to match himself to an outside ideal, whether pragmatic or spiritual (at the altar of self, of parents, of a romantic interest, a hero, a political ideal, or of God). Sincerity is important; only he wants to sincerely be his ideal, and believes reformation of actions will cause the change.  He still has that impressionable emotional side, but is not capable of being manipulated.  His decisions are on facts, rules, and objective evidence.  Standards are set by what he worships. 

All humans are born not worshiping God.  Self might be worshiped, in which case decisions are whatever self wants to do.  Self will be glorified.  Pain and bribery are nothing if the condition is not what the self wills.  Particularly if subjecting to them would profane independence, the terms are not embraced.  Or the idol might be another person, or a book, or TV show. 

 

There are people who begin as the first type of person and are trained or converted into something else.  Subjective manipulation can birth idolatry of a particular thing, rendering the person anchored, and not blown about with emotion any more. 

 

Conversion can happen for a strong-willed person from one idol to another, but it is not a matter of manipulation.  This is caused by more information about the idols.  No amount of pressure effects a change of mind.  I venture to guess that these people are not easily lied-to, either.  They tend to have a comprehensive view of reality that discerns truth. 

 

So eventually a strong-willed person will discover the truth or die in the process.  Discovering the truth and accepting it are not the same thing.  Many strong-willed people live in determined rebellion against God.  They believe in Him, know what His purpose is, and are not pleased.  They have chosen to worship self, and will not be supplanted.  Like the demons, they believe the truth, shudder, but hate the truth all the same.  In fact it is impossible to fully hate what is unknown. 

 

God can convict even an independent person of their sin, and humble them.  He can also establish formerly unstable, wind-of-the-moment-driven people as His worshipers.  I don’t claim to know how He does it.  I do believe that only He can.  When a person is saved, his spirit is made alive, rendering the sinful nature dead with Jesus on the cross.  Then the will has the power, by dependence on the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ life through them, to choose righteousness.  A strong-willed person recognizes that worship is absolute.  When his worship is given to God, his choices are made to God’s standard. 

 

What he worships, he values supremely in a way that the first kind of person cannot understand.  A strong-willed person understands commitment, is a zealous person, and expects fidelity from others.  He sees priorities as life-statements, reflecting not only the preference of the minute, but the direction of the years.  Yet he understands repentance, because it is a complete turnaround, a replacement of allegiance.  Repentance is not simply the recognition that a particular action is no longer popular or pleasant. 

 

A strong-willed person is not emotionless.  He feels just as deeply, and must reckon with the emotions.  But he cannot let them control him if they contradict his convictions.  This can be simpler, but not easier.  Some strong-willed people, when faced with intense emotional situations, feel torn in two. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: Remember.  These are confessions of a strong-willed person.  My conclusions might be a little biased.  The object remains to aid communication between stronger and lesser wills.  Let me know what you think. 

 

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