A Stubborn boy

My middle son is a damned stubborn child. He gets it from his mother of course. Stubbornness though can serve a person well, when tempered with wisdom, and focus and courage. It’s an essential ingredient to greatness; the x-factor that separates the best of us from the rest of us. Left untended however, stubbornness will simply burn a person up from within, blazing bright enough to blind and then clouding tomorrow with smoke.

My goal as a dad is to effectively motivate him to harness the raw power of his stubbornness rather than be a slave to it.  Of course motivating anyone is much easier on paper than in real life. It’s about reverse engineering a person’s immediate desires and then aligning that with what will also produce long term benefits.

For instance, when we were potty training our middle son, the number 1 was no problem. A handful of cheerios in the bowl and the promise of target practice was all it took to align his immediate desires with the long term benefits of whizzing like a big boy. Number 2 was a different story entirely. What ended up finally working was a praise based solution.

He idolizes his grandpa, as do both of his brothers, and grandpa keeps it old school. Earning their grandpa’s respect is I think at least as high up on their list of priorities as butterscotch milkshakes. So one day, when we sat my middle son’s stubborn ass down on the toilette, I told him that if he took a big poop we could take a picture and send it to grandpa. Well his eye’s filled up with excitement and the toilette filled up with poo. This became our new potty ritual for the next couple of months which was great until I pulled out my phone to show off pictures of my kids only to accidently display dozens of picturesque, toilette framed blumpkins.

The point is, we had to get creative in order to meet the objective.

Well we find ourselves at an impasse once more. It’s hard being the middle child I suppose. You aren’t as good at stuff as the oldest yet you aren’t as doted upon as the baby.  So I try to be understanding when dealing with his stubborn attitude. Unfortunately I also know that the real world, which I am trying to prepare him for, doesn’t care.

fun fact, the stick doesn’t work with a stubborn child and the carrot needs to be one impressive carrot.

So we are going back to the old star chart. Don’t underestimate the power of a gold sticker. Actually it’s a great opportunity to set goals for each or our children to meet, even if the main priority is to get our middle child to get with the program. The process is simple, they each have a list of big goals for the summer as well as a general path of success. Do good, get a sticker. Do bad and we will dramatically pull the sticker from the board. It’s silly but we live in a silly world and this seems to work. So… Here goes. It’s my mission as a dad and I intend to be more stubborn about that than anything my kids will ever encounter.