Thursday, May 4, 2017

my kids aren't 'pleasers' - and that's okay.

My kids are a lot of things.  Affectionate.  Loud. Verbose.  (Very verbose.)

But they aren't pleasers.

As parents I think we naturally hope our kids are pleasers.  What I mean is, we want them to be good-natured and compliant.  Pleasant to be around.  Polite.  Follow all the rules.  Maybe even just quiet.

That is not my children.
two strong-willed kiddos - lucky me! ;)
They can be sweet and delightful - if they know you and you are patient enough to wait for it. But they are not the type, upon meeting them, to respond to your adult greeting with a shy smile and a tiny toddler wave.  "Say 'hi' Cormac," I will urge.  Sometimes he will simply ignore the whole interaction.   Or he will say something completely off-the-wall, leaving the adult stupified.  Finola is not much different.  "Will you give me a hug?" will sometimes ellicit the response of a flat-out "Nope!" They don't give obligatory hugs.  Ever.  But, if they feel like it, they are the most cuddly kids I can imagine.

When they want to talk to you, and they love to talk, they will initiate the conversation on their terms.  They will be brutally honest.

It is no surprise to me that my kids aren't pleasers.  I would not describe my husband as a pleaser. Good-natured and very friendly, yes.  Pleaser-personality, no.   I know for a fact I am not a pleaser... although I am more conscious of my responses/actions now that I am older.

A 'pleaser' (from what I gather from self-proclaimed pleasers) is someone who often acts to appease others.  Who may hold back their opinions or feelings to avoid confrontation.  Who follows the established social graces, sometimes even when it goes against every fiber of their being. (Thus causing inner turmoil - or at least some discomfort.)  A pleaser's default setting is to concern themselves with how they "should" act - and are very concerned with how other people are judging their actions.  They want to keep the peace and make others happy, despite personal feelings.

Don't get me wrong - pleasers are wonderful people!  They are usually sweet and kind and very easy to get along with.  They will usually have more friends than non-pleasers.  It is easy to like a pleaser.

In my family, my sister is a self-proclaimed 'recovering pleaser.'  My younger brother was definitely a pleaser growing up.  Spencer would always be saying, "Can't we just all get along?"  He was and is the nicest guy ever.

I, however, was the opposite!  A natural button-pusher.  I didn't care at all (in the moment) how I was perceived.  I was the child who wrinkled my nose at strangers who told me how cute I was.  I would literally grunt and recoil when well-meaning adults would try to get "all up in my hamster ball" in any way.  I believe I even threw a few punches as a baby.
I was a textbook "non-pleaser."
As I grew older I continued to embarrass/annoy my parents by giving my startlingly honest opinions and telling them (and everyone) exactly what I thought.  I was hard to discipline because I questioned everything - and let's be honest, parents typically just want kids to hear that they are wrong and stop doing whatever it is.  I wanted to discuss (argue) why things were wrong, even as a very young child. That didn't usually go over well!

I go through these same things with both my children.  I get it now, Mom and Dad.  It wears you down!

Although it is super frustrating sometimes to parent my strong-willed children, I want to emphasize the positives of their big personalities. There is great value in being a non-conformist. There is strength in not being afraid to give your opinion (respectfully) even when everyone else is saying something else.

And it is totally okay to say the kid equivalent of "get the heck away from me" when a someone makes you feel uncomfortable!  (Real talk: My kids have shouted "Stranger danger!" around innocent bystanders outside buildings who have even glanced at them sideways. Kinda embarrassing...but at least they are aware...???)

As they grow up, I want my kids to feel empowered to not just go along with what the other kids are doing.  To state very clearly if they don't like how they are being treated.  To not be bullies, but definitely not be victims, either.

So mamas and dads, the next time you find yourself wishing your kid was more of a "pleaser" -- pray for God to work His will through your child's unique little personality.

The world needs all kinds.

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If you sometimes struggle, as I do, with parenting a strong-willed child, I highly encourage you to read the following article as it may help you to understand the behavior better.  As a grown-up "strong-willed child" I can say that this is pretty spot-on:
(Such a great website, and Dr. Laura Markham's book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids is probably my favorite parenting book of all.)