The Myth of the Compliant Child

The Myth of the Compliant Child - Parenting Like Hannah
Children are born with unique, non-compliant personalities

When my daughter was an infant, I was talking with a very wise older mother. As I shared our plan to establish firm, consistent limits, she had a warning for me. “Don’t be surprised,” she said “when your child is obedient, everyone will tell you that you are so lucky to have given birth to a child who is so compliant.”

Boy, was she ever right! Our daughter is blessed with double stubborn genes. Everyone on both sides of her family could easily hold their breath until they turn blue. Yet, to this day (she’s 17 years old and in college now) I still have people commenting how lucky I was for God to have given me such a compliant, “easy” child.

If you are a young parent, I want to share something very important with you. No healthy child is “born” compliant. Yes, some may have naturally sweeter dispositions than others, but every child I have ever met (with the exception a very ill child) has a nice healthy stubborn/selfish streak.

I understand some children have developmental and health issues that make it more difficult for them to obey. I have a friend who has two children who are about as AD/HD as a child can possibly be. As young children, they really struggled with obedience – partially because it required them to pay attention to instructions and tasks – something that was almost impossible for them.

I loved what she told them repeatedly over the years. “Everyone has things with which they struggle. Yours is AD/HD. Yes, it makes it harder for you to pay attention to instructions and carry them out, but that just means you have to work harder than other people might. That cannot be your excuse, that is your motivation for working harder.” Needless to say, these now adult men have accomplished far more than I think anyone who knew them as young children would have believed was possible.

I want to give you the same advice my friend gave her sons. Your parenting journey is probably difficult for all of the reasons you think it is. Unfortunately, life isn’t fair sometimes. It may just mean you have to work harder than other parents at raising children who are obedient to you and ultimately to God. Your struggles cannot be your excuse – your children can’t afford the consequences of your refusal to parent because it is too hard. Your parenting struggles need to be your motivation – if nothing else than to prove to the world that in spite of everything you too can raise a “compliant” child.


P.S. Please note: By compliant child, I do not mean a door mat child who cannot speak up for herself. Our daughter has a strong voice and will stand up to anyone for what is right (the good part of stubborn genes!). She does, however, respect authority and obey rules – both man’s and God’s.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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