In the Education for Life philosophy, we see that each person has a natural strength that they are born with. There are 4 basic strengths that we call the Tools of Maturity: Body, Feeling, Will, and Intellect. It is our jobs as teachers and parents to encourage each child to step into their Tool of Maturity with power and confidence, while also doing exercises to strengthen the other Tools, so that they can grow into well-balanced and mature adults.
Sometimes, a child who has a strong will is seen as a problem. We use the term “willful child” as though there is something wrong, and many times try to “break the will” of a child. But there is another, more supportive way to work with the child whose natural strength is will. Here, Susan Usha Dermond introduces us to some ideas on how to work with such types of children.
You know someone is a Will personality if they will “cut off their nose to spite their face.” For example, if you say to a child, “Either you take this trash out, or you cannot have your friend over,” they will refuse, even if having this particular friend is something they’ve begged for. To them, giving in to someone else’s will is the worst possible outcome.
So it is important not to back the Will personality into a corner. If you succumb to the temptation of giving them an either/or choice, they will choose the one you do not want just to “win.”
I have seen an excellent teacher, unattached to getting her own way, say to a child refusing to do something, “When you are ready to finish your math, you can finish and I’ll give you the art supplies,” and walk away. A confrontation would cause this child to dig in her heels and refuse to do it. The teacher’s unemotional clarifying of the boundaries, and walking away allow the child a chance to use her will to decide when to finish rather than feeling a loss of control.
Will children can often be motivated by competition. “See if you can get out to the car before I do!” or “Let’s see who can pick up the most toys in sixty seconds,” will get them moving when a request gets no response at all.
Children who have strong wills need to be guided on using them wisely to accomplish things rather than dominating others. Parents and teachers should take the long view in guiding them, never trying to “break” their will, but help them see how to use it wisely.