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Driving Your Own Bus

“I am not going to Cancun,” I barked — defiance lining my voice.  

Eyebrows arched, my saintly mother glowed at me. “What do you mean you aren’t going to Cancun? You are not spending the week at home; you can spend the weekend in Duluth with your grandfather,” she coolly responded.

“Fine, I’ll go see Grandpa Arnold,” I smirked before stomping off in a pique of high school frustration.

The average March temperature in Cancun is 82 degrees; the average March temperature in Duluth is 34 degrees. Furthermore, I would be taking the inimitable Greyhound to the Iron Range. Cancun, on the other hand, promised tropical beaches and drinks. And for this irrepressible teenager, it promised sultry Spring Break nights.

Irrelevant — even to this hormone-crazed teenager. I was proving a point. Come hell or (Caribbean) high water.  

“Pack warmly,” my mother laughed as she and the rest of my family shook their heads in collective disbelief. Upholding my promise (at least to myself), I would spend the next eight hours on the gurgling Greyhound. Cancun would soon emerge as the newest curse word in my vocabulary.

From Spring Break trips to university grades (yes, I have debated professors — as in multiple — over semester grades) to endless Monopoly games, I am proudly stubborn. Strong-willed, I euphemistically counter, when pressed on my obstinacy.

“I can’t wait until you have a little Matthew,” my late mother would always chortle. The implication: little Matthew would be as headstrong as big Matthew. My priceless response, “We should all be so lucky.”

While my mother chuckled at my strong-willed nature, other parents (cough, cough Dad) demanded dutiful obedience. Or else.  

The open question: Should you embrace your child’s inner rebel or neuter his strong-willed personality?

The answer: embrace the volcanic meltdowns, passionate political discussions, and “I am not going to Cancun” declarations (thank you, Mom!). While my mother surely eye-rolled at my latest dinnertime disagreement, the strong(-willed) survive and, in most cases, prosper.

Therapists confirm that “strong-willed kids are more willing to do what’s right, rather than what their friends are doing.” Assuming parents connect with their strong-willed spawn, these kids “make motivated leaders who will do the right thing even if they have to do it solo.”  

As for all those draining battles with your strong-minded child, well, they presage a persistence that will pay off — literally. Rule-breaking kids are more likely to command higher salaries than their straight and narrow peers. From standing up for their own financial interests to employing greater persuasive skills, research has found rule-breaking is the best non-cognitive predictor of high income as an adult.

“You are too damn stubborn. Mind me,” my father would shriek. As his brow furrowed, face reddened, and neck vein bulged, I would ignore the latest demand with a smirking nonchalance.

Yes, I am stubborn. Proudly so. And that attribute — the willingness to stick up for myself — has helped charter life’s turbulent waters.

Even when those waters are, let’s say, frigid Lake Superior — and not the balmy Caribbean seas.

Source: psychcenteral