“Stubbornness turns into persistence which leads to your success as an adult, If I let you live that long,” is something I told my children far too often. The other thing I told them was, “Stubborn should be a four-letter-word.”
They get their stubbornness from my side of the family. At age 16 I remember saying, “That’s good advice, Dad, but I’m going to learn the hard way.” And I’m sure I did.
When Garry was four, I decided it was time he helped me around the house. His brother and sister were both still in diapers and I needed all the help I could get. One day, when I finished folding the laundry, I asked Garry to put his own clothes in the dresser. I had it organized in a way that made sense to me. Sweaters were in the bottom drawer because you wore them the least and I didn’t want to bend all the way to the floor anymore than I had to. The divider in the top drawer kept underwear and socks separate within easy reach since you needed these items everyday.
I handed Garry his tidy stack of clothes. Without a word, he proudly marched into his room and set them on the floor near the dresser. He opened the bottom drawer with reverence.
Instead of putting his clothes away, he took all the other clothes out of the drawer. I wanted to stop him right then except I was stunned. He laid the clothes down so neatly that they stayed in their folded piles. I already knew how stubborn he could be, so I hesitated saying something. In my head, I started planning the best way to talk to him. I’d used the wrong approach in the past which made him dig in his heels and tune me out. I already knew he was more stubborn than I was.
As my mind tossed out one idea after another, I watched him empty the entire contents of each drawer in the dresser. Then, to my amazement, Garry began to put the piles of clothes away, but in different drawers. At a loss for words, I silently saw him create his own system to organize the dresser.
It was as if Garry decided that he deserved the right to choose where things went since I gave him the responsibility of putting his clothes away. He probably never even thought about it before and didn’t care. But now he obviously did have an opinion.
I perked up when I realized there was no problem to solve. Nothing went wrong. In fact, everything went unexpectedly well. Thank goodness I stopped my impulse to correct him. I’m sure I would lose that test of wills even at his young age.
“Good job!” I said with as much relief in my voice as excitement. I then hurried out of the room before I screwed anything up.