Q. I have enjoyed reading many things on your website. My husband and I are the owners of 1 integrity child and 1 harmony child. The first makes me nearly lose my mind as I am an integrity person as well. My question is how do you help them understand that the world doesn’t revolve around their perceived needs? My own experiences were tough, and it took counseling to finally work through my own self esteem challenges. It is and has always been exhausting. He is 18 and a good boy. He is polite, smart, well-adjusted, and has tremendous integrity BUT argues with us over nearly anything not being done his way. We try to get in his head and help him, but life will not always accommodate that, and he fears failure. I would love any insight you could provide.
A. The fact that your son is polite, well-adjusted with tremendous integrity says that you have raised him respectfully. But your fears of the outside world not accommodating his temperament are misplaced. He will learn from experience what tracks of life will and will not suit him. This is true for all of us.
The fact that he fears failure indicates a lack of self-confidence, which tells me he may not have felt fully accepted at home. This, I’m afraid, is the plight of so many integrity children, who are seen by parents as defiant, disobedient, obstinate, resistant, and rude. These perceptions lead to reactions of anger, frustration, and control to get the child to be more harmonious. Thus, the message to the child is, I’m not acceptable the way I am. This negative belief leads the integrity child to act out, fight back with unruly behavior. And so the cycle goes. Not a fertile ground for self-confidence.
Our job is not to prepare our children for the outside world by treating them as we assume the outside world will treat them. Our job is to ensure they feel good about themselves so they can take on whatever the outside world presents; So they will choose relationships that are respectful of who they are. That self-confidence that took counseling for you to find, was likely whittled away by conditional acceptance from your parents assuming they were preparing you for the outside world! Our job is to be our children’s foundation, support, and guide. Not military officers preparing children for combat.
Isn’t it wonderful to think that your son will argue his way to finding what works for him in the world rather than succumbing to what he thinks society expects of him. Yes, he has been tough to raise because he hasn’t done it as you expected and in a way that made your life convenient. I know exactly what that’s like as my daughter practically argued her way out of the womb! These children are our most important teachers as they push us to grow and learn.
Your job is to stand strong in your own arguments when it is important to you and to let go of needing to be right when you are not. If he insists on things going his way, and that way is not okay with you, say so. That’s not okay with me—as opposed to You can’t do that. Don’t get into blame and rationalizations you want him to understand. Accept that he doesn’t want it that way and tell him that way doesn’t work for you. Negotiate toward agreements that you are both okay with. Or, agree to disagree. But stop short of trying to get him to see it your way or to stand down and defer to you because he cannot do that—nor should he.
Every integrity child demands a parent to stand in their own integrity. It’s hard if you were not allowed to stand in yours as a child but learned instead to never trust yourself. If a child is yelled at, punished, threatened, and coerced to be who she is not, is it any wonder that she grows with an insecure sense of self.
The exhaustion of parenting comes from the pressure you put on yourself to make your son understand the world doesn’t revolve around him. Entitlement comes from fulfilling all his wishes to make him happy or to stop the demanding and the meltdowns. Make sure that what you give him is your choice and works for you as well.
It’s all about relationship. In a good relationship people make compromises to work together. An integrity child is perfectly capable of making those compromises if his side of the story is understood and not put down with criticism and judgment.
Let him argue – find a way to admire his arguing – but don’t allow him to bowl you over and make you do what you don’t want. Stand up for what you believe. If you can’t do that, that is your work. It’s not his job to take care of your problem. He wants you to meet him in your strength.