That Fish Is Going to Be Caught: Determination or Stubbornness

by ParentCo. October 25, 2017


This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. I wasn’t going to give up. I knew if I tried hard enough I was going to be able to catch that fish with my bare hands just like my cousin did. Even though I was a girly girl and didn’t want to touch the fish, I knew if I could learn to do this I would never go hungry. Simplistic thinking for sure but I was a child, and it made perfect sense to me at the time to learn this skill. My mom thought I was doing this just to prove I could. It wasn’t long before she yelled at me to "stop being so stubborn and give up." If she had have given the whole situation half a thought she would have realized that I don’t enjoy touching yucky stuff, so there must have been a bigger reason for me to keep trying other than stubbornness. I was frustrated with her putting that negative word on me, so I yelled back to her “not being stubborn mom, I just want to catch one.” That was the start of my years of arguing with her about what she referred to as my “stubborn streak.” Even back then I knew it was motive that made the difference. I was not being defiant; I was just going to keep trying until I caught that fish. My mother continued to use that horrible "s word" with me, and at times I would’t clean my room out of pure stubbornness. If she wouldn’t stop thinking I was stubborn, then "screw it," I would be stubborn and show her what the difference was between the two. What we say about our children tends to stick with them well into their adulthood. If you say to your child "stop being so lazy and go clean your room," they will start to become more and more lazy. If you say "you worry way too much," your child will worry even more. Having my mother regularly call me stubborn tended to make me stubborn where my natural inclination was not defiance. It took me years to be able to articulate the difference between those two words, but once I did, I stopped feeling the need to be stubborn about anything, and just became "determined." I no longer felt the need to try and prove my mom wrong, with the full understanding that my trying to prove her wrong was indeed stubbornness. Now, being aware of the full impact of the difference in those two words I had freedom to be as determined as I needed to be to accomplish my goals. Fortunately, the one benefit of being a determined child was that I didn’t give up trying to prove I wasn’t stubborn, so my mother’s negative words over me didn’t stick. Seeing your child try to accomplish something without your help is not stubbornness, that is "determination." If they have the wisdom to ask for your help when they realize sheer determination is not going to get them what they want, now you have a humble, determined child. If you have a child that wants help with everything they do, this is not determination; this is laziness. But rather than point that out, just encourage them to try and figure out how to do something on their own. When your child has accomplished something on their own, whether big or small, you need to give high praise for that accomplishment. Establishing in their mind that you are proud of their determination will encourage them to do even more things on their own in the future. Understand, I am not saying you should never help – you should help only when you see they tried and just couldn’t accomplish it on their own. Therefore allowing your child to learn to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses which will enable them to have both without guilt!



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