Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: You Can't Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded)

You Can't Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded): Strategies for Bringing Out the Best in Your Strong-Willed Child

It was a simple request really.  "Move to the next lane.  It is clear."  Straight forward for most people.

Unfortunately, I am not most people.

Everything inside of me bowed up.  I will move over when I am good and ready.  And out of spite, I waited until the last moment to change lanes.

You might be wondering what sparked this behavior?  Honestly, nothing.  Just a normal traveling trip (except I was driving) and my husband told me to change lanes.  Should have been no big deal.  And for the majority of the population it would have been.  Seriously, it was a nice, helpful comment.

But there are a small percentage of you who are right with me.  Just reading this story struck a nerve.  You never know when it is going to hit.  But when it does, it hits hard.  Your suddenly stand taller, feel stronger, and develop spikes that dig deep into the ground.  It is the God-given strong will that can be used for good or bad.

In her book You Can't Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded): Strategies for Bringing Out the Best in Your Strong-Willed Child, Cynthia Tobias takes the reader through the crazy-deep mind of a strong-willed person. Being a strong-willed person and raising some strong-willed kiddos, this book struck some chords.   

Points that I took home:
  1. The perspective of a reward is more motivating than the threat of a penalty - so emphasize the positive aspects more than the negative.
  2. If a strong-willed child doesn't decide to change, don't expect to see much improvement.
  3. Stay calm and empathic when working with strong-willed children.
  4. Phrase requirements in the form of positive rather than negative terms.
  5. As parents, we must realize that we cannot force our children to obey simply because we demand it.  Every child has a choice to obey.
  6. The strength of your convictions as the parent helps your child feel secure. 
  7. Strong-willed children know how to push buttons...throw you off balance and then intercept the control.  If you allow your own anger and strong will to enter the argument, you've lost already.
  8. A strong-willed child wants you to know that they have control over what they will and will not do.  
  9. Choose your battles carefully - most aren't worth sacrificing the relationship.
Momma C's Thoughts:  
This book is chalked full of ideas - little nuggets of wisdom to tuck in your pocket.  I was reminded again that strong-willed children don't have a strong desire to disobey.  They simply don't want to be told what to do.  How requests are worded  for these children is crucial.  Tobias also explains what a strong-willed child is and is not.  Don't confuse different personality and disobedience as strong-willed.

I found it interesting that Cynthia Tobias quotes the Love and Logic team of Cline and Fay several times throughout the book. Many of her suggestions parallel the Love and Logic philosophy.  If you are a follower of this blog, you know that I also strongly suggest and follow many of these discipline strategies.  

As I have grown in my parenting, I have realized that sometimes you let things go.  You can not make a battle of everything.  This is especially important with strong-willed children.  No matter how many times you are ready to battle, they will be ready one more.  Make the major major and let the minor remain minor.  This has made for a calmer home while not sacrificing discipline.  For me, this means that at times I am going to help my child obey by walking him to a designation instead of demanding he goes on his own.

In the book are ideas of how to help your child deal with other authority figures and the line between black and white.   Because not everyone is going to understand the strong-willed brain, it is important that you train your child how to handle the situations they run into.  

I was reminded of the importance of respect.  It doesn't matter what you tell a strong-willed child, if they don't respect you, they will probably not follow along with your commands.  While they may very well agree with you, they won't give you the satisfaction of  going along.  I can not emphasize this point enough.  Even as an adult, this is a battle I struggle with.  

One of the suggestions given in this book stems around the word "okay?".  For example, "Put on your seatbelt. Okay?"  While I understand the point, I could not disagree more with doing this.  Ms. Tobias is making the point that wording is important.  Don't create your request using fighting words.  But by ending a request with a question mark, you are opening up the situation to a discussion.  This is the last thing that you want to do with a strong-willed child.  Any battle of words will place you in the losers category.  Work to understand why the child is refusing to comply but don't ask permission to make a command.

If you have a very strong-willed child there are several good resources in addition to this book that are available to help you understand your child.  These are the ones that I recommend.

Thank you to Waterbrook Press for the opportunity to review this book.


  1. I was wondering which book or resource you would recommend to start with? Thanks!

  2. Sara - Great question. I would start with the Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years. I think it will give you a great foundation for the other books.

  3. I just found this post after I posted a comment earlier. Thank you for this review! It's awesome!! I read the book and really liked it and am re-reading and hitting high points to help me. This post has been a great find - not to mention the other books you suggested. Also, I'm glad you felt and mentioned what you did about the "OK" at the end of the command. Wow! SO hit the nail on the head. I've been trying to rephrase and using that even though it went against my better judgement and just as I suspected - it backfires every stinkin' time! It is definitely a way to give options on what is not an option - obedience! So thanks again! I do love your blog and it is quiet helpful!!


The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.