I'm trying something new with both of my kids, and with the people all around me: I'm encouraging instead of informing. I know I respond better when I'm praised and loved instead of judged and corrected, and I believe this to be a universal phenomenon. Being kind is better than being right.
William is teaching me about this, as I've noticed he doesn't respond well to onslaughts of instruction. He freezes up, resists, declines to comply. But if I come alongside and encourage him, give him hugs, and tell him I believe in him, he puffs up a little bit with self confidence, and tries on his own time.
Trying to force people to do what I want them to do is not the way to success. It is the path to frustration and resentment. I can see this clearly in a way I wasn't able to before, and I've decided to change how I interact with other people. I want to be a cheerleader, full of positive encouragement, and not a teacher, constantly correcting my pupils.
Ava responds much better to direction because she is compliant by nature, but William is an immovable force. Like me, he digs his heels in the sand when he doesn't want to do something, and refuses until he is blue in the face. I used to attempt to convince him by sheer force, but thank the good Lord I am relaxing in my fascist approach, and realizing that if he's not ready, I can be gentler with him, and ease him into change so it doesn't seem so terrifying to him.
We went mini golfing this week while on vacation, and Jason, good golfer that he is, worked on correcting Ava's stance and swing. She was open to this kind of instruction. When it came to William, he would put up with it for a few minutes, and then swing his club any way he damn pleased, and when Jason hit his ball for him, he cried and went to get it and put it back at the starting point.
It hit me that William really needed to do it on his own, and Jason had to step back and let him do it. Jason was trying to be helpful in assisting his small son with the task of mini golfing, but once he stopped interfering, William had a really good time. It took him upwards of ten strokes on each green, but he did it himself, and he was beaming with pride. The more we encouraged, the better he did, and it was like a revelation to us.
A new parenting style was born on that mini golf course. When Ava felt blue that she couldn't putt very well, we told her she was doing fine, and cheered her on. It helped all of us have a good time, and feel good about our family outing. I know that sometimes we have to help our kids through situations that they don't want to participate in, but they must (like the dentist or preschool for William), and in those times, encouragement will still work better than information and pressure. We'll give it a try, and see how it works out from this point forward.