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The New Strong-Willed Child Workbook

The New Strong-Willed Child Workbook

4.3 3
by James C. Dobson
This workbook will equip parents, either individually or in a small group setting, with practical skills so that they can competently raise their strong-willed child. Parents will be encouraged through real-life examples and case studies and will learn how to apply the knowledge and guidelines found in Dr. Dobson's new book The New Strong-Willed Child.


This workbook will equip parents, either individually or in a small group setting, with practical skills so that they can competently raise their strong-willed child. Parents will be encouraged through real-life examples and case studies and will learn how to apply the knowledge and guidelines found in Dr. Dobson's new book The New Strong-Willed Child.


  • Getting It Started—an introductory section that presents the main focus of the lesson as well as review of the previous lessons
  • Laying It Out—a summary section presenting key teaching points
  • Thinking It Through—a discussion section with questions to help parents internalize the lessons
  • Taking It Home—a weekly assignment section to help parents apply what they have learned and provide accountability

Product Details

Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
7.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt



Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.,
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4143-0382-3

Chapter One

The Wild & Woolly Will

Taken from chapter 1, "The Wild & Woolly Will," and chapter 2, "Mothers Share Their Stories"

Getting It Started

Who's in charge here?

Children want to know how tough their leaders are. They respect those who show power and courage. Thus, whether you are a parent, a grandparent, a Scout leader, a bus driver, or a schoolteacher, sooner or later one of the children under your authority will clench his little fist and take you on. You had better be prepared to prove him wrong in that moment or the challenge will happen again and again.

Dr. Dobson calls this defiant game "Challenge the Chief," and it can be played with surprising skill by very young children. He tells the story of a father who took his three-year-old daughter to a basketball game. The child was, of course, interested in everything in the gym except the athletic contest. Dad permitted her to roam free and climb on the bleachers, but he set definite limits regarding how far she could stray. He took her by the hand and walked with her to a stripe painted on the gym floor.

"You can play all around the building, Janie, but don't go past this line," he instructed her. He had no sooner returned to his seat than the toddler scurried in the direction of the forbidden territory. She stopped at the border for a moment, then flashed a grin over her shoulder to her father, and deliberately placed one foot over the line as if to say, "Whatcha gonna do about it?" Virtually every parent the world over has been asked the same question at one time or another.

The entire human race is afflicted with the same tendency toward willful defiance that this three-year-old exhibited. Her behavior in the gym is not so different from the folly of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had told them they could eat anything in the Garden except the forbidden fruit (in effect, "Do not go past this line"). Yet they challenged the authority of the Almighty by deliberately disobeying His commandment.

Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of original sin that has infiltrated the human family. This is why proper, immediate response to willful defiance during childhood is required, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of future personal disaster. The weed that grows from it may become a tangled briar patch during the troubled days of adolescence.


1. Describe a time when you (the parent or teacher) won the "Challenge the Chief" game. Then recall a time when your child was the victor. What made the difference? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

2. Why do you think children need borders and boundaries? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

3. How can a strong will be a negative trait? a positive one? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

4. How do kids treat leaders they don't respect? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

5. When you were a child, how would your parents have described you? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

Laying It Out


Really, you don't understand.

Unless you've had a strong-willed child of your own, you can't comprehend the unique challenges such parents face.

When a parent doesn't stand up to his or her child's defiant challenge, though, something changes in the relationship. The youngster begins to look at his mother and father with disrespect; they are unworthy of his allegiance. More important, she wonders why they would let her do something so harmful if they really loved her. The ultimate paradox of childhood is that boys and girls want to be led by their parents but insist that their mothers and fathers earn the right to lead them.


Dr. Dobson tells the story of a certain little spitfire. At thirty-six months, he had already bewildered and overwhelmed his mother. The contest of wills was over. He had won it. His sassy talk-to his mother and anyone else who got in his way-was legendary in the neighborhood. Then one day he rode his tricycle down the driveway and into the street, which panicked his mother. The woman rushed out of the house and caught up with her son as he pedaled down the street. She took hold of his handlebars to redirect him, and he came unglued.

"Get your dirty hands off my tricycle!" he screamed. His eyes were squinted in fury. The woman did as she was told. The life of her child was in danger, yet this mother did not have the courage to make him obey her. He continued to ride down the street while she trailed along behind, hoping for the best.

How could a tiny little boy at three years of age buffalo his thirty-year-old mother in this way? Clearly, she had no idea how to manage him. He was simply tougher than she-and they both knew it. This mild-mannered woman had produced an iron-willed youngster who was willing to fight with anyone who tried to rein him in, and you can be sure that his mom's physical and emotional resources were continually drained by his antics.


In thinking about the characteristics of compliant and defiant children, Dr. Dobson sought an illustration to explain the vastly differing thrusts of human temperaments. He found an appropriate analogy in a supermarket. Here's how he describes it:

Imagine yourself in a grocery store, pushing a cart up the aisle. You give the basket a small shove, and it glides at least nine feet out in front and then comes to a gradual stop. You walk along happily tossing in the soup and ketchup and loaves of bread. Grocery shopping is such an easy task, for even when the cart is burdened with goods, it can be directed with one finger.

But buying groceries is not always so blissful. On other occasions, you select a cart that ominously awaits your arrival at the front of the market. When you push the stupid thing forward, it tears off to the left and knocks over a stack of bottles. Refusing to be outmuscled by an empty cart, you throw all your weight behind the handle, fighting desperately to keep the ship on course. It seems to have a mind of its own. You are trying to do the same shopping assignment that you accomplished with ease the week before, but the job feels more like combat duty today. You are exhausted by the time you herd the contumacious cart toward the checkout counter. What is the difference between the two shopping baskets? Obviously, one has straight, well-oiled wheels that go where they are guided. The other has crooked, bent wheels that refuse to yield. Do you get the point? We might as well face it: some kids have crooked wheels! They do not want to go where they are led, because their own inclinations take them in other directions. Furthermore, the parent who is pushing the cart must expend seven times the energy to make it move, compared with the parent of a child with straight wheels. Of course, only mothers and fathers of strong-willed children will fully comprehend the meaning of this example.


How is the strength of the will distributed among children? Dr. Dobson originally assumed that this aspect of human temperament was represented by a typical bell-shaped curve. He presumed that a relatively small number of very compliant kids appeared at one end of the continuum and an equally small number of defiant youngsters were represented at the other. The rest, comprising the majority, were likely to fall somewhere near the middle of the distribution. However, having talked to at least 100,000 harried parents, Dr. Dobson is now convinced that his supposition was wrong.

Dr. Dobson, however, warns not to take this observation too literally. Maybe it only seems that the majority of toddlers are confirmed anarchists. Furthermore, there is a related phenomenon regarding sibling relationships. In a family with two children, one is likely to be compliant and the other defiant. Who knows why it works out that way? There they are, born to the same parents, but as different as though they came from different planets. One cuddles to your embrace, and the other kicks you in the navel. One is a natural sweetheart, and the other goes through life like hot lava. One follows orders, and the other gives them. Quite obviously, they are marching to a different set of drums.


The compliant child is not necessarily wimpy or spineless. That fact is important to our understanding of his nature and how he differs from his strong-willed sibling. The distinction between the two is not a matter of confidence, willingness to take risks, sparkling personalities, or other desirable characteristics. Rather, the issue under consideration here is focused on the strength of the will-on the inclination of some children to resist authority and determine their own course, as compared with those who are willing to be led. Dr. Dobson believes that these temperaments are prepackaged before birth and do not have to be cultivated or encouraged. They will make themselves known soon enough.

Your child may not fit either pattern. Another category of temperaments in children includes those who are not really strong-willed-at least, their assertiveness is not expressed in the same way. The distinction here is not one of independence and aggressiveness. It is a matter of tactics. They rarely challenge the authority of their parents or teachers in a stiff-necked manner, but they are willful nonetheless. Dr. Dobson calls them "sneaky."

Adults think these youngsters are going along with the program, but inside, subversion is afoot. When no one is looking, these children break the rules and push the limits. When caught, as inevitably they are, they may lie or rationalize or seek to hide the evidence. The appropriate approach to these sneaky kids is not appreciably different from handling the strong-willed child. Sooner or later, his or her self-will can be expected to break into the open, usually during early adolescence. Then, it's "Katie, bar the door."

Thinking It Through

1. In what ways is parenting what you expected? How does it differ from what you expected, especially regarding your children's temperaments? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

2. When have you felt guilt, self-condemnation, or self-doubt in your parenting? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

3. When have you felt that others were judging you for having a strong-willed child, especially other parents who have compliant children? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

4. Do you believe everything will work out for the best for your strong-willed child? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

5. Why do many parents fear being firm with their children? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

6. How do you respond to parents whose children are obviously out of control? How do you respond to "helpful comments" from your friends or family members? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

7. If it is true that a child is strong-willed from birth, what are the signs? What might be the signs for a compliant child? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________

Case Study: Portrait of an Angel

Consider the following case study of a strong-willed child from Dr. Dobson's files:

Dana slept through the night at maybe fifteen months old. At eighteen months old, you could tell her no and she would fall on the floor, throw a fit, and roll around. We would sit and watch her for a while because we weren't going to give in. We were going to be strong. She would stand up, and she would have that beautiful angelic face, and she would say, "I'm sorry."


Excerpted from THE NEW STRONG-WILLED CHILD Workbook by JAMES DOBSON Copyright © 2005 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.,. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The New Strong-Willed Child Workbook 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you believe Dr. Dobson is correct with his principles of raising children who are strong willed OR who want to live by their own rules (which is part of the title), then this workbook is for you. It is very helpful in understanding the extremely smart and strong willed child. So few of our friends or family members can relate, or understand what we go thru with our youngest daughter. I was so tired of people tellng me to lay off her, let her be or that I treat her so different then our older daughter. This child needs extra guidance, patience and understanding and we just didn't know how to begin. We were so frustrated, lost. You can also discover things about yourself you didn't even think about, while reading these questions and answering them. I am so glad this book gives me a chance to plan goals and make some positive changes in our lives. This workbook is great to leave by your table and refer to it over and over again. I like to re read parts of it on vacation too. I could rate this book in the categories in effectiveness and life changing but we are still just trying to implement the changes and sticking to them in our household. We have a way to go yet.
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