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Parenting the Strong-Willed Child as a Team (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air Date 06/06/2014

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Cynthia Tobias and Jean Daly describe how parents can navigate the frustration and challenges of raising strong-willed children. Our guests also explain how couples can get on the same page in their parenting approach. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Cynthia Tobias: One of my favorite stories, I was working with police officer, um women police officers and they were all parents, all high-command level police officers and they had started kind of around, and they said, this one gal from Nova Scotia, she said, "Look I'm a good cop. I've gone up through the ranks, and I'm highly respected, and I'm a great cop, but I just don't think I'm a very good mother." She said, "I have a 16-year-old strong-willed daughter, we're divorced, and I went over to her dad's house to pick her up and she said, "I'm not going with you." And I said, "Yes, you are." And she said, "No, I'm not." And I said, "Yes, you are." And she said, "No, I'm not; you can't make me." And so, I put her in the "Suspect Come Along Hold" and put her in the car. (Laughter) And we all gasped as she said, "I know. I didn't know what else to do."

And you know, everybody agreed all around the circle right away. What else do I do? At some point when the kids does, "You can't make me; I'm not doin' it," then all right. So, this cop says, "You want to bet? I'm puttin' you in the "Come Along" hold. Okay, well, that accomplished something, but not something good. (Laughter)

Jim Daly: Right.

Cynthia: But I think especially with some of the more straightforward analytic, non-intuitive, like my husband, you're going, "Oh! What what else can you do? You gotta get the kid out of there." So, you don't think of it naturally. So, that's that--

Jim: Oh, that's … yeah.

Cynthia: --you know, practice, practice, practice, again, but--

Jean Daly: Well, and--

Cynthia: --she's so funny.

Jean: --Cynthia I think for many of us for many of us, we feel like we have to win. Like--

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jean: --like your friend, the--

Cynthia: 'Cause you're the big person.

Jean: --police officer.

Cynthia: You're the--

Jean: Yes.

Cynthia: --you're the authority.

Jean: Yes. That we lose the respect of the child if we lose that battle and yet, really the opposite is true.

Cynthia: Right and workin' with police officers and the military, first responders, there's this whole idea of positional authority. Positional authority means, I am the commanding officer.

John Fuller: Hm.

Cynthia: I am the parent. You are the child. By nature of my position, you have to obey me. And in the military and police officers, that's what they do at work; that works. At home it doesn't work. And it works backwards and everything misfires and then they don't know what else to do. Don't you--

Jim: They can't live--

Cynthia: --understand?

Jim: --comfortably in that.

Cynthia: I am the commanding officer. You don't get to call the shots. You don't get to ask me any of these questions. You don't get to challenge my authority. You're 6. (Laughing) But the 6-year-old wins, because whoever's angry lost the argument.

End of Recap

John: Well, it may sound like you're right in the middle of a conversation and really, Jim, we are. This is "Focus on the Family," with Jim Daly our host. I'm John Fuller and we had a couple of women here talkin' about strong-willed children last time.

Jim: A couple of women, Cynthia Tobias, author of You Can't Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded and my own wonderful wife, Jean. and based on what we hear from you, response to the program, raising children who challenge your authority on a daily basis is a really hot topic. I think it's just the way it is and in fact, what you're about to hear had such a huge response that it made it to our Best of 2014 CD set and download.

John: And I'd invite you to order that online right now at or when you call 800-232-6459; 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: John, let me say it this way. That 12-CD set, I think is really one of the best investments for your family. And you'll learn a lot with the information in there. Again, these are the hottest topics that husbands, wives, mothers, fathers are dealing with. We have lots of marriage and parenting advice in there, which you'd expect, but we also have thoughts from Lecrae, a Christian hip-hop artist. That was one of the strongest programs of the year. And he talked about how to serve God in a culture that doesn't get God. I mean, that is advice for us. Also advice on healthy eating from David Meinz and even a conversation with C.S. Lewis's stepson, Doug Gresham, about C.S. Lewis's work on Mere Christianity. I really liked that program. And again, you can learn those details and order online.

Today we're gonna get back to recognizing your strong-willed child, their strengths and perhaps those areas of improvement and how to deal with that prodigal child and restoring the love relationship that our children so desperately need from their parents.

John: Well, let's continue the conversation that we began a few moments ago. Here is Jean Daly and Cynthia Tobias on "Focus on the Family."


Jim: Jean, you do something so well I want to recognize that and that is the ability to say you're sorry and to engage Trent and Troy in that way. Cynthia, how important is that for the parent to have enough capability to go to the child when somethin's gone wrong as the parent and say, "Listen, I didn't handle that well. I'm sorry."

Cynthia: Well, it's important. The sentiment is important. The words are sometimes difficult, because from the strong-willed aspect, even as a parent, it's very difficult for me to say I'm sorry, sometimes because it sounds like it's scripted, like you--

John: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: --wanted me to say that. So, I'm gonna make it right, but if you insist that they are particular words, now I'm actually getting better—you can ask my husband--at saying, you were right. But I'm still terrible at saying I was--

Jim: She can't say it. (Laughter)

Cynthia: --wrong, you know. (Laughter)

John: Wrong. (Laughter)

Jim: And come on, you can do it, Cynthia.

Cynthia: I know, but this is a very real obstacle for a strong-willed parent especially, but maybe any parent, anybody in authority and I don't know that you have to say, "I was wrong," you can say it in a different way. You can say, "Look, I need a do-over."

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: "I don't apologize for what I asked you to do, but I do think I have to rethink how I asked you to do it and I think I owe you an apology," because then you're gonna get a whole lot more respect from me--

John: Hm.

Cynthia: --as your child that you did that. You don't do it often. You don't do it all the time, but there are times when you really do it and you get a real effective object lesson out of that. And also, you teach them how to do it when they need to do it back.

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: Because if you never say you're sorry, they probably won't either.

Jim: Let me ask you this question. When is it that line when you go to the wall, when they've done something that is needing a swift firm response?

Cynthia: Well, in my opinion, you go to the wall for issues of physical safety and spiritual and moral values. And then beyond that, everything may be somewhat more negotiable.

Jim: So, takin' out the trash doesn't fit really any of those categories.

Cynthia: No, probably not. Although if refusing to take out the trash is a sign of disrespect--

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: --that's a "go-to-the-wall" issue.

Jim: Right.

Cynthia: In other words, I'm not going to allow disrespect, but disrespect s somewhat subjective, right? And so, the "go-to-the-wall" issues you should agree upon ahead of time whenever you can. And if you're not sure, again, in the heat of the moment say, "You know what? I just don't think I can let you get by with that. I give on a lot of different things that aren't that big a deal. This one's a big deal to me."

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: Because it says that you disrespect me. Or because this could actually endanger your life if we don't do this. And this one is a big deal to me. And that way, again it's your honesty and your transparency, but, you're not yelling and ranting and raving at me. But you have very calmly and very clearly said, I really can't budget on this one. I just can't.

Jim: You know, one of the things that you do so well in coaching parents of strong-willed children is really helping them to understand how to give that child an option. Again, we talked about it last time. I'd like for you to restate that for those listening for the first time today, letting that strong-willed child have an out. When you talk about taking out the trash and when that becomes defiant, I would think you would recommend, you could say, "Would you like to take it out at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.?" You give them a choice and that is helpful to the strong-willed child, isn't it?

Cynthia: It is, but here's the interesting thing about choices and sometimes parents'll say, well, as long as I give him a choice of a couple things, they'll choose one. Not actually. I might choose none. Do you want this or that? I don't want either one of 'em. So, then what do you do, right?

Jim: Yeah, right. (Chuckling)

Cynthia: So the most important thing is …

Jim: Have you been talkin 'to our children?

Cynthia: Yeah. (Laughing) The most important thing is to ask and answer the question, "What's the point?" What am I trying to get this person to do? This child, what do I need him to do? need him to take out the trash. So, instead of saying, "Do you want to take out the trash now or later?" I can say, "Do you want to take out the trash before dinner?" "No." "You want to wait till afterwards then." I mean again, instead of saying, "Get in the car; we're late." I say, "Are you almost ready?" "Oh, yeah, I'm gonna go get a drink." I mean, I get a little bit of control in the situation and I get to the car." Whereas if you've pointed your bony finger at me and issued the order or the edict, then I have no choice except to not do it. I was going to do it. I was on my way to do it. I woulda done it.

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: But then you pointed your finger in my face and said, "You're gonna do it." But kids pick up on that and they're practicing for adulthood by watching how you do it.

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: So, how do they know how to talk to somebody if they want to get them to do something? They do it the way that you've modeled for them.

Jim: What really is piercing my heart about what you're saying is, you're thinking two or three steps down the road (Chuckling). And so often as a parent, I fail to do that. I'm thinking one step at a time. And it's easier that way. It probably takes less effort for me to think that way. But what I'm hearing you say is, think a little more broadly and think down the line a little bit, steps two, three and four. And by doing that, you're going to diffuse that situation. You're gonna lead by example. You're gonna help your child cope with the environment that they're feeling a bit hopeless in. But in coaching a parent, help me. Why am I so short-sighted?

Cynthia: Well, you know, one of the favorite stories and I probably shared it on an earlier broadcast. But a lady came up to me after a seminar and said, "You know, my 16-year-old strong-willed son has really been challenging." She said, "I read your book a while back" and she said, "we just had such a bad relationship. He just would leave messes everywhere. He wouldn't hang up his clothes like he was supposed to and he would promise and then he'd go to school and they'd be on the floor again. And I was always after him, always after him, always after him."

And she said, "But one day," she said, "the Holy Spirit just really convicted me." And she said, "I decided instead of getting after him, every time, if I had to pick up a mess or I had to pick up a piece of clothing, I would just pray for him every time I had to pick something up--

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: --or do something." And she said, "Believe me, I had a great prayer life." (Laughter) And she said, "Our relationship just began to improve so much." And she stopped and her tone changed a little and she got tears in her eyes and she said, "My son died in a car accident six months ago." And she said, "I've never regretted that the last year of his life he had with me was spent, not with barking orders and scolding, but with prayer and with love and a relationship."

And I thought, boy, that just puts it in perspective, doesn't it? And then I think, oh, Lord, please help me, remind me again and again, because nobody's the perfect parent, but remind me to focus on what's really important. But in the end in the perspectives, what is he gonna remember? What tone rings in his ears as he walks out the door from what I just said?

Jim: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: And how do I know what's gonna happen next in his life or mine?

Jim: Oh, it's well--

Cynthia: And we just forget to keep eternity in view.

Jim: --that's well-said and you know, I think that's the key, that "tether of love," which I like to call it needs to be paramount over rules and regulations. It's hard for us to do, because I think as human beings, we gravitate toward the rules. We like the rules. We know the rules. There's boundaries [sic], definition. But in the end, love is messy. And--

Cynthia: It is.

Jim: --love doesn't always have great definition other than …

Cynthia: And it costs a lot.

Jim: It does and we've gotta remember that. That is a beautiful story about keeping what's important the most important thing. You talk about giving out tickets versus warnings. And I think that's good advice for parents, especially of elementary school kids. What do you mean by giving more tickets than warnings?

Cynthia: Well, it's easier to just warn and warn and warn than it is to actually take the consequence. And I talk about it in the book when, as a police officer, we were trained very carefully in violator contact. And if I pull you over, I know that you've never been pulled over.

Jim: (Laughing) Never. (Laughter)

Cynthia: Let me just say how it works.

Jim: Well, thank you, Cynthia. (Laughter) Jean's laughing about that--

Cynthia: If I--

Jim: --I think.

Cynthia: --if I pulled you over, I've already decided of whether I'm gonna give you a ticket or let you off with no ticket and just a warning. If I've decided I'm gonna not give you a ticket, then you have to listen to my warning. You know this is a residential street and blah, blah, blah and blah, blah, blah. And you're going, yeah, yeah, yeah. Just let me go. You just want to get away. But excuse me, this is your punishment. Since you're not getting a ticket, this is your punishment—the lecture. I can talk to you as long as I want about anything I want. I go on and on. Now let's say I've decided I'm gonna give you the ticket.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: Well, I've been trained that if I give you a ticket, I'm not also allowed to give you the lecture with it. You get one or the other, not both. And I have yet to run across a strong-willed child of any age who at least figuratively wouldn't almost always rather have--

Jean: The ticket.

Cynthia: --the ticket! (Laughter) That's right, because--

Jean: Absolutely.

Cynthia: --you rant; you rave. You're going--

Jean: Yes.

Cynthia: --on and on and we're going, "Please, please just let me calmly sign my name, pay my fine, go on with my life." (Laughter) And …

Jim: Oh, that's so true.

Cynthia: And so, just give the tickets, for heaven's sake, because one of the things that's hard for parents to understand is--and I know Jean understands this--as strong-willed people, we know there is pain for gain. We understand that in order to get something, it's gonna cost you something.

Jean: Absolutely.

Cynthia: It's just constant calculation, isn't it? I mean, like my mom when I was little and she says, "Don't stand on that coffee table or I'm gonna spank you." And I think in my toddler head, how long could it last? How hard could it be? I think it's worth it. So, I stand up (Laughter) and she's going crazy, 'cause she thinks, if it was bad enough, you shouldn't do it.

But as a teenager, you know, you're gonna be grounded. Well, how long would I be grounded? 'Cause I'm thinkin' six weeks or less, it could be worth it. (Laughter) And your whole life is those calculations. So, you think that you're gonna come up with a hammer you can hold over me that will without fail get me to do what you want and you are mistaken. So you may have to give the same ticket.

Jean: And Cynthia, what I've observed is important is, really thinking about, if you can, before you speak what the consequence is going to be, that you make sure it isn't something that is so grandiose that you really don't want to back it up. (Laughter)

Cynthia: Yeah, you better be--

Jim: Okay, that's--

Cynthia: --ready for calling your bluff.

Jim: --hittin' where it's tender.

Jean: Right.

Jim: That's a veiled little veiled thing (Laughter), 'cause I tend to come out with the big stuff.

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: You know, if you don't do this, then we're not going to Disneyland. (Laughter) And Jean's going, "I wouldn't say that. (Laughter) I wouldn't say that."

Cynthia: I'll tell you a quick story with Mike when he was in junior high I think and we're out of town and Autumn, my friend was kinda dispatched to watch over the boys. And so, I think I was in the Denver Airport or somethin'. I got a phone call from Mike and he said, "Hey, Mom, I'm gonna go to a movie tonight with my friends." And I said, "Okay, well, what movie are you gonna go see?" And he said, "The Omen." And I said, "Mike, you know it's rated R. That's not a[n] appropriate movie. You need to see something more appropriate."

(Sigh) "Fine." And then he named a movie that was okay and he goes, "And then I'm gonna go to Inger's house afterwards." And I said, "You know that when I'm out of town, you don't go to your friend's house." I said, "Why don't you guys just hang around Quiznos right next to the theater afterwards for a while and then Autumn's gonna pick you up." "Fine."

Well, so then I got a call from Autumn later that night, right? She says, "I picked Mike up and he's home." But she said, "I picked him up from Inger's." And she said, "When I picked him up I said, 'Oh, you are in so much trouble.'" And he said, "I don't care. I don't care what she does to me, 'cause whatever she does to me, it was worth it. It was totally worth it. I don't care what the punishment is.'"

And I'm on the phone and I'm thinkin', oh, okay. (Laughing) Here it is. Here it is, Lord, you know, this is the rubber meets the road. So, I got home the next night and I said, "Hi, Mike. So, I heard you had a good time at the movie." "Yes." And I said, "And you went to Inger's house." "Yes, and I don't care what you do to me, 'cause whatever it is, it was worth it, 'cause I had a good time."

And I said, "Mike, you know, you're dealing with like the queen of strong will, right?" And he goes, "Yeah." And I said, "You know, my whole life there was only one thing that was never worth it." He goes, "What?" And I said, "The loss of a relationship with somebody I really cared about." And he immediately hung his head and he went, "I'm sorry, Mom." 'Cause now--

Jim: He got it.

Cynthia: --if we didn't have--

Jean: Oh.

Cynthia: --a relationship that he wanted to keep, he wouldn't have done that.

John: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: See, "I'm sorry, Mom." And he said, "So, what's my punishment?" And I said, "Well, you know, I just think I need to think about it and pray about it overnight and let you know in the morning." And this is an old trick, right, Jim Fay, with Love and Logic is, "Why can't you just tell me now what my punishment is?" (Laughter) And I said, "'Cause I need to think about it." But this drives him crazy and (Laughter)

John: Yeah.

Jim: (Laughing)

Cynthia: And you could just see, just a little bit of revenge, a little. And then by the next morning, you know, he said, "What is my punishment?" And I said, "Well, I've arranged for you to have 10 hours of community service with the seniors at the church." And it all worked out. But you know, it was that whole thing of, I mean, we were facing, "I don't care what she does. I don't care what the price is." Now if you don't have a relationship then--

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: --you're in trouble, because they can go totally wild. I can't emphasize enough for the listeners right now, the younger you start this, it's really important to have that relationship and to nurture it. Don't let go of it. The middle school years, they're so turbulent and it's so tempting to just go, oh! Forget the kid; let's just survive it. No, no, no, don't you understand? If you don't keep that relationship, you lose that child.

Jim and John: Hm.

Cynthia: And if you do keep the relationship, you've saved that child. And even if they go away, they come back.

Jim: Cynthia, that makes total sense, but I need to ask that question, what if you feel as a parent, that relationship with that 14-, 15-year-old has gone beyond? Maybe you've had that encounter and it didn't work out that way. You've, in essence, you've lost the relationship. What can you do to begin to reestablish it?

Cynthia: We actually spend a part of a chapter in the book, where "Is It Too Late?" And we talk to adult kids who have, you know, the relationship is completely severed. It's difficult. It's not easy and it's said that it takes a while and you start small, you know. And maybe if they don't want to talk to you, you send 'em a text or you leave a yellow Post-It note. And you just have to prove over time. And there are some heartbreaking things of when it really does look too late.

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: I was just in Topeka, Kansas and spoke to a staff of a high school that is totally enclosed in a maximum security prison for juveniles. And these are 8th through 12th graders who are rapists and murderers and they are just so far gone in many ways.

And yet, that staff for example, they really care about those kids. And they do whatever they can. And sometimes it's a teacher who brings them back.

John: Hm.

Cynthia: You pray, if you can't reach 'em, you pray, "Lord, bring somebody across their path. Would You just, because only the Holy Spirit can change a heart. I can't change a heart. I can't change a life. Whether you want to hear it or not, you cannot do it without God. You cannot. He has to supernaturally bring that relationship back and I've seen Him do it over and over, even when it's not easy.

Jim: Well, and John, that's a great place to remind folks that we have a counseling center here at Focus.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: And if you're struggling in that parenting role, let us be there for you. Call us. The key is, Cynthia, never giving up hope. I think--

Cynthia: That's right.

Jim: --once you lose hope, you've lost it all.

Cynthia: And I'm so thankful, by the way, for Focus and the services that they provide with the counseling and with the resources. I recommend wholeheartedly and do it frequently to parents who write me and others. It's just so important to have a faith-based resource like that.

Jim: Well, we so appreciate that and again, we're there for you, so call us and John, you'll give all those details at the end.

John: Sure will.

Jim: Cynthia, you also talk about the top 10 tips for bringing out the best in your strong-willed child. And we don't have to go through all 10. We'll post those on the website--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --as well.

John: Sure.

Jim: But let's cover a few of them and Jean and I (Chuckling) and John, jump in here, because we all have strong-willed children. The first one is value my ability to see the world from a unique perspective. (Chuckling) Again, the theme here, Cynthia is that we as parents, have got to understand that our children are unique people, created in the image of God. I don't know what age a parent clicks all of a sudden and say, "Okay, you can now think for yourself."

John: Hm.

Jim: But there has to come that point in time when a parent does make that cognitive transition to say, "My fourth-grader can really think on his feet now and I need to come back with honesty."

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: I can't trick them. I can't manipulate them. I've got to treat them like a human being that understands their circumstances. Is--

Cynthia: That's right.

Jim: --that what you're getting at with--

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: --point one.

Cynthia: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And sometimes just to reinforce my strengths to say, you know, I have never known anyone like you. You are the most amazing person; you are the most unique combination of traits. I can't wait to see what you'll look like as an adult. I mean, just to be able to say that and then you may have to go ahead and give me the punishment and I may have to be held accountable, but just the fact that you said that to me is goin', "Oh, you know, you recognized it."

Besides who gets to decide what's normal, you know? My learning style seminars and stuff, you know, we'll compare the little profiles and everybody's is different. And so, I ask 'em, okay, which one of you is normal? (Laughter) And I'll--

Jim: That's a great question.

Cynthia: --and so, how are you gonna do that? You've got a kid who's totally unique. Capitalize on it. Mention it and focus on the strengths of it, so that when you have to intervene with the weakness and the limitations and the wrongness of it, you've also balanced it with--

John: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: -- with the strengths that you can say, "What a great strength that is--

John: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: --and used in the right way is gonna be incredible."

Jim: Hm.

Jean: And I think what's an important aspect of that is, recognizing that our way isn't the right way. And we--

Jim: That's significant--

Jean: --as parents--

Jim: --Jean, because--

Jean: --that is significant.

Jim: --for you and the way God has wired you, that's a very important thing, that you do think that I've got it analytically. I can take all the pieces in and tell you what the answer is. But sometimes people that don't have that ability have to learn through failure. And it's hard as a parent to let your child fail.

Cynthia: But this is so valuable. I mean, I'd love to take Jean with me to these other parents and they … look, here's somebody who's highly analytic, who is highly organized and is, you know, oriented this way, but recognizes that the relationship trumps everything.

Jean: Yes.

Cynthia: And that, I'm never gonna get what I need to get if I don't have the relationship. And I love what you've done and how you've expressed to those listeners out there who think just like you. They don't think like Jim and me, who are, you know, like the intuitive, big picture, you know, just kinda comes natural and easy. You think more like my husband and like so many others, like 50 percent of the population out there of parents who are going, Uuh! This--

Jim: That's great different--

Cynthia: --shouldn't have to be this way.

Jim: --word, Uuh!

Jean: But it is a journey. It has been a journey and I think that's very important for people to realize, that we need to be growing.

Jim: Hm. In fact, when you look at this list of 10, that was No. 1 that we covered. And again, John will post these on the website. No. 8 caught my attention, 'cause I think this is--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --so, so wise. It's choose your battles. Don't sweat the small stuff. Again, we as parents, we think everything's big. And it's hard for us to prioritize and to lose any battle. But some battles, they're not worth the effort, because they're not going to negatively impact your child's character, as you said earlier.

Cynthia: Right.

Jim: Are there methods that you use to differentiate between the big, the medium and the small battles?

Cynthia: Well, of course, that can be on an individual basis. Again, I think the ones that we all agree at this table, the physical safety battles and the moral and spiritual values--

John: Uh-hm.

Cynthia: --battles. But even within those, you have to decide, okay, how important is it that he doesn't get the tattoo?

Jim: Hm.

Cynthia: Versus, he gets the tattoo, but he still goes to church.

John: Hm.

Cynthia: You know, it's where you say, oh, I don't want this to happen and I hate it and I don't approve of it. Does it put his eternal soul in peril? Does it endanger the household? Or does it just tick me off? And then I have to differentiate. And a lot of times we'll find if you back off of some of those, they really aren't that much of an issue.

Jim: Hm

Cynthia: I give a quick example with Robert. He was kinda strong-willed, too, but the end of his sophomore year in high school, his whole sophomore year, he grew his hair out long and he always, you know, preened and primped his hair. And (Laughter) his brother just you know, rode him mercilessly about it and--

Jim: Good for him.

Cynthia: --and (Laughter) he was all about his hair, right. So I pick him up at the last day of school and he gets in the car and he goes, "I've decided this summer I'm going to spray paint my hair Kelly green." And I just made myself stay silent for a moment, 'cause it really isn't a go-to-the-wall issue, right?

So, we start to drive out and I said, "Well, Rob, we'll go by the drugstore and I'll buy that dye for you." I said, "But you know, you want to be thinking about, you need a really heavy-duty hair conditioner, because what that dye does is, it's gonna break the ends of your hair (Laughter). It's gonna make it very brittle. And in order to--

Jean: Clever.

Cynthia: --keep your hair nice, we have to really buy a heavy-duty conditioner." And then I just stopped talking and in a minute he said, "I don't think I'm gonna do it."

John: Hm.

Cynthia: You know--

Jean: That's brilliant.

Cynthia: --yeah. If you can get yourself to just say, okay, put your hand physically over your mouth and think, okay, he's tryin' to get me. (Laughter) He's tryin' to see, is she gonna make this--

Jean: He wants the shock factor.

Cynthia: --the big deal? If she makes this the big deal, I win.

Jim: And that's the battle.

Cynthia: That's the battle.


John: It is so important to know that your child is really tryin' to push your buttons and we've learned how to deal with that on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. We've had Jean Daly and a self-proclaimed strong-willed individual and expert on kids, who are strong-willed, Cynthia Tobias.

Jim: Way to play it safe, John. I like the "self-proclaimed" part. You know, Cynthia always has excellent examples that help expand the way we think of things. So often, we try to do the same thing over and over with our children and guess what? We get the same results. I hope that what Cynthia shared this time and last time will expand your thinking a bit. I know it does for me.

And as I mentioned a moment ago, don't sweat the small stuff and it is mostly small stuff. I think the extra articles and other programs we've done with Cynthia should help point you in the right direction. That's all at our website, John and when you're there, order a copy of Cynthia's book, You Can't Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded. And you know what? I would say it's applicable to all of life, not just child-rearing.

John: Yeah, these are really good, important, valuable principles that Cynthia shares there, that are exactly that--applicable to all of life.

Jim: It changes the way you do relationship and that's actually the greater good. One reader said, "It really opened my eyes to how I was approaching my daughter in the wrong ways and how simple changes in my tone and questions I ask her can really make a difference in how she responds."

Your parenting skills are gonna benefit after you read this book. And we'd be happy, let me say "honored" to send you that book when you make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family.

John: And you can do that when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate at .

Our program today was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday for a fascinating firsthand account of growing up in the segregated 60's. I hope you'll join us then.

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More Episode Resources


Cynthia Tobias

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For more than 30 years, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias has been teaching people of all ages how to discover and use the strengths of their natural learning style to succeed in virtually any situation. She is an author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of AppLe St. (Applied Learning Styles). Cynthia's latest books include You Can't Make Me! and A Woman of Strength and Purpose, in addition to her classics The Way They Learn, Every Child Can Succeed and Bringing Out the Best in Your Child. She has two grown sons. Learn more about Cynthia by visiting her website,


Jean Daly

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Jean Daly became a Christian in 2nd grade and rededicated her life to Christ at 17. She attended the University of California at Davis and earned her degree in Biology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Jean has been married to her husband, Jim, since 1986; they have two boys.