Sweet and Strong-Willed

By Darla Noble
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Do you have a teen who wants to make his or her own path? Here's how one family dealt with an unconventional child.

W‚Ääithin minutes of becoming parents for the second time, my husband, John, and I knew Elizabeth was not like her big brother, Zach. They had different needs, temperaments and personalities. Then, just when we thought we had parenting all figured out, along came Olivia.

She was premature; and at 4 months she had the worst case of chicken pox the doctor had ever seen. When she got older, she wore dresses and cowboy boots to church and refused to believe that impossible is a word in the dictionary. Olivia is unconventional but also one of the sweetest girls I have ever known. John and I had little difficulty allowing her to be herself — that is, until just prior to her junior year in high school.

When they aren’t you

We’re a farming family, so our children were involved in agricultural clubs such as 4-H and the Future Farmers of America. But when Olivia wanted to take an agricultural mechanics class, I was not thrilled. “Ag-mach” consists of constructing farming equipment from iron and other metals. In order to produce these items, students become proficient in the use of welders, blowtorches, metal fabricators and other tools. I kept thinking that this was no place for my sweet little girl.

When I opposed her plans, she became more determined than ever.

We talked. We argued. And we talked some more — until we reached an agreement. She could enroll in the class on the condition that we would evaluate her progress and other circumstances at semester break. Continuing in the class would be based on her behavior, the teacher’s input and her grades. I agreed even though she would be the only girl enrolled in the course and one of only a few girls ever to take the class.

Allowing them to excel

Olivia surpassed all our expectations and mastered every piece of equipment. Her teacher was quick to point out that she could weld better than anyone in the class and as well as some who weld for a living. Needless to say, she stayed in the class for the second semester and took the next level course her senior year. Just to make sure the guys in her class didn’t forget she was a girl, she painted her welding helmet bright pink.

John and I were proud of Olivia and told her so, but that wasn’t enough. We showed her we accepted her unique gifts by allowing her to construct feeders and other farm equipment we needed. We wanted her to know in a tangible way that we appreciated God’s calling on her life.

Breaking traditions

That’s why we were present when she was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society, when she was offered a full scholarship to the nation’s top technical college and when she received the state “Breaking Traditions” award.

Olivia is now a freshman in college. She is majoring in animal science and working as a student manager of the university’s farm. Her career goal is to work in agricultural missions in a Muslim country. All I can say is, “Go, Olivia!”

Copyright © 2007 by Darla Noble. Used by permission.

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