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Sass and Strong Will

“In my opinion, American children may at times seem sassy and strong-willed, which may be no fun to parent, but sometimes sassy breeds new ideas. Independence. Innovation.”  -Laura Kreutzer

photo by Just Taken Pics

I sure hope she’s right.

Let me back up: Last week Laura Kreutzer wrote an article in the NY Times with the rather amusing title In Defense of the Naughty American Child. In it, Ms. Kreutzer argues that the “American” style of parenting has a huge upside, despite its disparaging portrayal in both Amy Chau’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Pamela Druckerman’s recent Bringing Up Bébé.

Her piece made me stop and think, because it’s easy for me to admire well-mannered children who eat their veggies without a whimper. Also, because I have one of those strong-willed children.

He is incredibly enthusiastic and engaged when he’s interested.

He’s very convincing when he has a plan.

When he’s not interested? Or it’s my plan?

See aforementioned sass and strong will.

Parenting in the tween and teen years is filled with a hundred joys, as we watch our son develop into his own person. It’s also filled with more second-guessing than I would’ve imagined, more missteps—by us and by him—than I could’ve foreseen. Certainly, there’s more of all of that than I’m comfortable with.

And so I came to Ms. Kreuger’s article and it resonated, despite my fondness for mannerly, obedient children. As I read her article, it reminded me of a conversation my husband and I had with some friends of ours when we visited Madrid last year.  As we enjoyed a late, leisurely dinner, we traded stories about our kids. Our Spanish friend, who’s an entrepreneur, joked that maybe our son would also grow up to be an entrepreneur. We all laughed, and I knocked on the wood table.  “Let’s hope so,” I said. Our friend paused. He loved my response. “That’s the difference,” he said, “between the attitude in Spain and in America.” Then he explained that his occupation was frowned upon there, looked upon as rather suspect. The Spanish prefer the status quo and when guys like him try new things, it makes them nervous.

Which brings me right back to Ms. Kreuger’s article.  I especially liked the way she wrapped up her piece, explaining to readers everywhere that while she hopes that she won’t see her daughter on Teen Mom one day, she also hopes her daughter “doesn’t end up in a dead-end situation…, because she wasn’t courageous enough to take calculated risks or question the status quo.”

Hear, hear.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I encounter sass and strong-will.  I shouldn’t have a very long wait.

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