I have a wild bunch of kids, and the eldest is a real wolf. He makes sure he gets the lion’s share of whatever he wants: attention, food, toys, or power. If there’s a birthday party, he’s always the first one in line for cake, and gets the biggest piece. He is smart, tricky, and driven.
My husband and I have been working hard to teach him more patience and empathy. I worry that his aggressive approach will cost him friends or opportunities… or get him into more serious trouble. So as we are trying to sand down his rough edges, I can’t help but wonder: how can you alter a human’s base nature? And should you?
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation by David Rendall – comedian, public speaker and author of Pink Goldfish. He thoughtfully pointed out that what you perceive as your child’s greatest flaws are directly connected to their greatest strengths. If your child is “too emotional,” they’re also probably very empathetic. If they “can’t sit still,” they likely have lots of energy. Rendall suggests that instead of trying to minimize our flaws, we need to develop those strengths. He drew a chart, similar to the one below, that really drove the point home to me.
I have to admit that my child’s focus, drive, and confidence are some of my favorite qualities about him. Nonetheless, if he’s going to succeed in a civilized world, we need to teach him how to navigate other humans.