Rein In Her Spirit But Don't Break It

Brian has three daughters. His oldest no longer wants to use her commission board or her envelopes. She wants to do with her money what she wants.

QUESTION: Brian in Austin has three daughters. His oldest is independent and entrepreneurial. At 10, she no longer wants to use her commission board or her envelopes. She wants to do with her money what she wants. Dave advises Brian to have a serious conversation with his daughter.

ANSWER: The way it would’ve sounded at our house—and everybody manages these situations differently—is this: “You’re 10. I’m bigger than you, and I’m smarter than you. You’re a very smart young lady and ahead of your age group in your maturity on some things, but you’re not yet a grownup, so you don’t get to make your decisions except to the extent they’re ones that I agree with that are profitable for you. I love you, and I am going to control you to protect you from yourself. I’m your dad, and that should make you feel very safe at some times and very angry at other times. Neither one do I really care about. You’re going to do what I say. In the middle of that, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to teach you while you’re under my wing how to be a successful person. That means I have to help you grow some of your muscles. That’s not just your real muscles; that’s also your emotional muscles and your spiritual muscles and your financial muscles and your academic muscles. So just like I’m going to make you do your homework because I know you need knowledge to exist in this world and you have to learn how to learn, I’m also going to make you give, save, spend, and work. When you make money and you’re less than 18 years old and you live in my home, you have no rights. You will do what I say. I’m not going to play that card. Instead, I’m going to talk to you about why it’s wise to learn these things, and as long as you agree with my wisdom, then we’re going to be okay. When you don’t, I’m just going to make you do it, because it’s my job to help you grow those muscles. I appreciate that you’ve got an independent and an entrepreneurial spirit, and I want to encourage that, but that’s not going to allow you to make all your own decisions. You’re a freaking 10-year-old.”

That’s how it would’ve sounded at our house. A lot of love. Not a control freak. It’s not about me. It’s not about toxicity. It’s not about abuse. But I am not confused of who’s in charge here, and she shouldn’t be. The problem with one of these who’s got all this spunk and spirit is that’s the thing that will make them extra special in life, and that’s the thing that will destroy their life if you don’t learn to channel it and they don’t, too. That strong will is a benefit, and it’s a curse. I know; I am one of them. The Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson is an old book, and it still applies.

We don’t want to break their spirit, but just because they have a spirit doesn’t mean I surrender my right to be a loving, guiding, strong father. They’re going to learn to work. They’re going to bathe. They’re going to do their homework. They’re going to clean their rooms. You don’t run wild. You’re not a bohemian. You’re a freaking child. That’s how this works. What happens is they become very comfortable with those boundaries, and they grow up to be very confident, healthy, emotionally well-balanced people within those boundaries. When they fly, they can stand on their own because they have strength and boundaries. People who have strength and no boundaries quickly make a group of enemies because the whole world’s about them when they become an adult.

This kid’s got it made. She’s got a dad who loves her, and he’s there and he cares. That puts her ahead of half the kids in our society. She’s going to be fine. My thing is don’t pound them, but on the other hand, don’t let them run the show. And dude, they will run the show starting at about 10 years old if you let them. It takes a firm, strong spirit to lead them through that next 10 years. If you do that well now, you’re going to have great teenage years. Another book to check out is Preparing for Adolescence by Dennis Rainey. It helps you set some of those things up in your mind like I was just talking about. You really need somebody else to tell you that that intuition of yours isn’t crazy.