Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson
DR. DOBSON: There may be a way to get it done. Donna Partow, author of "Homemade Business," has offered specific advice about starting your own business, which could involve desktop publishing, pet grooming, sewing, consulting, transcribing legal documents or even getting into mail-order sales. Choosing the right business is the first of three preparatory steps. Consider taking a personal-skillsand interest inventory to identify your abilities and to discover what you might enjoy doing. The second step is to do your homework. Begin by using the Internet to help you research your chosen field. Look up books, magazines, and newspaper articles. Talk to other people who have done what you are considering. Join an industry organization and a network. Subscribe to industry publications. According to Mrs. Partow, the third step is to garner as much support as you can. Get your children, your spouse and your friends on your side. Then marshal your resources and go for it.
Before telling me why this alternative is impossible in light of your circumstances, let me tell you about the Van Wingerden family in Colorado Springs. They have 22 children, twelve of them adopted and ten born to Lynn, the mother. They own a strawberry farm and all the children old enough to work are involved in it. Believe it or not, Mrs. Van Wingerden homeschools all the kids personally. The family is highly organized and structured, with the teenagers having specific and rotating responsibilities for routine tasks and for the care of the youngsters. Visiting their home is a delight. The Van Wingerdens prove that many things are possible for those who set their minds to it.
QUESTION: Just how much opportunity do parents have to remake the personalities of their children? Can they change characteristics that they dislike? My son is painfully shy and I'd like him to be strong and assertive. Can we redesign him?
DR. DOBSON: You can teach new attitudes and modify some behavioral patterns, but you will not be able to redesign the basic personality with which your child was born. Some characteristics are genetically programmed, and they will always be there. For example, some kids appear to be born to lead, and others seem to be made to follow. And that fact can be a cause of concern for parents at times.
One mother told me that her compliant, easygoing child was being picked on and beaten up every day in nursery school. She urged him to defend himself, but it contradicted his very nature to even think about standing up to the bullies. Finally, his frustration became so great that he decided to heed his mother's advice. As they drove to school one day he said, "Mom, if those kids pick on me again today ... I'm ... I'm ... I'm going to beat them up — slightly!"
How does a kid beat up someone slightly? I don't know, but it made perfect sense to this compliant lad.
Like you, some parents worry about an easygoing, passive child — especially if he's a boy. Followers in this society are sometimes less respected than aggressive leaders and may be seen as wimpy or spineless. And yet, the beauty of the human personality is seen in its marvelous uniqueness and complexity. There is a place for the wonderful variety of temperaments that find expression in children. After all, if two people are identical in every regard, it's obvious that one of them is unnecessary.
My advice to you is to accept, appreciate and cultivate the personality with which your little child is born. He does not need to fit into a preconceived mold. That youngster is, thankfully, one of a kind.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from "Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House. COPYRIGHT 2009 JAMES DOBSON INC.