I know a lot about stubborn kids, because I was famous for being stubborn as a child myself. Only later in life, when I studied education, I realized that people call their kids “stubborn” when they themselves do not give up and follow their kids’ instructions or rules. That made me think that
In order for a child to be stubborn and insist on doing something, you need to have an adult that insist on doing something else
I learned this amazing thing from a young kid who was about 2 years old at the time (he is 22 years old now). Let me tell you, learning it from a kid is much more humiliating than learning it from other adults, so I hope you will be able to learn it from reading this if you do not want to have to suffer the humiliation of “losing to a rug”.
Losing to a rug
In the animated movie “Aladdin”, the Genie (Robin Williams) is playing Chess with the Flying Carpet and says, “I can’t believe it. I’m losing to a rug”. Our family uses this expression whenever we are overcome by someone we should have beaten easily, like a small child.
It was the end of the day in my Garden of Eden kindergarten and we were ready to go out to the playground. As usual, I asked the kids to pick up the toys, put everything back on the shelves and get ready to go outside. Tom, who was a tiny, clever boy, did not want to pick up the toys. This is the conversation we had:
Ronit: “Tom, you need to pick up the toys”.
Tom (imagine a tiny voice): “No!”
Ronit: “Tom, we do it every day and you have been playing with these toys, so it is fair that you pick them up”.
Tom: “No, I don’t want to”.
Ronit: “Tom, sweetie, you know these are the rules here. We play and then we pick up”.
Tom (getting a bit angry): “I will not pick up the toys”.
Ronit (thinking to myself, “God, he’s just 2 years old and already so stubborn”): “In that case, I will just stay here with you while the other kids play outside until you pick up the toys”.
Tom (picking up volume and pitch): “I will not pick up the toys”.
Ronit: “Tom, you WILL pick up the toys”.
Tom (crossing his arms and screaming): “I WILL NOT PICK UP THE TOYS”.
He was so stubborn, it was totally annoying.
We went on like this for 10 minutes. I was determined to teach him a lesson, but he was just as determined to teach me a different lesson…
I tried telling him he would have to stay even if his mother came to pick him up, but he just kept screaming over and over again, “I will not pick up the toys”. Those 10 minutes seemed like forever. I was fighting with a 2-year-old and he was winning!
At that point, I realized that he was in a loop and … so was I. I thought of him as stubborn, but I was as stubborn as he was, so we were really competing to see who was more stubborn and that made no sense to me. It was never a competition between him and me. At least I had not planned it to be a competition, but obviously I was losing. I had wanted it to be a learning experience, but instead of it being a learning experience for Tom, it became a learning experience to me.
I looked at him and said, “You know what? That’s fine, you don’t have to pick up the toys, just take those game pieces over there and put them in the box”, and I pointed at … the toys.
And he did!
He picked up the pieces of the game he had played with in a joyous way, put them in the box and ran outside to play in the playground.
Oh, how I loved that kid! I still do!