?????????????? 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.
Answer: 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 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 child is born. He does not need to fit a preconceived mold. That youngster is, thankfully one of a kind.