the value of compliant kids

Nate opening Ben's birthday gift because Nate wanted to,
and Ben didn't think tearing paper was all that important.
To follow up my recent series on strong willed kids, I want to talk about not-so-strong willed kids.

When you search the internet for tips about raising a strong willed kid, you also get lists of reasons why it is good for your kids to be strong willed (like this one). It is a hard task, and we parents need this kind of encouragement. Most of these are written sensibly, not discounting the fact that there are good things about not being strong willed, too. However, I found one of them rather offensive, and I am not easily offended. She actually said that the opposite of strong willed is no will - and who wants to have a kid like that? My short response is simply: that's not how it works! But actually, I have more to say on the subject. So here we go.

Obviously, raising a compliant kid is much less struggle than raising a defiant one, but are there benefits to having compliant adults in the world? I mean, strong willed people are driven, they are world changers, they are natural born leaders! We should all strive to be so bold, shouldn't we? No. Not really.

First of all, most people aren't at extreme ends of the spectrum (though we may perceive them that way because our brains like classifying people very neatly). Most people are somewhere along the scale, either more strong willed or more compliant. Some may be smack in the middle. Some really are extreme. All are created by God, in his image, with their specific strengths and weaknesses, for his glory.

Second of all, it's not that compliant people have no opinions; it's that they only have opinions about things which specifically matter to them. Compliants are good for championing a cause because they don't enjoy the conflict, but they care about the cause itself. They are less likely to be distracted by the conflict or lose sight of the reason for it. Being compliant doesn't mean never thinking for oneself. It means that the person doesn't enjoy conflict in itself and will only engage when it is deemed particularly necessary.

Look at my more compliant kid. Ben doesn't typically have an opinion about what clothes he wears, and he will often accept any spoon to eat his yogurt. He doesn't tend to put up a fight for the sake of conflict. (Mostly. He is still 3, and 3 year olds aren't known for being reasonable.) He does have an opinion about pain, injustice, and the safety and well-being of people he loves. He will engage in conflict for any of these reasons, but he lets so many other things go.

Third, compliants like peace. They like conflict resolution. They like restoring order. They are willing to come to an agreement for mutual benefit and may even view agreement as "winning" more than they consider getting their own way to be "winning." Compliants are peacemakers, and you know what Jesus says about peacemakers.

A defiant personality can be used for good. A compliant personality can be used for good. Neither is better or preferable. A group of all defiants would never get anything done because they would be fighting each other over every little thing. A group of all compliants would never get anything done because they would never work up the energy to actually get moving.

The world needs both types!


  1. And I love people on both extremes and in the middle.

  2. So true! We adore our strong-willed daughter but man, our much more compliant son is a balm to our family. It's nice to know when something is really important to him because, like you said, that's when he'll fight about it.
    Thanks for this series! It's been great to hear about your experiences with your kids and your suggestions have been really helpful.
    Amber at


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