Our two oldest kids are like night and day. Sometimes I wonder how they can be related. Child #1 is easy-going. She rarely gets into trouble and typically does what she is asked to do. Don’t get me wrong, she is a typical kid. Sometimes she doesn’t want to pick up her toys and she has gotten into “trouble” at school for being too talkative on occasion, and I am sure as she enters the tweens we will see some changes. But overall, she is a very compliant child.

Child #2 is quite different. He is strong-willed and if he doesn’t want to do something, he won’t do it. He makes more sad choices than his siblings and deals with more consequences. Again, don’t get me wrong, he can be the sweetest and most fun little guy you’ll ever hope to meet. But overall, he is different from his sister.

On paper it seems like Child #1 is the one you’d want, right? I appreciate how helpful she is and how little she gets into trouble. But when it comes down to it, I am incredibly thankful for that strong-willed middle child who I often think is the reason I have so much gray hair (or wisdom highlights, as I like to call them).

You see, Child #2 is getting great practice for being an adult. He is learning from a young age that consequences follow bad choices. He is learning that life is better when he makes wise choices and is fun to be around. He is constantly the cause of me honing my parenting skills and seeking additional information on parenting styles, tips, and overall childhood development. He makes me be the best parent I can be. With his sister, I often catch myself falling into a lack of parenting because she is just so easy-going.

Having a compliant child is great and seemingly easy. But I do have my worries. Largely because I was that child growing up. I was easy-going and very rarely got into trouble. The trouble with this, though, is that when I became an adult I really wasn’t prepared for what life was like. I didn’t deal with a lot of affordable mistakes as a kid and ended up dealing with some much more unaffordable mistakes as an adult. As a parent, it feels wrong to wish for failures and mistakes for my kids. But I know that experiencing a few small ones as a kid can help prepare them for adulthood, especially when they have a strong support system at home.

So, as I watch these two little people grow up into amazing big kids, I can only hope the affordable mistakes they are making and the logical consequences that follow can prepare them for being adults. I hope they know life is better when they think things through and make wise choices. I hope they know they can always come to me if and when a mistake has a high price tag and they need help. I hope they make enough mistakes as kids to prepare them for the mistakes that come with adulthood.

I’ll admit there are days when I wish all our kids were always compliant and easy-going. Those are the days I can feel more wisdom highlights sprouting. But when it comes down to it, I am thankful to have a kid who doesn’t always do what he is told. I am thankful to have a kid who stands up for what he believes (even if what he believes is that his toys should remain outside the toy box). I am thankful to have a kid who is learning about life early and who makes me constantly be the best parent I can be.

I am thankful for the personalities and demeanor of all our kids. I am thankful for God making them who they are supposed to be, and for helping me parent and love both the way they need.

Emily Scott

Emily Scott, PhD, is a stay at home mom of three, and part time parenting consultant and blogger who has written and spoken on various parenting topics including child development, ACEs, and tips on raising responsible kids.