Saturday, August 15, 2009


So, I was blogging around this week & somehow stumbled across a new blog that I'm really loving called
Mama Om. Please check it out. Her tag line is "Hitting every bump on the path to Peace" & she's an earthy, spiritual, grounded mama of 2 boys looking to find a way to Peaceful Parenting (and herself) along the way. Having just written this post I was feeling a lot of connection with her!

Anyway, one of concepts that she mentioned that I wasn't familiar with was that of counterwill & she urged readers to check out the website, which I did. He introduces the concept of 'counterwill' in children:

It is simply not possible to make sense of kids without having some understanding of the counterwill dynamic. Counterwill is the name for the natural human instinct to resist being controlled. Although not unique to humans, this dynamic is certainly the most complex and developed in our species. The counterwill instinct is, in essence, an allergy to coercion. Though we as adults experience this reaction routinely, we seem to be surprised when we encounter it in children. Counterwill is undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted dynamics in children. To understand it is to lay the foundation for knowing how to deal with it.

Anyway, I found it all pretty interesting, especially as we were having a few days of rather confrontational behaviour from Lovely. I googled around & didn't find many references to it, but this one from a blog called weighless and weightless did interest me:

Another thought. We are all born with counter will. Counter will is that thing that children have, you see it in 3 year olds a lot, where they will say and do the opposite of what you tell them. Well it doesn't go anywhere. How many of us like to be told what to do? I don't, I've got a well-honed counter will going on. It's immediate. I will do the most kind, wonderful, generous things for people who ask. Tell me to do something and my first instinct is to do the opposite. There is something to be said for presentation.

The same goes for the messages we send ourselves. "Don't eat cookies" immediately triggers counter will. The thought that follows is "I want cookies and I'll do whatever I want".

Hmmm, interesting. So, this might explain that weird phenomena that occurs when you think about doing one thing & immediately do the opposite, ala my earlier post:

There are so many good books I want to read.
I just need to collapse in front of the t.v. tonight.

I commit to making wholesome food for my family.
Lets eat takeaway fish & chips tonight.

I want to live frugally.
I feel like going shopping.

Don't you think that's interesting?!
Another reference that I liked is here at a touch of parenting:

Counterwill is the name for the natural human instinct to resist being controlled. You know when someone is driving close behind you, trying to get you to speed up and you slow down? Counterwill!!

Counterwill is an innate human urge to survive, to be safe, and to know a sense of belonging. It is an internal monitor, that alerts us to any threats--real or perceived--to our sense of survival, safety, and belonging.

So counterwill in children is a "good kind of stubborness" because it happens when they are beginning to take charge of themselves. Their individual self is emerging. It may test us and we may think they are manipulating us or doing it 'on purpose', but remember it is innate.

It's interesting to consider what "perceived coercion" our children might register even when we are actively *trying* to be non-coercive parents! It's also fascinating to think that we can be instinctively responding to our own internal coercion & creating a kind of self-sabotage. Now that might explain why I'm still eating chocolate!

Fb Comments
Comments :


  1. Hey there. Yeah that is really fascinating, and helps parents (well me anyway) feel a little more patient and understanding about it all. So often we expect things of our little ones that we ourselves would not do. great post and will check out the links - thanks.

    And yes - I'm one of those people that slow down in the car. he he.

  2. Amber, will you please email about the molluscum remedy. slj4981 at g mail dot com

  3. Thanks for sharing this. It will help me look at things a bit differently. I always love any bit of information that will help me understand my three year old a little better!

  4. I really enjoyed Gordon's book, Hold On To Your Children immensely, but would like to learn more about the counterwill. Very interesting.

  5. I will have to look for this book (How to hold onto your children) in the library :)

  6. Hey Amber,
    I saw this post last week and wanted to comment and thank you then, but I was on my iPhone and the comments would not work!

    Anyway, I see you've posted more since then and I hope to catch up soon (we've been out of the house all week at camp).

    So, a belated and very warm THANK YOU for the linky-love!! I've been enjoying your blog, too!



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