Stubbornness is a common complaint from parents, especially those with children either in middle or high school. For these parents, it may seem like the defiance they face from their children is designed simply to push their buttons. This can lead to a shut-down in communication – which only worsens the issue.  

How can parents with stubborn children deal with their oppositional behavior? What are some ways to keep that opposition from becoming a problem in school? How does dealing with that youthful stubbornness affect their development as an adult? You might be able to get a few pointers from a classic short story by renowned author Dr. Seuss.

The Story of The Zax

The fictitious tale of “The Zax” focuses on two unrepentantly stubborn creatures – a north-going Zax and a south-going Zax – that collide and both refuse to move a single step sideways to allow the other to pass. They even go as far as swearing to remain unmoved indefinitely even if their inflexibility makes “the whole world stand still.”

Of course, not even a character from the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss can make the world stand still. Eventually, the seasons change and the open desert area around the two creatures becomes a bustling city with a road built directly over their heads. Life moves on without them, because they refuse to move on with it.

This is the lesson Allen therapists hope to grant their clients -especially those struggling with stubborn children or teenagers. Without communication, life can and will move on without you. This is true of our familial relationships, marriages, careers and nearly every other aspect of our lives. The rest of the world will not refuse to participate simply because we do.

How often are we stubborn in our own lives as those two unmovable creatures in the Dr. Seuss story?  While it’s important to teach our children to respect authority, it’s equally important that we give them – and other adults – our ear during arguments and provide a path for that communication. Otherwise, we’ll soon have a figurative Zax bypass built directly over our own heads!

Real World Impact

The effect of unaddressed stubbornness is greater than what we see in the classroom and playground of childhood. While many parents may worry that their stubborn child won’t make friends in school or perform poorly at work, current events tell us that there can be even more dangerous drawbacks to refusing open communication with others.

The “traditions and history” upon which many people base their views of the world can be hurtful and offensive to others. There is no way to empathize with the feelings of others without being willing to take a single step sideways in favor of other viewpoints and beliefs.

This type of stubbornness usually begins in childhood, but there are many opportunities to address it throughout life. Seeking the professional assistance you or your family need can be the first step. Allen counseling associates at I Choose Change recommend individual, marriage or family therapies for those struggling with establishing communication and defeating stubbornness.

Ultimately, the most important factor in overcoming a lack of communication is making the effort to do so. When you are willing to take a step to one side for your child, spouse or family member, you prove to them that you are ready to compromise and come up with a resolution together. Don’t let yourself or your loved one become a Zax. Open the door to communication and take the first steps through it.