Question: My oldest daughter is a model child – pleasant, cheerful, agreeable, obedient, soft-spoken and, for the most part, a real joy to live with. What do I need to know about the unique needs of a quiet, compliant child?


While they are on the whole far easier and more pleasant to raise than their defiant counterparts, compliant kids do have some special needs of their own. It's a good idea to keep them in mind as your family grows and your child moves through the successive stages of maturing and growing up.

It’s easy for a compliant child to be overlooked and taken for granted, particularly when there is also a more defiant and outspoken child in the family. As the saying goes, it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. If there's an unpleasant job to be done, the compliant child may be expected to do it because mom and dad just don't have the energy to fight the tiger. When it is necessary for one child to sacrifice or do without, there's a tendency to pick the one who won't complain as loudly. Under these circumstances, the compliant boy or girl comes out on the short end of the stick.

Consequences of inequity

The consequences of such inequity should be obvious. The responsible child often becomes angry over time, developing a sense of powerlessness and resentment that simmers below the surface. She may also become prideful of her "good" behaviour, like the older brother of the Prodigal Son, and overconfident in her own abilities and worth as a person.

This combination of pride and a sense of injustice can lead compliant children to become passive-aggressive, manipulative and devious in their dealings with others. They may also be prone to perfectionism and its most pernicious side-effects, stress and depression, since they often feel trapped by their desire to cooperate and their need to please other people.

Seek a balance

For these reasons we recommend that parents seek to balance the scales in dealing with the compliant child by making sure she gets her fair share of parental attention and helping her find ways to cope with her more overbearing sibling(s). Within reason, mom and dad should give their compliant child the chance to make her own decisions. It's also important to head off depression and stress by allowing compliant kids to be kids, teaching them to have fun, and showing them that failure is an inevitable part of life.

You can begin moving in this direction by setting aside some special time to spend with your daughter on a regular basis. Make a date to have ice cream, go for a walk or simply sit down and talk together at least once a week.

Cultivate an awareness of her feelings and the day-to-day details of her life at home and at school. Talk about any fears, anxieties or resentments that may be lurking beneath her quiet and cooperative exterior. Get her to reflect on her personal belief system by asking questions like, "How do you feel about yourself?" or "Finish the following sentence: I am ___." Let her know that you're on her team and that she is an extremely important and highly valued member of the family.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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