Defiant Kids - The Cause and What to Do About It
Fact: When a child acts-out, it is due to an unmet inner need.
When the inner need is continuously unmet, one way a child responds is through defiance. Contrary to popular belief, children are not born defiant. They may be born different, or not as we expected, however they are not born defiant or difficult. Some kids have temperaments that are more quick to lability than others, but does this mean they are purposefully being defiant or “bad?”
Children are often labeled based upon how it is they make us (as parents or caregivers) feel. If they make us feel uncomfortable, we will label and describe them as “bad” or “frustrating.” Then, when they push back against us, as any self-respecting person would do—we label them defiant, rude, or inappropriate… and punish them for daring to stand up against us.
When children comply and go along with our suggestions, we label them as “good” and “kind.” We cast them in a special light and encourage their docility and servitude to our ways and our rules.
Fact: Kids who are loud or boisterous are those who rub against us.
We then fight back and create constraints that we glorify by calling them “boundaries” or “rules.” When they break these, we often don’t consider, “Are my boundaries or rules unreasonable?” Instead we reprimand them immediately.
Many times, it’s our unrealistic expectations of our children and our constant corralling of their freedom that causes them to rebel and revolt against us. In this manner, we are active co-creators of their defiance… the exact thing we are trying to stop in the first place.
If you’re like most parents, this hard truth is not comfortable to hear. We can’t even fathom this concept, let alone accept it and use it to grow. It’s our aggression and reactive ways that cause our children to amplify their responses and fight back. Before we know it, (often by the age of 3) patterns of aggression and rebellion are already set.
Fact: The only way for us to break these co-created cycles is to start by BACKING OFF our children.
Yes, for a time period, even if they leave their toys on the floor, we need to ignore this. What do we focus on instead? Plenty of other things, such as: connecting with them through games, or outings, or meals. Make a point to notice when we see them cooperating—no matter how small such as taking dishes into the sink. Acknowledging their tasks completed—again, no matter how small. “I noticed you brought your dishes to the sink.” “You put away your toys without me asking.” No need to thank them or gush over them, just let them know you notice the “good” things they do or say by acknowledging them.
Basically, we connect to them without any correction whatsoever for a while. Why do we do this? To disrupt the old patterns and reconnect with our kids. To rebuild trust. And once the child drops his or her guard, we can connect even more. It’s through connection that defiance melts and floats away.
Fact: Defiance is a defense mechanism created by the child to protect against the fear of failure, rejection or shame.
It’s not a “real” thing. It CAN BE DISSIPATED, but only when we are fully willing to take responsibility for how we co-created the dynamic of defiance in the children in the first place.
It’s powerful to become aware of our own reactive impulsive behaviors, which are just as much tantruming as our kids do. In fact, our kids are simply mirroring back to us what we are unaware of in ourselves. Once we are willing to look in the mirror, we can then shift course and begin to mindfully connect with our kids.
Keep in mind, when a child acts-out, it’s due to an unmet inner need. When the inner need is continuously unmet, one way a child responds is through defiance.