Understand Your School-Aged Child’s Defiance with 6 Questions!
“Mom, can I play outside?”
“Absolutely! I need you to pick up your toys first, and then you can go outside.”
Defiance comes when your child's own wants and desires come into conflict with your needs and requests.
Mom, you’re now fully engaged in preparing dinner when, out the window, you see your beautiful 6-year-old outside, playing nicely with the neighbors.
You think to yourself, “I am a great mom. I’ve got dinner going, a clean house, and my child plays so nicely with others.” You dry your hands on a dishtowel and step out of the kitchen to see the toys you asked your daughter to clean up still sitting on the same spot on the floor. Bubble officially popped!
It’s so easy to take this behavior personally. You think, “She knew exactly what she was supposed to do, and she just deliberately disobeyed me.” (Mufasa anyone? No? Just me?) But more than likely, your child’s defiance has little or nothing to do with wanting to disobey you. Most children are just more interested in your attention.
Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein suggests that the key to dealing with a defiant child is understanding them. “Understanding, and I am talking here about true understanding, defiant children helps them become less defiant, more secure, and more emotionally healthy. This is because understanding shows love, breeds compliance, and defuses defiance (keep in mind that most kids act out to get attention). Parents who understand themselves and their concerns from their own childhood will be better able to understand their children.”
This rang true when I called my beautiful daughter inside to talk with me about why she decided to ignore my request. When I asked why she didn’t pick up her toys before she went outside, her answer actually surprised me. She said, “I didn’t think you’d notice if I didn’t do it.” Interesting. We then went on to talk about how she was feeling sad that I didn’t sing to her at nighttime anymore, like I still do for her younger brother and sister. She may have just been laying it on a little thick so I wouldn’t punish her harshly, but I think it lead to the root of the issue. She was feeling neglected. She then went on to pick up her toys, albeit with a couple of encouraging reminders as she got distracted along the way.