Are you living with a child who is constantly challenging your rules, your ideas, the outfits you choose, the lunch you pack, the bedtime you set, or the morning routine you created step-by-step? Do you feel as though this wonderful child is all-of-a-sudden challenging your authority? I get it, you’ve lived for years on this planet, you know your child very well, and you know what he needs to function at his best. It makes sense that you put it all into play. You may often ask yourself, Why is he so defiant? What is he thinking?
And then you go to the grocery store and there is the child, the child you wish was yours just for this moment. You know, that do-as-you’re-told fellow with textbook manners, neat clothing, exquisite restraint, sticky sweet personality and the cherub-like smile that appears just at the most opportune time.
You wonder what is that parent doing, you compare yourself and clamp down further on your own child. Only to receive more push-back and more lip. Before you drive yourself crazy, take a moment and think about what is “motivating” this child to “behave.”
For a Moment, Consider This
Sure, he’s compliant, he’ll follow orders, and never talk back, but do you ever stop and wonder why? Is he afraid of punishment or to disappoint? Is he being bribed and working toward a reward? Or is he praised to the point that he is afraid of making a mistake? None of these thoughts are healthy when they appear in adult relationships, so why are we using strategies that create these thoughts when our kids are little?
One thing we do know is that that child is definitely not learning to challenge the world around him. Of course, it’s not his fault, he’s been trained to be a “great” kid (and yes, we all want great kids,) but there’s something missing in this child’s life: the ability to think, to choose and to do for himself.
Your defiant, obstinate, bossy, pain-in-the-neck child is telling you that he wants to develop his voice, figure out what works best for him, and practice making mistakes and revising his plan. Your job is to support him through this process, because it could get messy.
Thinking kids are Messy
Why encourage your child to think for himself when you already know what’s best and can avoid all that mess? Here’s why: Because, eventually, your child will have to either make his own choices, or go along with the crowd (because you’ve trained him to do this) and although this may not be concerning when you’re living with a 2, 5, or 7 year old, it can be damn alarming when you’re living with a 13 or 16 year old.
Raising thinking children takes effort, however when you consider the alternative, it’s worth it. I encourage you to allow your children time to practice navigating their own lives according to their values, their preferences and their interests, while they are living at home with you. In other words kids who practices making choices when they are little, will be strong enough to make smart, thoughtful, and skillful choices later – when the stakes are higher. They will also know how to take responsibility for those choices, good, bad, or indifferent. And when amends are in order they’ll be willing to make them.
So, the next time your child is willing to make a choice around clothing, shoes, bedtime, food, baseball, piano lessons, ballet, or anything else for that matter, stop and ask yourself, “Is this a chance for me to let my child choose?” Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure is worth a moment of reflection.
Interested in learning more about raising thinking children? Learn how with Vicki’s Tools for Success. Take the time to develop confidence in your parenting decisions and to trust your child to make his or her own choices. (Italicize the paragraph) and linke Vicki’s Tools for Success to the link below.