The Importance of Honoring Your Child’s Defiance (within Reason!)

On March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led 25,000 marchers to the state capitol in Alabama to protest the denial of voting rights for black people. For many of those marching, that day may have been the first time they stood up for themselves and used their voices and the first time anyone said to them, “You’re worthy of better”. There was great strength, confidence and hope that day.

I get a lot of calls from parents asking me:

“Why is my child so defiant?”

“Why does he fight me on everything?”

As parents, it is our job to teach kids where the limits are, but not to squash their ability to test those limits. That’s their spark, the fire in their belly and the life force of who they are. Strong-willed kids are harder to raise, but aren’t they better equipped for some aspects of adulthood? They already possess an inner strength that many people only wish they had!

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire

How do we honor our children’s protests?

The Magic of Setting Limits

Imagine if you’re a blind person and every morning when you wake up, you find that someone has moved all of the furniture in your house.  You bump into things at every turn and struggle to find your way even to the next room.  Eventually, you would probably stop getting out of bed or would go so crazy that no one would recognize you! 

The same is true for our kids.  I know it’s kind of a stretch, but stay with me here.  If the rules change, shift or disappear altogether, our kids become confused.  In order for our kids to feel safe and secure and to be able to explore the world, they need consistent limits.  When their world is predictable, they aren’t expending any energy on testing (ok, any more than is absolutely necessary!) and they are free to blossom and develop without any delays. 

Testing is a typical part of growing up, but when our kids test the limits and the limits are just where they found them the last time they checked, they move on.  That’s why kids who have inconsistent limits have to test with their behavior on an on-going basis.  They are saying, “please take this power away from me!”  Kids with no boundaries experience anxiety, because kids need the adults in charge to BE IN CHARGE!

I challenge you to look in the mirror and see where your limits are a little loose that might be causing your kids some anxiety.  Do them (and you) a favor and give them the limits and boundaries they want and need!

Back to Center

I have a confession. I have been a bit lazy about my own parenting lately and it showed in my youngest daughter’s behavior. She has been argumentative, angry, anxious, yelling, obstinate, defiant and just overall a total brat! Her older sisters were no longer willing to babysit for her because she was so defiant with them. She has been arguing with her dad and me and I knew something was out of balance. I just wasn’t sure what was going on and, honestly, I kind of ignored it. Ok, truth? I was avoiding dealing with it. Of course, what happens when we avoid something? It gets worse until we finally decide to do something about it, right?

Things really came to a head this weekend. There was fighting, screaming, a telephone call from the kids interrupting our adult dinner out, and even something thrown at her big sister (that REALLY crosses the line!) I decided to dig my head out of the sand and to finally address what’s been going on in my own house.

My husband and I sat down with our ten-year-old. We told her that her excellent brain, her wonderful athletic talents and her adorable face meant nothing if she wasn’t a good person on the inside. We told her that her disrespect for us, her sisters and even her coaches was over! The consequence of throwing something at her sister was that she was forbidden to use anything with an on/off switch for two weeks.

This is the first time she has ever been “grounded”. She has had many other consequences along the way, but we wanted her to know that we meant business and that we weren’t letting her get away with anything this time!

Her reaction was astounding! She didn’t argue. She didn’t cry. She didn’t even seem angry with us. In truth, there was a peacefulness that fell over her. She was the most delightful child to be with for the remainder of the day and evening. She took care of her responsibilities, she took her shower the first time I asked (that had never happened before) and she went to bed willingly and hugged me tight before she fell asleep.

I have been telling my clients for years that when you set the limits your kids need, they will thank you with their behavior. It’s about time I took my own advice! More about why this worked like magic, to come!

Ahhh…peace feels good.