Do any of you have stories about yourself as a child that you keep tucked away somewhere in your mind and access every once in awhile — especially if something happens with your own kids that triggers a connection to your own childhood story?
One of my mom’s favorite stories to tell about me when I was a 3-year-old is when she asked me to do something that I clearly did not want to do. My mom will never forget the response that I gave to her undesirable request. I firmly planted my hands on my hips, feet apart in a defiant pose and boldly exclaimed:
“I am the boss of mine-self.”
Moments like these that occur with our kids throughout their continually developing childhoods can have one of two effects. Either we choose to respond in an equally defiant way by pushing our child to carry out our request despite their apparent distaste. Or, we can choose to pause and really listen to what our child is trying to tell us through these moments of resolute audaciousness.
The next time your child demonstrates outward defiance ~ whether he is a toddler just beginning to develop an understanding of his own independence or he is a preteen on the verge of new-found self-discovery ~ I urge you to give pause to your own reaction to the situation. Take a step back and ask yourself these simple questions:
- What is my child trying to learn through posing this specific opposition?
- What are the real obstacles my child is trying to overcome through this behavior?
- What is my child really taking a stand for or against in his protestation?
- How can I shift the focus of this confrontation to defuse the intense energy and allow my child to explore and learn through his own choices and actions?
By taking the time to reflect on what your child’s challenging behavior is truly about and what it is he is tying to gain through this behavior, parents can adjust their own behaviors, environments and attitudes to create a more harmonious connection with their child.