As very young children get older, they start to become more independent. But there are two things working against that independence.
1) They don’t fully understand all the implications of independence, (i.e. responsibility, safety and sometimes independence is scary)
2) We aren’t always ready to give them independence because they are still our babies.
Because of these two obstacles, independence often takes the form of defiance.
My two-year old (almost three-year old) boys are dabbling in defiance. I am slowly giving them more independence-
- They can get in and out of bed by themselves
- They can wash their hands by themselves
- They can get dressed by themselves
- They can prepare some of their food by themselves
But really, they don’t have that much independence yet and as they grow older, they will request more.
How do they do this?
By asserting themselves.
This comes across as being defiant. But a child who has opportunities throughout the day to be independent will be less defiant.
How does this work? Well, this goes hand in hand with the “giving-children-more-opportunities-for-risk” post.
It is hard to allow children to fail, fall, hurt, cry, or fumble but we need to give our children those opportunities and it will help with the defiance we see in young children as well as the defiance we see in teenagers.
We have scares, and like many parents, we have them often. But instead of shielding and sheltering my children more, I love feeling the confidence of a child who just learned that it is not OK to play behind a truck. So that if he ever finds himself in a place behind a truck that is starting, he will get out of there and not wait for someone to come get him.
A child who is acting defiant is a child who needs more independence.
What does this look like and what can parents do?
Let’s say you are getting ready for bed and your child starts acting up.
“I don’t like those pajamas!”
or however it manifests in your household.
These are all signs of defiance that could be turned into independence.
Your child can take control over what pajamas they want to wear. They can have control over who brushes their teeth. And of course they have the independence to choose what book to read.
These are all easy ways to give our children more independence that they are craving.
They are asserting themselves as individuals and we need to give them that opportunity.
Here’s another thought:
If we give children more opportunities to assert their Independence throughout the day, will they ultimately be less defiant?
Try it tomorrow and see what happens.