Defiance: A Coping Mechanism?

no, defiant child, defiance, child defiance, odd, oppositional defiance disorders, child saying no, refusal, helpful children, divorce, counseling

Shlomo is [usually] what is called, “Yeled tov Yerushalayim,” or a “good Jerusalem boy”.  In other words, a goody-two-shoes.  He doesn’t always do as we ask, but he likes to make us happy, and he likes it when we praise him for doing something.  It’s probably a personality type, but still, it got me thinking.

So I started thinking:  He likes praise.  He likes to please.  But, isn’t every child naturally like that?  Or at least, every healthy child?  I know that part of the equation is personality, but is personality really responsible for all of the defiance that children have?

Now, before you jump on me for judging everyone else’s kids, I am what we call a “davkanik”, or “specifically-person”.  Meaning, I like[d] to do things, or say things, that go specifically against what everyone says, likes, or does.  It hasn’t gotten better with time, I’ve just learned to control it.  But, if you are arguing for something, I will probably argue against it, even if I agree with you.  Just for the sake of it.  And, what I believe in, I will argue for very strongly.  Even if it hurts someone’s feelings.  Because, if this is what is right, then the person opposite me can grow up and admit the truth.  And if they are no longer my friend?  Chances are, they weren’t my friend in the first place.  And besides, I don’t need friends who are so involved in going with the trends that they won’t admit the truth.

Back to the topic: I was classed as ODD.  Might that be because of how I was raised?  I mean, for sure, it’s a personality trait (at least by now) that I am (maybe) defiant.  It’s a good thing, it’s a bad thing, it’s a trait.  Traits are good and bad, depending on how they are used.  For sure, I can’t remember being as calm as Shlomo is now.  But maybe that’s because I spent a while in the hospital at age 2.5.  Apparently, I was a pretty happy kid before that.  And my parents’ marriage, for as long as I can remember, was rocky.  So, maybe I grew up defiant because of the atmosphere in which I was raised.

Yitzchak was always meek.  He did what people told him, even when he didn’t like it, and even when it was to his detriment (except for on one specific issue, but that’s off topic).  His parents are also divorced, but he never saw them fight, and to this day, they get along well.  He did go his own away, against the flow.  He did aggravate his parents.  But, not to the same degree as I did, and not in the same way.  Maybe that’s because of the way he was raised: he didn’t like to fight, and he didn’t see fighting as a way of surviving.  He saw getting along as a way, or the best way, of surviving.  (MIL/FIL: If you are reading this, and disagree, let me know.  I know I am generalizing, but that is because I am trying to make a point.)

Could it be that helpful children are raised, not born?  That the way we parent, at least in part, determines our childrens’ personality?  That personality is not just nature, but also nurture?  That helpful children are the result of [correctly given] praise, and defiant children the result of too much criticism?  After all, if you’re never happy with what I do, and it’s never good enough, I might as well not do what you ask.  It’s even better not to do what you ask: That way, when I get criticized, I know that it’s because I didn’t listen, and not a problem with me, myself.

So, I ask you: Is defiance a defense mechanism?

I am much less defiant than I used to be.  But again, I ask: Is defiance a survival/defense mechanism?

If we don’t put our children into “survival” mode 24/7, will they be more calm and helpful, and less defiant?  And if the answer is yes, then what are we doing wrong today?

I don’t know if Shlomo’s even temperament and helpfulness will stay.  I hope they will.  But maybe, just maybe, whether or not they stay, depends on the atmosphere at home, and later, at school.

If I can help make sure that my happy, helpful little boy stays happy and helpful, I will have done an enormous thing.
Can I?  Does it depend on us?  Or is it just “personality”, and what will be, will be?

What do you think?

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