Childishness vs. defiance

Source: childhealing.com

When your child misbehaves, does he do it out of willful defiance? Or is it that he just doesn’t know any better? The Ezzos make the distinction between childishness and defiance in the chapter titled “Five Laws of Correction” in On Becoming Childwise.

“If parenting were all about drawing lines, we would quickly run out of chalk. Fortunately, a thick black line has already been drawn for us in permanent ink. It marks the border between two totally separate realms of behavior. On one side is the land of Childish Mistakes. On the other is the land of Defiant Misdeeds…. The first speaks of rebellious acts, the second speaks of acts committed with malicious intent. Both require correction, but of different kinds,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 131).

Understanding the difference between the childishness and defiance makes perfect sense when you’re reading a book (or a blog). But when you’re in the throes of parenting a young child, it can be easy to forget that sometimes they just don’t know any better. We often think that they should already know better. But we need to ask ourselves whether we’ve really taken the time to teach the child in whatever behavior it is that we expect.

And we can’t expect that a lesson in one area will carry over to another. Kids are so black and white and don’t always make the connections that we adults do. Maybe you’ve told the child that he must stay in his chair while eating lunch, but will he know that the rule also applies to breakfast and dinner? Or maybe you’ve taught your older child never to walk on the carpet with his shoes on, and just assumed that your younger child learned through osmosis.

So much about parenting involves teaching our children. It applies just as much to behavior issues as it does to moral ones.

The next time you’re frustrated with your child and ready to correct him, stop yourself and make sure that it is an act of willful defiance and not just childishness. This should help you remember:

“Childishness is usually a head problem–a lack of knowledge. Defiance is usually a heart problem–the child does not what to do right,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

If you tend toward leniency, the above quote will help you as well. If you’re faced with defiance and try to make excuses for the child, thinking he doesn’t know any better, think about the child’s motive behind his actions.

“When instructions have been given and received about something, there is little room for ‘innocent mistakes’ regarding that behavior. If the wrong thing is intentionally done, it’s disobedience–outright defiance–pure and simple,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

This is where getting your “yes, mommy” and eye contact play a huge role. When the child is looking you in the eye and has acknowledged you with a verbal response, you have little doubt that he heard your instruction. If he fails to comply, he’s being defiant.

If you are new to my blog and the idea of “yes, mommy” and eye contact, read more at those links. You might also benefit from reading my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, which lays out how to use these tools to get your child to obey immediately and consistently.

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