I have been learning about dealing with a defiant child from Caleb. He is a smart boy who is very insistent about having things done his way. It does not matter if his way is inconvenient or even impossible; he insists that things be done in his certain way.
For example, he cannot drink his tea if the glass is too full or not full enough. He will simply go thirsty and complain if his glass is not filled to exactly the arbitrary mark he has set. Making the situation even more difficult for those around him is that he rarely communicates this need before the drink is poured. His explanation at that “you should have known.”
He has absolutely no respect for any authority. His own desires are more important than any rules that are placed on him. He has no trouble making friends because he is outgoing and outspoken, but he has trouble keeping these friends because he is absolutely insistent on having every thing done his way. He is a terror to teachers and church workers who have him in class because he refuses to follow any rules other than his own.
He has been kicked out of schools and other social groups because of his unsociable behavior. Even his own father will have nothing to do with him due to his defiance and overall disruptive behavior.
He has been to a variety of doctors and social therapists and given several acronyms as to what is wrong with him. However none has yet developed a plan of how to deal with him.
Only one teacher has been able to deal with him and even she has days when she can’t handle him. She is a Sunday school teacher at a Unity Church. She accepts him just the way he is and practices non judgment. He responds well to her loving acceptance. However even she cannot get him to comply with the rules that the other children easily follow.
I have noticed what seems to be a flow in the process used by most people who try to deal with Caleb. They try to change him. He is very determined in his way that he will not be changed and soon there is an impasse. Those who try to accept him as he is and try to find ways to work with him seem to have more success in getting him to conform. However, he will always find ways to exert himself and continue to demonstrate his ability to control a situation.
If he finds himself in a situation where he has lost control and he is forced to submit to some authority that has temporarily overpowered him, he will shut down and hide. He often carries a blanket with him even on the hottest day so that he can cover his head and face if he encounters a loosing situation. If he can’t use his blanket, he will remove his shirt and cover his face. He will become violent if forced to interact when he is trying to hide from the situation.
He can express love and affection at times. For example, he recently shared his lunch money with a girl in his class who did not have enough. He loves to share snacks with the neighborhood children. But he will not share his toys. He will however leave them scattered around when he is done playing with them.
He picks who he is affectionate to. He is not influenced by the opinions of others. He sees no duty to show love and affection to even his mother. He is not motivated by a desire to please others.
He shows some signs of autism in that he does not recognize social cues. However it may be that he recognizes them yet fails to take social cues into consideration when choosing his actions.
When dealing with a defiant child like Caleb one is faced with two choices: engage in a battle of wills to see who is stronger or accept him for how he is and adjust to compensate.
Deep down all of us have the same desires as Caleb. We want things to go our way. We want to choose our own actions regardless of how others feel. We want to hide from authority when we are not allowed to do what we want to do. However most of us have decided that the benefits of getting along in society out weight our desire to express ourselves freely. By looking at how we are like a defiant child rather than how we are different helps in learning how to deal with one.
When we try to accept him for who he is and try to adjust our own behavior to compensate, we will have more success. However it is very difficult for most people to be able to set aside their own ego long enough to see that letting him have his way briefly will go along way toward achieving mutual goals. Setting clear rules with tangible consequences in advance seem to work very well with Caleb. However, consistent follow through is required as Caleb will test to see if the rules are consistent.
Overall, he responds well to people who accept him and are willing to work within his self imposed rule system. However he will tell you that he does not like rules. He means that he does not like other people imposing rules on him. By looking for ways to work together and avoiding unnecessary confrontations, the defiant child can be guided toward mutual goals.
Tags: defiant child