SPIRIT OF INQUIRY OR DEFIANCE?

OVERCOMING CHILDHOOD ISN’T ALWAYS ABOUT NICENESS AND OBEDIENCE

So I found this question on Facebook and it brought back a deluge of memories.


Hey moms, I’m in desperate need of  help. I’m at my wit’s end with my lovely little defiant child. I love him lots, but enough is enough. Every morning, my son wakes up at 3 in the morning and refuses to go back to sleep. He will literally be up for the entire day. I’ve repeatedly tried putting him back in his room. I’ve tried time outs, taking away his privileges. Tried having him do chores. Nothing works. He talks back, makes faces, or just laughs at me. I literally don’t know what to do anymore.


My mother used to tell stories about me as a baby. How I’d be up and wide awake by 3 or 4 in the morning. We lived in a crappy apartment on Rose Street in Freeport. She would get up, put on her overcoat and wait until the heat came up, which wasn’t until seven at the earliest.

I was smart child and mentally active. She eventually figured out that the only thing that made life better was keeping me busy. Finding things for me to do that I enjoyed. Crayons, paint, and lots of paper were important items in my world.  I pretty much did whatever I wanted — which fortunately, wasn’t dangerous.

Eventually I learned to read books and write stories. And draw. Life got better for everyone, especially me.

Even as a toddler, I went to bed hours later than the “official” bedtime for little kids. I never slept as many hours as other children. I would read in bed for hours after “lights out.” Even today, I still don’t sleep a lot. If I get six or seven hours, to me that’s a good night’s sleep.

Garry recalls being much the same, too.

I don’t think we were defiant. That term gets rather loosely used today. Defiant often means that this child doesn’t want to do what mom wants him or her to do. Doesn’t sleep enough. And has a great sense of humor.

Highly intelligent children need mentally challenging activities and they can be hard on caretakers.

We were active, curious, and drove our mothers crazy, but it wasn’t defiance. We wanted to do what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to do what we were supposed to want to do. I was never interested in what the rest of the kids found fascinating, though I tried to act interested.

These days, we label kids like this as defiant when maybe what they are is very smart, with a marked desire for information or knowledge. It’s not a character flaw. My mother, having not had the fortune to read modern psychology, read stories to me. Taught me to read. Gave me paints and drawing pencils … and lots of books.

Sometimes pop psychology is a dangerous beast. Don’t label your kids. Saying it might make it true. Just because he or she doesn’t “behave” doesn’t make him or her defiant. Maybe smarter and more creative than other youngsters. Stronger-willed — and not ready to sleep because mom would really appreciate it.


Obedience isn’t always the most important thing you can get from your kid. Being a good little child who always does exactly what he’s told doesn’t show a lot of imagination, creativity, or smarts. Personally, I think obedience is overrated.


I’m 70 now. My mother quite liked me, eventually. I’m sorry she’s gone. We could be good friends today.

23 thoughts on “SPIRIT OF INQUIRY OR DEFIANCE?

  1. I had four sleeping kids in the past, so I was just glad when it was bedtime. One is an autist and I had a big problem in late summer and autumn. We lived next to the river and one or two mosquitoes might buzz around during the night. He got panic attacks and kept us all awake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We all want our kids to sleep long enough so WE can have some time off. Owen learned that he could get up any time he wanted and could play quietly. But I never tried to deal with four kids at a time. That’s a lot of children and one with autism. That is a lot of mothering. Yay you!!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I think my son showed creativity and I usually stood up for his independent streak! There was a time I almost lost him in the sense that teachers and situations wore him down. I think if a student can get A’s on tests they shouldn’t have “typical” homework. He hated to read and answer questions over what he read on a ditto. I always as a language arts teacher encouraged independent projects. One great example was a seventh grade boy did his book review as a radio talk show. It was great!
    I never sleep enough but worry about my brain as it gets older.
    Lastly, I recommend taking the child out of the bedroom to play in a quiet area away from sleeping adults and children. They eventually Tucker out on blocks, books, toys or imagination, creep back to bed. 😴

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    • Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Kids become themselves. They don’t necessarily become what we would like them to be or what the school thinks they should be … or even what their friends want. A lot of creative, very smart kids get dumped on all the time for not doing the boring stuff. I NEVER did that work. Eventually, they decided I didn’t need to do it anyway (I didn’t) and they gave me other work to do, which was FINE. But workbooks? Filling in words in the columns? Oh lord spare me!

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  3. For sure all kids are different and each will have their challenges for parents to try and figure out how best to cope with so no harm comes to our offspring and they can grow into the adults they should become (not necessarily those we would wish they would!) but i think the key sentence in the mum’s question was this one… “He talks back, makes faces, or just laughs at me”.

    That sounds like defiance of authority and if he learns that at the age of 3 and it becomes a part of his nature then i think mom has a right to feel concerned and ask for some advice. How do you set boundaries (that all kids need) when the kid talks back and treats your instruction as a joke?

    In my day you got a backhander or the strap. Today that is not an option.

    love.

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    • I also need to point out that a certain amount of defiance is a necessary part of pulling away from parents and building and individual life. Too many kids these days never seem to leave the nest. Part of that is an unwillingness to stand on their own two feet and say “I’m going to do MY thing and you can’t stop me” … even when it it turns out to be stupid.

      Garry used to laugh at his drill instructors in the Marines. Kaity used to laugh at all of us when she was a baby. A sense of humor, even in a kid, isn’t a character flaw. It isn’t defiance. It is recognizing how ridiculous the situation is and laughing about it. That’s what I do when I’m writing. Yes, I laughed at my parents, too. They got over it.

      I’m still laughing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I admit life is full of laughably ludicrous situations, but there is also situational humour laughter and being laughed at. I’m willing to bet when Garry laughed at his Drill Instructors they ended up having the last laugh! For some reason (probably a Mom’s despair and desperation) i saw her kid’s response as one of trying to impose his will over that of his mother rather than an analysis of the ridiculous idea that he had to comply with a world where people only woke up after a certain time of day and went to bed when they were told to. 😉

        We may need more info before a true picture emerges?

        As for laughing? I had to go to a psychiatrist because there was a time when i could not laugh at all. It took a long time but she finally was able to fix that – now i laugh whether there is anything to laugh at or not. 😉

        love

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        • No, they considered him a real little New York snot and he was. He grew out of it. I went through a similar phase. Kids grow and change and we aren’t nice and cute and obedient through all of it either. Some of us need our freedom earlier and younger and we might not get it by the more classic “rebellion” of youth, but by sarcasm, and word games and stuff like that. Nope. We were nasty little creeps.

          We grew out of it. I don’t know when we came to assume that we all have to be the same, from top to bottom, to be “okay.”

          Kaity was hilarious. She learned to laugh before she learned to talk. She just thought everything was funny. She definitely thought WE were funny. She also went through some “terrible twos” that ended just before her 20th birthday.

          Garry says his drill instructors really tried, but no one could break through. Not at that point in his life. Not teachers, drill instructors or even friends. But he grew up. I grew up.

          I also remember that my mother warned me about being so sharp-tongued. She said it was going to get me into a lot of trouble, especially with boys. She was wrong about the boys — I always had more of them lolling around that I needed or wanted — but it got me into a ton of trouble with bosses, co-workers, and other professionals. I had a LOT of learning to do before I learned a kinder, gentler person to be.

          Growing up is not a one-off. My brain got old very fast. My emotions went at half that speed and I’m still working on lots of pieces. I had a hard time as a kid. It made me tough, which was good for getting me through … but it also made me defensive. Which was a much harder wall to break through.

          Liked by 1 person

          • ““terrible twos” that ended just before her 20th birthday.” – brilliant! 😉

            Tweens and teens are something else entirely – a separate species almost and rules exist only to see how far they can be stretched and hopefully snapped completely. I don’t think this should be the case for single digit aged children. I think it is best for them to have imposed boundaries until such time as they have the experience to best judge what may or may not be stretched for safety reasons. – You don’t want kids who are told not to play on the freeway or with matches (or train surf or binge drink, etc) to break the rule, for example.

            Some of us grow up into (and suffer through) old age where we have a lot of experience to reflect upon and mellow out with – some of us never get the chance because we broke one or more rules we should have learned about from our parents.

            love

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  4. Although, this can be wearing on the parents, a certain amount of defiance is healthy. You don’t want you children lead down the garden path by anyone. I would want them to think for themselves in a rational manner.
    Leslie

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  5. I absolutely concur. My son was 3 1/2 before he slept 3 hours a night and even then, he’d play or hum and I’d finally fall into a stupor or sorts. Did I mention he’s quite brilliant? My daughter was the same, only not quite as much. Still, sleep was overrated in my house. lol

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    • In this house, too. I don’t know if anyone has ever run tests, but I think bright kids often don’t like sleeping. Garry and I are not long sleepers either unless we are sick, or just worked three days in a row.

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      • I never slept more than 4 hours. Ever, in my entire life. Some of that was conditioning, self protection, but even in high school, as a young parent, I slept with one ear or eye open. I think I slept my first 8 hour when both kids moved out. I’m no more an 8 hr sleeper not lol. I’d like to think it’s because I’m so smart … well smarty pants maybe haha

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  6. I developed my night owl tendencies early in life, generally staying up the whole night during summers and sleeping during the day. My Mom didn’t seem to mind…. probably because my Dad worked nights and it made her feel better that somebody was awake at night in case something happened. Looking back, I think it was because I generally preferred to be alone and not bothered, and the middle of the night while everyone else was asleep was the best time for that. I lived off late night reruns and my notebooks full of drawings and other creative things for most of my teens…

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    • I know Garry started being a night owl because that’s when the cool movies were on very late night TV in New York — which was long before we had cable movie channels. That and wanting to read.For me, it wasn’t TV because I wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a kid. Instead, I read all the time, often seeing the sun come up and then having to go to school anyway. I didn’t care. I knew I’d be tired, but night was when no one bothered me.

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