DEFIANCE OR DETERMINATION? – Marilyn Armstrong

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 cheap apartment on Rose Street in Freeport. When I got up, she would get up too. She’d put on her overcoat and wait until the heat came up, which wasn’t until around seven.

She eventually figured out that I needed to be busy. Crayons, paint, and lots of paper were big items in my world. I didn’t sleep as much as most kids and when awake, I needed to be doing something. Ultimately, reading took over a lot of that time, but until then, drawing (the three-year-old version of it) and other crafts filled the time. That and running around outside. Knowing me now, it’s hard to imagine what an active kid I was.

Sisters playing by the river

Eventually, I learned to read books, write stories, and draw. Life got better.

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 kids. Garry recalls being much the same. Of course, these days, there’s no such thing as too much sleep, but we are long past youth, much less childhood.

Defiance is an overused term these days. Any time a child doesn’t want to do what mom or dad wants him or her to do, it’s defiance. My theory is that it’s more like boredom than defiance when a box of crayons and paper can cure it!

Smart kids need challenging activities and they can be hard for caretakers. Especially hard for working mothers who are already tired by the time they get home.

Pop psychology can be dangerous.

Don’t label your children. Smart kids hear what you say and figure out what you mean. Just because he or she doesn’t “behave” doesn’t make him or her defiant. These days, with so many mothers working and convinced that “outside” await predators waiting to snatch your kid, every minute of the kid’s time is programmed.

I shudder imagining growing up like that

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

25 thoughts on “DEFIANCE OR DETERMINATION? – Marilyn Armstrong”

      1. We didn’t do much defiance in our household. It didn’t sell. I had attitude but it was usually tempered by Mom..and Dad. That same attitude agitated hard-nosed Marine Corps DIs.

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  1. Kids can be tough. Trust me, I know. Despite all the “deviance”, stubbornness, and back talk, mine all grew up into beautiful, wonderful, independent women. I’m glad they were born 30 years ago when parents were still parents. These days, the minute a child becomes less than perfect, that child is labeled with some kind of medical condition that requires medication. I can’t imagine kids have changed so much in 30 years, that so many of them are now being medicated instead of raised by loving but stern parents. (And that’s my rant for today, I promise.)

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    1. Schools don’t want to be bothered by kids who don’t sit quietly. They don’t feel obliged to actually “deal” with children as people. Thus medication. I agree. The kids have not changed all that much, but schools have!

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  2. There are parents who program a child’s life with activities the child does not like. This leads to a defiant child and a tired parent. There are parents here who do not want their children to walk a block without someone there. It’s a different time than when I was young.

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    1. Not only do we have to protect children from themselves, we have to make a lot of what should be medical judgments. Yes, there ARE ADHD kids, but some of that is environmental. We give them a world that is a constantly changing visual on computers, phones, televisions … and THEN we wonder why they can’t sit still in school. What do we expect?

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      1. I know… first hand… 8 years working in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade…fortunately I have worked with teachers who recognize the importance in moving, not sitting all day, The computer has changed everything in terms of learning and focus, both good and bad.

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  3. You put in a nutshell the primary reason I never had any children, nor ever wanted any. I know I wouldn’t deal well with a kid who was up at 3 a.m. and who, naturally, needed stimuli. I’m barely cognizant at that hour and I’m grumpy as hell if bothered “mid-sleep’ cycle. It’s true they tend to helicopter today’s children and label them inappropriately with things like “defiance” but I suspect the parents of today’s children never learned good coping skills themselves because their parents did a pretty bad job of raising them with any sense. My opinion from outside the box. And obviously that a generalization. I know there are all sorts of parents, just like there were in my day and your day.

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    1. Remarkably, we overcome a lot of that. Men AND women. When it’s YOURS, you do what you should because you should. It doesn’t mean that NOT having kids is such a bad idea, either. I know a lot of professional couples who felt they didn’t have the time or resources to be there for growing children (Jay Leno and his wife come immediately to mind since he used to talk about it on TV) and there are many others.

      Even if you have the resources, if your life is dedicated to other work and you know you have neither patience nor time to deal with the constant demands of kids, it’s reasonable to decide to NOT have them. I’m not sure I shouldn’t have been one of them … but I had just barely recovered from nearly lethal spine surgery and making “life” seemed the right thing to do. I did okay, I guess, but because I worked from when my son was just under a year old, I always felt I had never given enough time or emotion.

      I sure as hell never got anything like enough sleep. If I hadn’t held a full-time job, I might have done better. But I worked and I think I needed to work. It wasn’t just money. I needed to be busy with my own “stuff.”

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  4. It seems that any kid with a lot of energy is labeled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Then they are promptly put on Ritalin. This is a big mistake.
    Leslie

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    1. I never drugged the kid because HIS problem — and I knew it — was dyscalculia and dyslexia (in that order). He read fine because even if you mix up the letters, you can still read … but when the numbers jump around, it’s hard to get the right answer. Once schools decided to let kids use calculators, he learned more than he needed to know … but his aversion to school never went away. AND, as it turned out, he was unable to process Vitamin A, so he suffered for his entire childhood with one level or another of Vitamin A poisoning which was not diagnosed until we moved to Isreal. Vitamin A poisoning — his body would not process the substance — produces most of the same personality traits as ADHD — but it wasn’t. What he needed was a diet without Vitamin A. No orange or bright yellow vegetables. No liver. No spinach. And as few tomatoes as possible.

      I am as a result of this, VERY suspicious of “one size fits all” vitamins. One size does NOT fit all. And often one size doesn’t really fit anyone.

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  5. Very interesting post, Marilyn. We have an 8 year old autistic son, so we have plenty of defiance, but he’s clever too, and he’s cute. Over here they don’t look into autism with any depth, and that annoys me, they just rubber stamped him and that’s that. He’s at a specialist school and is doing well, and I’m sure he’ll be okay in time and with help. Thanks for talking with great sense that so many people don’t seem to have. 🙂

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    1. This whole business of slapping labels on children makes me crazy. It’s bad enough that the school does it, but parents consent and even encourage it. At least get a private evaluation of the child before you start drugging him or her. I think the “drugging kids” thing is way out of control. They also need to learn how to teach kids who need to be taught differently and after all these years of talking about it, they still have very few answers.

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      1. So true, and you’re way ahead of us over there too. It’s dire over here. We won’t drug Nathan though, so he’s just developing in his own sweet way, and he’s not really much bother. I totally agree that the labelling doesn’t help at all. There’s no thought behind it at all. Nathan’s diagnosis took less than 10 minutes. They knew nothing about him at all.

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        1. We took Owen to an actual kid shrink who told us 1) he was exceptionally intelligent and 2) he had the emotional development of a 5-year-old. So he had a 40-year-old head and a 5-year-old temperament. Took a while for all that to “even out.”

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          1. Wow, that must have been interesting. Nathan’s very bright, and the evening out of temperament and brains strikes a chord. Nathan’s literacy has always been very advanced and he’s got a photographic memory. When we went to Yorkshire he told us before we left home the make of the lifts in the hotel we were going to stay in. We’ve only been there once before. He’s very keen on lifts – and car washes. But the stuff he retains amazes me. He can also identify the keep of a castle, the well and fireplaces, and he knows what the great hall and great chamber was for, so we’re getting there… 🙂

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  6. Oh, I so agree with you, Marilyn! I had one child who simply refused to stay in his bed. We eventually set up a whole blanket/pillow thing in the hall outside of our door. (He wouldn’t sleep with us, either.)We thought it was crazy, but we did it because we desperately needed sleep and this 4 year old was not giving it to us.
    Now that he is grown, he remembers that time as a period in his life where his voice was heard. He was the middle child, in a family with two working parents. The night was his one domain; by giving him that control, he now says, we let him feel worthwhile.

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    1. I’m always dubious about ‘one size fits all’ diagnostics. All kids don’t need the same amount of sleep or the same kind of education and they sure don’t all need the same drugs. Owen was a GREAT sleeper. I never had to tell him to go to bed. When he was tired, he went to bed. He still does and unlike me, he won’t stay up because something interesting is going on elsewhere. If he’s tired, he goes to sleep.

      His daughter was exactly the opposite. As a child, she never seemed to need sleep. Now, you can’t get her out of bed.

      Owen got more or less the same kind of freedom I got, probably the last group of kids that got to “go out to play” without a play date or a “keep in touch” cell phone. I think I tended to give him too much freedom because that’s what I wanted. Sometimes, we forget that our kids are not chips off us, but individuals.

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