Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Defiance

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

I read one of those meme-like things on facebook recently. Something along the lines of, “I want my kids to be independent, self-something people, just not while I am raising them”. (Can’t remember what the something was.

I disagree. I consciously allow space for my child to stretch her independence and exert her will. I see no reason to break her will just to exert my authority. I recognize that lots of what I think I want her to do stems from no real important deep reason except my own whim, so I learned to let go unless it was really important or reasonable to ask her to do something against her will. I don’t always have patience for this: for letting go, persuasion, playing games, distractions, etc. But I try.

And then there’s defiance. I think it’s good not to break a child’s defiance to authority. You see where this is going?

I think there are different approaches to defiance; some healthy, some not.

a. Defiant by default = defiant of any form of authority, regardless (I’m looking at you, S; and all you anarchists out there).

b. Defiant by nature = finds it easy to get into defiant mode. It’s not knee-jerk like “by default”, but it comes easy…

c. Defiant by necessity = defiance doesn’t come naturally but is invoked when necessary

d. Defiant reluctantly = defiance comes with difficulty, even when it’s necessary, it’s invoked reluctantly.

Now I would put myself somewhere between b&c depending on context but am pretty sure others might think I fall under a because of the frequency of my defiance and others might see me as d because of certain situations I choose not to be defiant even though I could be.

There is probably also a utilitarian option:

e. Defiant when it (likely) produces the best result

I kinda like this more than defiance on principle. But i think i am more principle-based than results-based. I’ll defy on principle and hope for a good outcome, regardless how risky.

One Comment

  1. Maha, how about mindful defiance? As a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war I made a choice to not follow rules and took on the consequences of living on the outside. This included not being able to work as a union carpenter–my chosen career.

    I think you would be in the Mindful and Respectful defiance category. You are respectful of the importance of other people’s choice of being AND mindful to refuse compromises that bring false comfort–like witnessing the hurting of one by another even when it seems justified.

    My daughters are a kind of Changeling. Mostly sweet but dangerous when needs be. They are practical and results based with an injustice activated switch. Don’t mess with them and life is easy, or easier than if you did mess with them. As parents we weren’t too heavily into the explaining / negotiating thing. We let the consequences of mistakes work themselves out–not necessarily “understanding” or comforting but always supportive. This included time spent in the Principal’s office as their advocate–familiar territory for me.

    One more category I’ll have to think about. Call it the Julia Childs Never Appologise! defiant yell. Don’t like it? Do it yourself then:-)

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