Posted by: ginki0 | May 17, 2012

Defiant is such a negative word

Confession: This is the post I meant to write this morning, but it turned into such a long, unwieldy post that I figured I had better split it up.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and studying on child personalities and learning types. So often I feel like there is a huge gap between Bug and me which makes it nearly impossible to communicate. If I can understand the way his brain works a little better, I feel like I will be able to teach him better and also to better help him grow.

So often people underestimate him. I’m not saying he has a disability or a mental difference like Asperger’s or anything, because he doesn’t, but he is very extreme while staying in the normal range. So for instance, while he cannot read yet, he is on such a track that I would be surprised if he doesn’t learn in the next six months to do some rudimentary reading. He also is extremely active, and needs to have help channeling that energy. His emotions are extreme too. One minute he might be laughing and giggling, and then you accidentally cross threshold and BAM! He’s crying, is mad at you, and is trying to hit or kick you (or a few months ago, to bite you). I will pay him a compliment or try to reinforce good behavior with praise, and almost inevitably he will become angry or sad, or quit doing what I liked and his behavior will spiral downhill. It’s more than simply me complimenting him at the height of his behavior (after which of course his behavior would naturally fall a bit)- this sudden burst of misbehavior will be a direct result of my attempt at positive reinforcement. On the times when I can keep my trap shut and ignore his positive behavior, he will give me an opening to cheer with him about his accomplishment, and then only can I tell him what i liked without consequence, but only if I do not go overboard!

Apparently there is a term for this type of child: the Defiant personality type. Apparently only 10% of all kids are Defiants.

Now, I wouldn’t term him “defiant”. I don’t think he means to be bad. I think he lacks self control. Yes, yes, he is three. I understand that three year olds lack self control. However, most three year olds I know have enough self control to turn and walk away when they feel threatened without lashing out at the slightest provocation with a complete absence of thought. When something triggers a violent outburst like this, I don’t think he’s even aware of what he’s doing until it’s over. I mean, sometimes he will be violent with thought, like many three year olds. He will get mad at Smiley and think about it, and then hit him. That’s normal. Unacceptable, and worthy of discipline, but normal. The blind rage- now, that’s not something I see in many kids.

But I still wouldn’t call him “defiant”. “Defiant”, to me, conjures up ideas of forethought and purpose. I don’t see those in him when he’s misbehaving very often- I see them plenty when he is engaged in something like art or building or digging or what not. It isn’t that he lacks purpose. It’s just that he doesn’t mean to misbehave very often. Instead, it’s like he can’t control himself. Sometimes I think his nervous system reacts without talking to his brain first. I would term the behavior more “reactive” than “defiant”. I call him my “make me grow” kid, or more succinctly, my “challenging child”.

Right now he’s laying on the floor while Sheldon naps (Bugsy gave up napping regularly by the time he was two) playing with a game that deals with physics and fluid dynamics. Maybe one day he will read this- who knows? So I want to be especially clear: I dearly, dearly love my Bugs and I wouldn’t change him at his core. I think one day he will surprise everyone. I know many moms say this, but seriously I think he has great things in store for the future. It’s my job as his Mama to help him grow to meet his potential. That means helping him with the weaker aspects of his personality and the things he has trouble with while supporting the growth of his strengths.

According to what I’ve read, these “defiant” children at their core are insecure, and rather than the shy kids who curl up inside as a result of their insecurities, these children lash out because of their insecurities. This jives with what I see in Bugs. I have no idea why he is insecure, and he comes across on the surface as confident, but there are little clues. He gets very upset when he can’t do something. He hates routine change. Ok, he hates change in general- before any change in activity I have to warn him at least once about five minutes in advance if I have any hope of the change going smoothly. He’s a perfectionist, and will refuse to try at all if he thinks he won’t be able to meet his own expectations. He’s also very sensitive, and if he senses that I am upset with him or annoyed, this affects him very deeply. Everything put together paints a picture that mirrors very closely the reactive dogs I work with in my business- dogs who are nervous and therefore put up a tough, offensive front to make the scary go away.

However, because he balks and does his level best to make the world pause until he can think, I can totally see him growing up to change the world. I can not see him going with the flow, because that goes against so much of his core personality. He will not be a “sheeple”, but maybe he will open the eyes of his peers to help everyone be more thoughtful and conscious of their choices and environment.

Additionally, from my readings and the quizzes I’ve taken for him, he apparently could easily be labelled “gifted” even though we haven’t gotten him officially tested. The label means nothing to Daddy or I, because we are going to keep doing what we are doing regardless. If he’s gifted, he’ll just grow farther faster, that’s all. And if not, he’ll still be prepared for life because either way we are encouraging his strengths and helping him work on his weaknesses. Both Daddy and I are labelled “gifted”, but that doesn’t mean we are superior in any way. In fact, we both have the related tendency to vastly over think things and thereby shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot, so “giftedness” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I know some people who as soon as they hear that word think that the person to whom the word is applied is some pretentious know it all. Most of these “gifted” people are not. Maybe you have some “gifted” friends and don’t even know it. I know many of my friends are “gifted” and many are not. But all of them have something to share with my kids, and all of us learn from and grow with one another,

Ok, so I got a bit off topic. So basically, it seems that we have on our hands a gifted defiant child. And then there’s Smiley. It’s too soon to tell yet whether he is advanced. And he’s certainly not “defiant”. Instead, he’s the 40 or 50% of the population who are typical children- labelled “resilient” children. He totally fits that bill. I remember when we were having a nightmare of a time with bedtime for Bugs. Everyone said, “Use a routine”. We had one. We kept adding to it. One of our friends finally told us the routine had gotten too long, and to shorten it. Thanks! More advice was, “Put him in bed, tell him good night, and leave the room.” Bugs was in a toddler bed, and we were like…. So, what to you do to keep him in bed? Drug him? We tried the Supernanny reset technique. Not only did he think it was hilarious, but he physically outlasted both of us. Finally, we understand the advice. Most kids are not Bugs. Most kids, apparently, are Smileys. For Smiley, that advice totally works. Just last night, I carried Smiley up to bed, still awake. Daddy was sitting in the rocker in the room the boys share while Bugs was on his bed trying to go to sleep. By this I mean talking, tossing and turning, making excuses, asking for water, thinking about jumping around like a monkey, and generally getting into trouble. Simply out of habit from dealing with Bugs, I handed Smiley to Daddy for him to rock to calm. Daddy was like, “Why don’t you put him in bed?” I was like, “Oh yeah, this is Smiley.” I put him in bed and tucked him in and left. He fell asleep in minutes, while Bugs still needed help for another say 20 minutes or so. So, tuck him in and leave apparently does work- just not for Bugs.

Smiley is the typical kid. The easy child. The kid basically all of the advice is based on. Bugs is the kid who challenges my knowledge of psychology and makes me continually feel that, despite all my studying of behavior, I am a complete idiot and know nothing about behavior or motivation. He makes me grow and learn. He forces me to become a better person to help him. And for that I am forever grateful.

And I’m also forever grateful to my Smiley for gleefully giving me all the hugs and cuddles I need to keep my head up during Bugs’s challenges!

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