Rebellious behaviour in children

Does your child oppose everything you say? Don’t worry. It’s quite normal says Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, Head of The Mind and Wellness Clinic.

Childhood is often accompanied by rebellion, which can be of two types – against socially fitting in (rebellion of non-conformity) or against adult authority (rebellion of non-compliance). In both, rebellion attracts adult attention by offending it. The person asserts individuality through ways that deviate from their parents’ expectations. In doing so, children are responded to with strong disapproval. Rebellion can simply be understood as behaviour that opposes the rules that have been laid down by parents, or even other important authorities. Parents dislike rebellious behavior in children as it creates more resistance to their job of providing structure and guidance. Rebellious behavior can also lead to serious harm to children themselves. It goes without saying that children, quite often, do not understand the gravity of their actions.

Rebellious behaviour, thus, not only becomes a reason for parental aggression but also an issue of concern. Children might start rebelling against their own self-interests. They might start engaging in self-destructive behavior and even in high-risk excitement behaviour that might pose serious risk to them. Rules and restraints exist for a reason, to ensure safety. Children might rebel by choosing to go against such norms and thus putting their own lives at risk. Exhibiting rebellious behaviour may even lead to valued relationships getting affected. Children might be pushing those they care about away from them, and this might create a lot of distress.

Some of the reasons that might be causing your child to behave in a rebellious manner are mentioned below -

Identity

The growing years of a child’s life are the most crucial as they involve exploring one’s identity. Some questions children ask themselves are “Who am I?”, “What am I doing?”, “What is the purpose of my life?”, etc. Trying to find answers to such questions by themselves, children try to gain an understanding of their individuality. When such questions are not answered as per their expectations by parents, children may develop assumptions on their own. In the process, the child may become rebellious and insist on taking decisions for himself.

Independence

Rebellious behaviour could also be caused by a struggle for independence. As the kid grows older, his search for freedom and independence increases. Sometimes, parents might confuse independence with rebellion. This reaction towards the child’s growing independence may actually become a cause of rebellion. For example, you would not allow your kid to hang out at a mall or a restaurant with his group because you are fearful of the trouble he could get into. This will eventually make your kid a rebel who will anyway do what he wants by sneaking out without your permission.

Control

While growing up, children like to have a substantial amount of control over their lives. They enjoy taking authority over their actions and they do not like when parents become authoritative and enforce their decisions on them. In such cases, they might behave as to defy their actions. They in turn go against their parents when their decision-making abilities are doubted upon.

Need for acceptance

It is not unknown that kids often get influenced by their peers at school. Peer pressure influences children to a great extent. They might want to adopt the lifestyle of their peers and have the urge to desperately fit in. While succumbing to the pressure of doing what everyone does, they might even risk losing their identity. They no longer live a life of their own and want to become someone else. They eventually turn a deaf ear to their parents or family members, and instead do whatever they feel is right. The pressure of fitting in in a crowd leads to rebellion.

Attention

Children may do anything to garner attention. They love when someone pays attention to their appearance, actions, and lifestyle. Lack of attention from parents can increase their desire to seek attention from wrong people in inappropriate ways.

Here are a few strategies to help you stay composed when you are faced with defiant behaviour from your kids -

  • Don’t ever take it personally - Their rebellious behaviour is not directed at you. Getting angry and controlling in such a situation is the worst thing you can do. It is better to sit down with your kid, and talk about the issue calmly.
  • Consider why they refuse - Try taking up your kid’s perspective in that particular situation. This will provide you with an understanding of the situation from his perspective, and might help you understand his rebellious behavior.
  • Talk to yourself - There is no better tool for staying calm than the use of positive self-talk. You will need to speak to yourself inwardly about what is happening in front of you. You need to learn to maintain your calm so that you can respond to your kid more effectively.
  • Reflect and honor your child’s feelings - When you hear the child out in a calm manner, your child feels recognized. And because you didn’t engage in any type of power struggle, there is no authority or control to react to, or push up against. This leads to an increased level of understanding.
  • Keep a positive view of your child - Always remember that your child is only learning and growing, and might be exhibiting such behaviour unknowingly. Take your time to deal with such issues.

When a child acts out and demonstrates defiant behaviour, there is usually a reason behind it. It is important to go deeper and recognize such triggers. Whether it’s just looking for attention, testing boundaries, or frustration about school or social life, taking the time to understand why your child is acting out is often a big part of the solution. Raising a respectful and obedient child is not an easy task. However, with careful consideration, it can become a lighter and also a more enjoyable job.

 

Dr Rachna Khanna Singh,

Head of The Mind and Wellness Clinic

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