Defiant Stages in Mental Development
Authoritative action is most easily provoked by the child’s defiant reaction at certain periods of his life, when he is particularly prone to a combative attitude towards the environment. These are the so-called defiant stages in the mental development of the child. The first appears around 3-4 years, the second in prepubertal age (10-12 years), and the third during puberty and in early adolescence (15-17 years).
Defiant Behavior in Early Childhood
In the period of 3-4 years, the child acquires basic skills that enable him to live independently. It learns to walk and move safely, to control its physical discharge, then to speak and feed itself. All this reinforces in the child his need for independence, for the free expression of individuality. At that time, the child’s consciousness more clearly differentiates. Knowing the independence of one’s personality reinforces the aspiration for affirmation. Since he does not yet know how to achieve this in any other way, the child tries to experience the value of his “I” by trying to impose his will on the environment, that is, to oppose someone else’s will. This is the time when man first learns the sweetness of the word “I will not.”
Defiant Behavior During Puberty and Early Adolescence
Something similar happens at puberty. Here, too, the need for experiencing and affirming individuality arises with new strength, which is then manifested in impulsive, disordered, often racial behavior. During puberty and the beginning of adolescence, new vistas, new interests and desires open before the mental horizon of a young man. There is a need for freedom, for strangeness, for the realization of one’s ideals, for experiencing strong emotions and unfettered exercise of one’s strength. All this is very often contrary to the understandings and established customs of the environment, especially parents. The older generation sometimes finds it difficult to adapt to the young; he does not understand her and cannot indulge in her needs, so he easily comes into conflict with her.
Educator’s Role in Handling Defiant Behavior
In the stages when children and youth tend to defy, defiant behavior does not have to really develop. It all depends on the educator’s procedure. If they maintain a calm, natural and realistic attitude towards the child, the defiant phase will pass with very mild symptoms, or will not appear at all. It is important that educators do not engage the child in a struggle for supremacy.
Jealousy as a Motive for Defiance
A common motive for defying parents is the child’s jealousy of a brother or sister. By resisting the parents and their demands, the child wants to express his displeasure that they have really or only in his imagination neglected him since the birth of their second child. Parents usually do not see the real reason for the defiance, so they begin to suppress the child’s negative traits by force, ie they resort to authoritative action and harsh punishment. The child now comes to the conclusion that his parents really don’t love him anymore or that they love him less than his younger brother. It acquires the conviction that his jealousy is quite justified, and the strictness of his educators is a new reason for him to be more defiant. A similar motive for defiance is jealousy of a stepfather or stepmother.
Neglect, Abuse, and Emotionally Rejecting Environment as Causes of Defiance
Raising without love, neglecting a child, and a cold relationship are also common causes of defiance, especially if such an act is accompanied by physical and psychological abuse. A child raised in this way emotionally rejects an environment that has not emotionally accepted him. Because she still places certain demands on him and expects obedience and even loyalty, the child turns to resistance, in severe cases, and open aggression against his educators. By his defiant behavior, he seems to be telling them, “You are not giving me anything, so you have no right to demand it. If you try, I’ll show you my teeth! ”
Defiance in Mentally Underdeveloped Children
It should not be forgotten that defiant behavior is sometimes a reaction of a mentally underdeveloped child to an excessive burden imposed on him by an unseen environment. A retarded child instinctively resists activities that he is not up to, as well as those that force him to engage in such activities.
The Danger of Maintaining the Motives of Defiant Behavior
If educators do not realize in time the wrongness of their actions by which they forced the child to defy, the motives of his behavior will be maintained in the young psyche and then when the child passes into adolescence. A young man who has been accustomed to defying educators for many years will automatically increase his resistance to them when he enters the last “phase of defiance.” Defiant behavior of adolescents especially supports the authority of educators who can not understand that their child is no longer a child, that he has new needs, new aspirations in life, that he now has an even greater right to personal freedom, to their individuality, to independence in determining their life times.
Defiance and its Effects on Young People
Defiance motivates young people to various forms of behavioral disorders that significantly slow down emotional maturation. Sometimes the youth out of defiance renounces obedience to any authority, turns into principled opposition against all norms of social life and cultural behavior. Defiance robs young people of interest in schooling or any useful work. Lagging behind in school, careless attitude towards vocational training, irresponsibility towards one’s employment – all these are sometimes symptoms of principled resistance to everything that is required of young people. It happens that young people express their defiance in such a way that they behave in exactly the way that can make the elderly the most angry or despairing; defiance can be a reason for young people to waste time idle, to indulge in alcohol, to waste money irresponsibly, or to engage in a superficial, vulgar sex life. And the delinquent behavior of the youth can be an expression of its resistance to the established order in human society represented by its authoritative educators.
Defiance and the Development of Neurotic Personalities
The consequences of earlier defiance are also observed in the behavior of adults. Defiance becomes the basis for the development of different types of more or less neurotic personalities. Many characteristics of “difficult” people are built on it, such as quarrelsomeness, intolerance, authoritarianism, tendency to impose one’s will, intolerance of order and discipline, principled resistance to every superior, inflexibility, capriciousness and others.
Prevention and Therapy of Child Defiance
Prevention and therapy of child defiance consists in everything we have said about proper treatment of children and about avoiding educational mistakes. Educators of a defiant child must regain his trust, establish their shaky authority, and create a healthy emotional relationship with the young person. They must abandon their educational mistakes, and at the same time they must not allow the child to achieve something by defiant behavior. His defiance must become futile, meaningless, it must turn into a shot in the arm. The child should experience the natural consequences of his behavior as often as possible. When he experiences that he can no longer impress anyone with his defiant rule, that he cannot anger or drag anyone into a fight with himself, that he cannot gain any privileges or harm anyone, and that he only experiences discomfortness, the child will then leave defiance. In order for a child’s personality development to really take a more right path, educators must systematically encourage the child. They need to show a lot of patience and consistency in this and must practice in avoiding conflict.