I recently have noticed a developing trait in both my boys. While I consider them to be fairly compliant to my rules, they both have a streak of independence running through them that expresses at the most inopportune moments. When I ask them to do something, they know they have to do it, but they are now finding sneaky ways to channel their rebellion. I recently took them shopping to buy clothes and once we were in the confined space of the dressing room, this is when they decided to act up. I’m starting to see that this is their way of letting me know they hate shopping. And, in all honesty, don’t most boys hate shopping? Why should I expect them to be perfectly well-mannered while they are doing something they sincerely dislike? This only makes all of us unhappy. To try and put a positive spin on it, what if their acting up is a way to remain true to themselves? What if being silly, surreptitiously kicking their brother or dancing about is a way to express that ever-glowing spark of spirit they have within them? This actually is a good thing.
Growing up I was the most compliant child in the universe. I rarely misbehaved in public or at school. I was incredibly quiet and didn’t speak up for myself. To this day, I have a hard time expressing my opinions and will avoid conflict as much as possible. I wonder if I had been a little more brave when I was smaller or if I had acted up once in a while, if that would have allowed me the courage to speak my mind more easily in the present day. As I see my boys pushing back against the rules or saying something that they feel and not always in the best way, I do get frustrated, but I’m glad they have that courage to do so already within themselves.
I’m hopeful that since my boys seem to be able to express their thoughts and emotions, even at the cost of being ‘well-behaved’, that this will help them develop the emotional tools they need to navigate this ever-changing, uncertain world. Of course it’s great and easy to have super well-behaved children, but what is the cost long-term? It is much healthier to get out whatever is inside of us than to live a life free of conflict.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent