Posted by Jules Marshall 1291 Days Ago
What does having a rebellious child mean for you? If you have a teenager you will have an idea… surly, grumpy, un-responsive. What is it all about? Why do kids need to go through that stage and why are some worse than others? In essence, what the rebellious kid is doing is developing and desperately trying to hang on to their sense of identity. As any child develops, one of the main tasks of life is trying to figure out who he/she is... we call it a "sense of self". If the kid sees people, parents particularly, as getting in the way of that he/she has a choice...he/she can conform and do what the big people want...or he/she can rebel.
When a child is very small...and there are some very rebellious toddlers...he/she usually learns to conform. That is, do what the "Big People" want them to do. Why do they do that? Generally, because what happens after the compliant behaviour is something that they like; a smile, a stroke, something that tells them that the behaviour was approved of. They then attach that to their sense of who they are. They conclude that who they are is approved of.
So what happens with a rebellious kid? This is a slightly more sophisticated process. The rebellious kid sees conforming as losing something...rather than gaining something. They are losing a sense of their autonomy and power. I remember well the first time my 2 year old daughter said,
"No! Me do it!”, to her older brother. That sense of power and autonomy is what gives a child confidence in their own abilities. If they are allowed and encouraged to take their power, they don't have to fight for it by being rebellious.
Traditionally, the sense is that conforming as good and rebellion is bad. This can also influence how a child then thinks of them self. The thinking goes:
‘If I am compliant, I am thought of as good and people will like me. If I am rebellious I am bad and I will be thought of as trouble, and not approved of, so that must make me a bad person.’
This can be very confusing for a child that is trying to develop its ideas of who they are.
‘If I want to be me...think like I think, feel what I feel, and do what I want...the big people will not like me and think I am bad. If I be who they want me to be by ignoring what I really want, what I really think and what I really feel, then I will be approved of and they will like me. How does a child deal with that?
To some kids it is obvious that overt rebellion would not be a good idea as they are fully aware it brings very negative consequences: punishment, withdrawal, disapproval. These children learn that to hang on to their ‘sense of self’ they have to rebel but in a very passive way. Have you had the experience where you ask a child to do something, they appear compliant by agreeing to do as you ask and then never actually getting around to doing it. These kids are the ‘Passive Aggressives’ of the future, in training!
Maybe you are aware of the ‘Conforming’ or ‘Rebelling’ kid in you and wondered about it. A rebellious kid can often get itself into a lot of trouble...even though it is aware there are options for doing it differently. Maybe you get angry with yourself for being so compliant with everyone...when you don't really want to.... Maybe you are aware of the Passive aggressive streak in you that doesn’t really get you what you want, or the internal conflict between being compliant or rebellious.
If you are interested in learning more about compliant and rebellious kids either in your children or internally within your own make up, contact Jules about learning more about Transactional Analysis.