May 18, 2010

You are NOT the boss of me! Independence vs Rebellion, a beginner's guide.

To wrap up the discussion about the joys of raising independent children, I thought I would touch a little bit on a somewhat challenging difference: when does independence become rebelliousness?

Here I am, around 3 years old with a cute little lamb.  You would never know that I was a rebellious child even back then.  I actually looked at my Grandma (whom we were living with at the time) and said "You are not the boss of me!" , when she asked me to clean a mess I had made,  to which I believe she replied by spanking me.

Children begin young, exerting their independence, but when does it cross the line and become rebellion or defiance?  If you have spent anytime studying Child Development, you might know that it is natural for children to begin "testing" boundaries as young as 10 or 11 months (maybe even earlier!)  Toddlers come to a realization somewhere in that age range that they are more than just little extensions of mom and dad, suddenly they realize that they can say "NO!" to a parent or adult and try to exert a little control over their otherwise boring existence.  Probably for no other reason but because they CAN.

Defined, rebellion is specifically a "refusal to accept some authority or code or convention." While independence can be defined as "free from external control and constraint".  In those definitions we can see what is probably the most important distinction, which is, that independence is more about ability, when one is free from external control, one is also probably capable of doing for themselves.

In this way, it becomes important to allow our children to have independence and be allowed to do those things for themselves that they can do.  By coddling or protecting our children from independence we are decreasing their skill set, while simultaneously discouraging and frustrating them to rebellion.

Healthy child rearing should look a bit like an upside-down funnel, in the beginning, you keep them close to you, you feed them, change them, and carry them around with you, as they grow, naturally your "circle" widens and they have more freedom to wander father from you.

Discuss: How do you respond to a child struggling to be independent vs. a child who is defiant or rebellious?  How can you tell the difference?

Just me, AJ


  1. My daughter is 20 months and is just starting to really try and assert herself and become a little rebellious. What I see is a deep desire to make her preferences known. But she obviously lacks the maturity to express those preferences (or needs) in a positive manner. So she throws a fit or is just defiant. I have begun with three redirections on my part. If she does not respond and obey, the fourth is a small swat. She is warned that she will receive a spanking and that is usually enough. This is a great subject for discussion. When she first started showing signs of rebellious behavior it took me aback. Now, its no big deal and doesn't even phase me. My husband on the other hand is a total softie and it really hurts him when she throws a fit in front of him. He's gonna have to toughen up ;)

  2. I have been a mom for many, many years. I have 3 children all grown up, and we adopted our 9 years 2 years ago, so I'm starting all over again. I think the distinction is different for each child. As you spend time with each child, you begin to see and understand their temperments. Then when they disagree with you, you will know the difference. Independence should be encouraged, defiance should not be. As adults we all have to follow rules, at work or home or whatever. We do not serve our children well if we do not teach them to abide by rules.


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