Yesterday when talking to my counsellor about the one time I defied my mother, she said, “It’s interesting you use the word defy. It sounds to me like you were just standing up for yourself. You were trying to assert yourself as a separate independent person, and yet you internalised it as defiance.”
That stopped me, opened my eyes, made me think. Not just about myself as a child, but how I view Jake’s behaviour. At this age, we tend to use words like tantrum and terrible-twos. But tantrum, like defiance carries a certain connotation. It adds a layer onto the event of a child expressing / asserting himself in the limited way that he knows how to in that moment. A layer that makes it seem as if the act is calculated – designed not only to make life difficult for the parent, but which also makes it seem personal.
The word becomes both a description for the child’s behaviour as an attack as well as a shield to ward it off, and sometimes to justify using some sort of parental attack in return, be it a withdrawal of affection or something more physical. Like defiance, tantrum carries with it connotations of a power struggle, a battle. And use of the word colours the way you see the person, maybe even renders them “fair game”. When they’re toddlers they throw tantrums. When they’re teenagers, they’re defiant.
I’m not saying that these words should never be used, or that they are “wrong”. I for one think that defiance can be healthy and necessary. But the distinction my counsellor pointed out made me want to stop and look at things more carefully.