Is Your Kid a Defiant Bully?

Excerpt from WHEN KIDS CALL THE SHOTS, Chapter Four, Understanding your kid’s bullying behavior style


Kids with a Defiant Bullying Style

  • Does your kid back you into a corner with demands and threats?
  • Are you afraid of your kid’s anger?
  • Do you dread your kid’s outbursts?
  • Is your kid always opposing you?
  • Does your kid blackmail you?
  • Do you fear saying no and inciting your kid’s wrath?
  • Have you felt terrorized by your kid?
  • Does your kid torment you until you give into his demands?
  • Does your kid blame you for her problems?
  • Do you feel controlled by your kid?

The most challenging of the bullying personality types, these in-your-face kids are exceedingly confrontational and oppositional. If you say, “Go right,” they go left. If you say, “Sit still,” they run.

Impulsive, impatient, and reckless, defiant bullies want to live on their own terms. They reject every attempt their parents make to manage their behavior. If you’re a single parent, defiant kids can be particularly aggressive. With only one parent to focus on, you’re more likely to get a double-dose of defiance!

Self-righteous and puffed up with false confidence, defiant kids delight in debate and are determined to win every argument. Being “right” takes priority over being respectful or getting along. When you try to stand up to their bullying, they turn obsessive and harass you until you give in. Determined to get their way, they’ll stop at nothing to defeat you.

The Good and Bad News about Defiance

Defiance is not necessarily a problematic trait. Many artists, inventors, designers, and original thinkers have a healthy defiant streak in them. They pioneer new ways of thinking because they oppose conventions. They use their defiance as a creative force for inspiration and vision.

In other words, when defiance is fused with ambition and channeled into creativity, it is progressive. Defiant kids have a lot of unbridled and unfocused energy. The challenge is to help them channel it into a positive outlet.

Every well-adjusted kid has a healthy dose of defiance. If children are too cooperative or accommodating, they lack definition and leave no lasting imprint on others. You don’t want your kid to agree with you all the time. You want her to have her own opinions and views.

Here’s the bad news about defiance: It’s going to take a lot of effort to help a kid with a defiant bullying style see any relationship as a two-way street. The longer the pattern has been in place, the more difficult it is to reverse. It takes energy and commitment to help a defiant kid break old habits and foster new ones.

What Drives the Defiant Kid?

Underneath the bravado of defiance is a kid who, for some reason, feels unrecognized and undervalued. She lives with a fear of being forgotten or left out. No matter how much attention she gets, positive or negative, it’s rarely enough.

You’d never how vulnerable defiant kids feel because they conceal their insecurities so well. For example, they may look disheveled, but a lot of thought has gone into looking just the ideal amount of disheveled. In public, they might not seem to care, but in private they fret about their image, obsessing about their appearance, clothes, and hairstyle.

Ultimately, defiance is a form of dependency. Here’s why: In order to feel whole, defiant kids must have something to defy. Pushing against someone or something gives them a false sense of strength. For example, imagine a kid leaning against a wall. He may appear secure but what happens when you take the wall away? He falls down. Defiance works in the same way. Without someone or something to defy, defiant kids can’t keep their stance.

What do defiant kids gain from their defiance? Defiance forms a protective barrier against interpersonal insecurities, providing a temporary identity for kids who feel uncertain about their individuality. Kids with a defiant bullying style are easily misinterpreted: Their defiance creates the illusion that they are strong and secure, when actually it’s just the opposite. Spend enough time with defiant kids and you’ll sense their insecurities just below the surface.