Cooperative and Non-Compliant

Sitting around a table.
I know my child can be infuriating.
“That sounds… Accurate.” I say.
“That has been my experience as well. I have found a few ways to navigate that type of situation.”
But then the word “defiant” comes up.
“Let me ask you a question… If you ask him to bring you a pencil from across the room, does he refuse? What if you ask him to sweep the floor? Put away a toy? Or is he refusing to do specific things?”

They agree that he is a very helpful child.
I agree that he is non-compliant.

What is the difference between compliance and cooperation?
What is the difference between defiance and non-compliance?

He is laughing and refusing to put away the balls in the gym.
“It is time to put away the balls” is not a thing he is responsive to.
“The custodian needs to wash the floors now. He has a schedule he needs to follow to keep the center clean.” has him hustling.

He is not getting ready to leave.
“It is time to go.” is not a thing he is responsive to.
“The store closes at 8PM and if we do not get there on time we will not be able to buy Wren’s toothpaste.” He moves quickly.

He is not helping take care of the house.
“We need to clean up.” is not a thing he is responsive to.
“When you look at this room, do you feel like you can find the things you want to find? Do you feel peaceful and calm or do you feel chaotic?” he agrees that things are harder to find, and that he does not feel calm. “Let’s play I spy. What is the first thing you see when you look at the floor? Crayons? Okay. Let’s go on a scavenger hunt for all of the crayons. Here’s a bin to put them in.” He begins cleaning.

After years of explaining everything that I required of him, I can now often say “I am really tired and can’t think of how to explain this to you right now. Can you please just do what I am asking you to do and I will explain later when I have more energy?” And he says “Okay!” in a chipper voice and pitches in.

He trusts that I am asking him to be cooperative, not compliant. That I have reasons for the things that I ask.

There are all different kinds of people in the world. We can focus on making them be the same. Or we can raise our non-compliant children to be cooperative and logical. At eleven I am able to ask him to explain why he thinks a person is asking him to do something. And I’m able to ask him to troubleshoot his ideas. I’m able to ask him to come up with more explanations. Can he come up with a necessary and positive explanation for what he is being asked to do?

Sometimes he’s able to come up with more reasons than I am. Some good, some bad. Sometimes he’s able to come up with better solutions than I am.

Children who are labeled defiant are not always defiant adults.

Childhood traits mature. Children turn into adults.

Adults who are able to troubleshoot. To look at huge complicated situations and break them apart to see how things are working or failing. Adults who are able to discuss things with other people who cannot immediately share the same point of view. To re-orient themselves to a person who sees things in drastically different ways. To understand why and how they look at things differently.

I was a defiant child. I’d stomp my foot and become obstinate.

I just needed to grow.

Not all the logic that is obvious to an adult is obvious to a two year old.
But five year olds can understand a lot more than a two year old.
And eight year olds can understand even more.
An eleven year old has a lot more experience than an eight year old.

He’s eleven. He’s a bright kid. But some parts of life we just need to experience. Some parts of our brain just need to mature and grow.

Faith in the goodness of his heart and the power of example is what keeps me calm.

He needs time. And experience.

  2 comments for “Cooperative and Non-Compliant

  1. Molly
    June 22, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    I printed this article because this is my 6 year old to a T. I want to remember to use these phrases. :)

  2. Laura C Silva
    June 24, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    This is a beautiful, simple, and respectful explanation of how adults and children can interact and accomplish the tasks at hand throughout the day. THANK YOU for sharing these helpful snapshots that illustrate exactly how it’s done. When we think of our children and our students as partners in a conversation, working together to accomplish necessary tasks, the response is almost always one of willing participation. We are a team. I will be keeping and sharing this article!

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