THE BLOG
11/21/2014 05:00 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

My Child Is Not Afraid to Defy Authority, and I Am Not Afraid to Let Her

Ever since she could talk, my daughter has had something to say about the expectations placed upon her. Keen to stamp her independence firmly on every task or undertaking, Lucy (3.5 years) has always ensured that if it involves her, she has a say in it.

Luckily for her, early on in her life, we discovered the work of Magda Gerber and chose to adopt the respectful parenting practices that have guided new parents for decades, RIE. This practice has encouraged her freedom of expression and given her the opportunity to voice her opinion on matters big and small while still being guided gently by her parents.

Empowering Lucy to be her own unique person; someone confident in herself and appreciative of all that she is, is something we are striving for as her parents. For us to aim for complete and blind obedience would therefore be a juxtaposition. It would take a significant adjustment to her personality for her to suddenly give up questioning and obey our every command without thought.

She still needs limits, however. Setting limits comes easy to us and to be honest, without them, life here would be nothing less than chaotic. Holding her to these limits, though, can be trying. Lucy seeks to push the boundaries to the point of teetering before often needing help to move on from them.

This defiance and insistence on completing (or not completing) a particular task is something that has driven us to our wits end and back again. It is also something that has given us many opportunities to show our daughter that the communication lines between us are always open; that her opinion is important, even if it not always accepted.

A child not blindly following authority is not a cry for a stronger hand. Her strong will and independence sees that she is not easily led by her peers, either. I am confident that her willingness to question and take risks to support her own cause now will enable her to make deliberate, independent decisions as a teen and into her adulthood.

And, while her questioning and defiance has a mostly self-serving purpose in her 3-year-old self, we are starting to see examples of how such a trait could be used for the greater good in time to come.

My child is not afraid to defy authority and I am not afraid to let her.

You see, this is how it can look when limits/ expectations are continually reflected upon, with room made for flexibility and negotiation, allowing for some freedom of thought...

It was dinner time, an often highly-charged event in our household with two young children, exhausted from their refusal to day nap and quite particular over the likes and dislikes of their food. On this night, the children were part the way through their meal. My daughter, Lucy, has a hard time sitting at the table to eat. We have a long-standing limit in place, which she knows and understands. If she leaves the table during meal time, she is indicating she is done.

Having earlier left the table, she had already been reminded of this limit during the meal and had subsequently returned to her seat to resume eating. This reminder is normally all that is needed for Lucy to remember that she needs to sit at the table to eat her dinner.

Thunder clapped overhead and within minutes, heavy rain was descending outside. I asked my husband if everything had been brought in, to which he responded that it had.

Suddenly, my youngest daughter, Penny, burst into tears. Her flower (one of many she had picked from the garden that day) was outside in the rain. Explaining the logical nature of a flower outside in the rain was fruitless to my distraught 2-year-old. My husband went out onto the patio with her and Lucy followed closely behind. They searched in the dimming light, but failed to locate it around the trampoline where Penny was indicating she had left it.

Inside, I was impatiently waiting for them to return to the table. The flower was lost. They were all breaking the limit.

My husband walked back in with an upset Penny, but Lucy would not come in. I asked her if she was done with her dinner, because I was going to take her plate to the sink. "Just a minute!" came the reply from the dark. I could just make out her little body climbing in through the now-soaked trampoline netting and I felt a familiar feeling of annoyance come over me as she defied my request and tested the meal time limit once again.

Just as I was about to remove her plate from the table, she entered the dining room clutching the small flower in her hand. She rounded the table to her younger sister and gently handed it to her, soothing her tears with a: "Here it is!"

Overwhelming feelings of pride swept over me as she gingerly climbed back into her seat. I set her plate back in front of her and smiled warmly, reaching out to touch her arm in a show of approval.

She had stood up for what she believed was right despite the risk of negative consequences to herself. What would frequently be classed as defiance by many, to me was heroism. It was just a flower caught in a storm, but that act took courage, it took guts and whilst I will always use limits and boundaries to keep my children feeling loved and secure, I am open to negotiation should there be a cause I may just be overlooking.

My child is not afraid to defy authority and I am not afraid to let her.