After working with children for years, I’m convinced that their challenging behaviour is motivated in part by the desire for power that lies deep within the human spirit.
From a very early age, they just don’t want anyone telling them what to do. They are also great admirers of strength and courage. Maybe this is why mythical characters like Superman, Robin Hood have been so prominent. Perhaps it is also why kids brag that “My dad can beat up your dad!” (One child said in reply, “That’s nothing; my mum can beat up my dad, too!”)
It is a fact that most boys, and some girls, care about the issue of “who’s toughest”. Whenever a youngster moves into a new neighbourhood or a new school district, he often has to fight, either verbally or physically, to establish himself on the hierarchy of strength. There is usually a “big-shot” in a group of children, who bosses everyone else around. There is also a little kid at the bottom of the ladder, who takes the brunt of everyone’s abuse. And each child between those extremes usually knows where he or she ranks in relation to the others.
I believe this admiration for power also makes children want to know how tough their leaders are. They will occasionally disobey adults for the precise purpose of testing their determination and courage.
Thus, whether you are a parent, grandparent, bus driver or school teacher, I can guarantee that sooner or later, one of the children under your authority will clench his little fist and challenge your leadership.
He will convey this message by his disobedient manner. “I don’t think you are tough enough to make me do what you say”.
The way you handle that confrontation is being watched closely by every child in the group. Your reaction will determine how soon another occurs and with what intensity it is driven.