All of my kids challenge me. Not like in the evolutionary sense, but they actually look me in the eye, or, more defiant, they don't look at me, and consciously, purposefully challenge me.
We've taken non-violent communication courses. They are not my favorite, because they don't honor the personal boundaries (or self-expression) I want my children to have and to respect in others in real time. We loved learning the language of needs, though. We are pretty strict, actually, with wide allowances for creative autonomy, clear rules, and no punishment for punishment's sake. Because we are all around each other constantly, and there's a lot of exciting stuff happening, there's plenty of natural consquences. I'm like many who identify as ethnic, in that I expect my kids to behave well in public because I intend for them to get all the respect that's their birthright, and sometimes that means they have to earn it. We're old-fashioned in that we think it's a total privilege to have so many wonderful elders in their lives, so they need to show them gratitude in the form of kindness and etiquette, there, too. I didn't intend to go on a discipline tangent here, so I'll just stop at that. Especially 'cause there's the whole free will thing. And they're still learning/developing their wills. And all of that.
So this is how I answer the challenge: I look at what I've got. And consider my options. Then I choose the prettiest one.
This boy is super-feisty. He was born during a different season than everyone else in this house. He's used to holding his own with an extremely strategic 11 year-old (not judging him, he's just on his 150th economy plan for the citizens of this house) and ridiculously active 7 year-old (I'm not judging him, he is upside down on the door frames more often than not), so he's tough. His fuse is short (full-on parental projection for which I am willing to provide loads of evidence). He has no problem turning to others for help 20 seconds before he needs it, creating an environment of defensive air. He's also lovey and he's helpful, so tonight, like everynight, he's curled up with his brothers, who all choose to "camp out" most nights in the same room. In the morning, he'll get up, get himself together like one of the big boys, and at some point before 8 am, challenge them, and challenge me. They will challenge him back. Then they'll be standing before us, a jury of two adults who would never, ever wake up before 10am if we had the choice.
(So I lied. It is about evolution, after all.)
He's given us common ground, though. Born in my last art studio, he's claimed it as his bedroom. He identifies as an artist- a painter, specifically, though he enjoys photography, sculpture, collage and printmaking. He's teaching himself to write because he loves the pictures that are numbers and letters. He builds little vignettes, often gathering rocks, or buttons, or rosebuds into "healing circles" for the center of my table. So when it's time for us to wind down, for me to bring him into a softer space than his brothers', we do this:
And, if the goal is to calm his nervous system, or at least to calm my own, and to give his brothers space, it works. It's a luxury I don't give us as often as I'd like. I hope one day, he'll be old and gray, and me, older than time, and he'll be beside me. Two left-handers, made of fire, painting. Gluing. Doodling. Lost in a flowment.
Wishing you and yours a bit of common ground during the defiant moments, the short fuse, and every challenge in between,