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Can My Child’s Defiance Be a Sign of Something More Serious?

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​My answer to that always is impairment. If you start seeing that just their general quality of life is starting to diminish. They're not being able to let go of things. They're not enjoying the things that they used to enjoy. They don't want to do things or try things. They just want to stay at home. They want to be comfortable. They're spending way too much time on homework and are very resistant to any suggestion that we back off or don't study so much right now. Limiting homework time and you see a huge reaction then I would start thinking okay maybe we need some help with this.

Anxiety is a funny one to really try to pinpoint because it can look like so many different things. Sometimes kids look on the surface like oppositional kids, but it's really because when they get pushed or feel like they're right at their limit they just can't manage that discomfort so they burst. They get really upset or they might be really reactive. They can even be aggressive sometimes. I think a lot of times when I think about anxious kids we think of fearful, scared, quiet, which can also be that but it can also look pretty angry and defiant, too.

It's about finding out what's underlying this, what's going on beneath the surface. If you're concerned about it, check with somebody. You can talk with your pediatrician. They're a great first step. Then, if they feel like it's something that's a little bit more of a concern, then they'll refer you on. Or, ​if you already have contact with a therapist or a psychologist or you know somebody who knows one, then it never hurts to check it out.