[Image description: A blue sky with clouds on it. Text over the image reads, “What if oppositional defiance is not a disorder, but a signal that a child’s physiology is in a persistent state of stress?” The quote is by Mona Delahooke, Ph.D. and tagged #beyondbehaviors. End description.]

There are times in my life when I start feeling my own internal “defiance” increase—though I don’t usually call it by that word.

I start feeling resistant to having to answer people about the decisions I’m making. I bristle against having to respond to demands. I start feeling “touched out” by my kids touching my body, and annoyed by hearing my name called too many times.

I never feel this way when I’m by myself and no demands are placed on me. (Unless I’m placing too many demands on myself, but that’s a different post.) I only feel this way when I’m in a state of stress and someone keeps needing something from me anyway, instead of just giving me time and space to work through my own distress.

I’m an adult, and on a good day, I can say all of these words. Even on a bad day, I can probably manage something “rude” like, “I don’t know, stop asking, I don’t want to talk about this right now, I need some space.” But I still have the capacity to respond (mostly) verbally.

When I imagine being five and feeling this way? And having no access to the internet or a support system of friends…and having no solid, clear memories of times when I *didn’t* feel this way so that I know it’s possible to not feel this way again…and having nobody in my life to lean on except the very people who are making me feel this level of stress? I think I’d be pretty irritable and meltdown-y and my behavior might be screaming for help, too.

But because I am an adult, there is very little I am expected to submit to. Because children are children, they are expected to submit to demands constantly.