Parenting

Love Your Wild Child the Way He Is (And Stop Comparing Him to the Calm Child)

I am a mom of two wild boys. When I say “wild”, I mean:

Starting to walk before 10 months old (each of them)

Climbing and jumping off of things before 18 months old (my youngest);

Bounding and prancing everywhere he goes- I think he just recently started understanding what the word “walk” means (my oldest)

Screaming at the top of his lungs when he doesn’t get his way (mostly my youngest)

Wrestling each other to the floor day in and day out (that’s probably just a sibling thing. 😉 )

There have been plenty of times when I’ve been embarrassed of my kids’ behavior. Like the time I literally left my grocery cart in the store while shopping with my oldest because he would not.stop.screaming. Or how at church we sometimes feel like we’re the only family having to leave the service to let our kids run- I mean “walk”- in the hallway. My husband and I secretly laugh at the families who have little ones who just sit on their parents’ laps and quietly listen, or color, or read. “What would it be like to have a baby older than 6 months just SIT?” we wonder. Or “what would it be like to have a child that has a soft, gentle voice?” Wow. I honestly can barely even imagine!

I finally decided recently that I’m not going to be embarrassed of my wild animal boys. I’m sure I still will feel embarrassed by random things they do from time to time, but I am consciously deciding to TRY to let things slide off my back more. Because you know what? I’m a good mom. I love my kids more than anything! And I play with them. I read to them. I take them on fun outings, and I feed them good food. I sacrifice for them. I try my very best to discipline with love, and I strive to create structure for their lives. My kids sleep really well (thank GOODNESS!), so I know that they are giving life their all each and every day. And my boys are HAPPY. They are happy! Even if at times they don’t act like they are- and the random lady at the store may believe that my kids are super grumpy or spoiled or hyper-active or whatever- they are happy kids!!! They just have a lot to say and a lot to contribute to the world, already! And they love life! They came into this world ready to learn and grow and play and laugh and love and they don’t waste any second. Honestly, they teach me so much about life and about the world. I feel like I am growing up with them.

So when you’re tempted to compare your wild- or should I say “SPIRITED” child- to the calm, seemingly tranquil child you see at the store, church, the library, etc., remember these things:

  • Remember that they do grow up.

Kids don’t stay little forever. If you give them unconditional love, and appropriate boundaries and discipline, chances are they will mellow out as they get older. And those spirited kids should turn out to be charismatic, smart, confident adults.

  • Embrace the craziness and laugh about it.

Ultimately, you can’t control what your kids do. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn as a parent. They have their agency, and you cannot take that away. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and tell yourself “this stage won’t last forever, this stage won’t last forever”. Sometimes a kid just needs to “scream it out”. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your life with your kids!

  • Reassure yourself that your child is bright (intelligent) and has a lot to say and contribute.

It truly is a blessing to have children who are energetic, assertive, and happy. I know that they are special and that they have a lot going on in their minds. My job is to help foster their confidence, their attitudes, and their ideas into happy and productive ones.

  • Find things that calm them.

It helps everyone if kids have things (even if it’s just one thing) that bring them serenity. For my kids, books, songs, and puzzles usually are calm/happy activities for them.

  • Set them up for success.

As much as reasonably possible, try to keep your child out of situations that you know will be difficult for them. Obviously, you can’t avoid every situation, but try to cater to their age and their needs. For example, my husband and I just decided the other day that we will try a new system at church with our youngest, who is the culprit of most church shenanigans in our family: we will take shifts and walk the halls with him, not even expecting him to sit through the service. This way, our oldest gets the experience of sitting and listening (because he is capable now- see, they grow up! :D), and my husband and I each get a turn to sit and really listen to what’s going on. We’ve always taken the approach that if we keep trying to force our toddler (whoever it is at the time) to sit during the church service with quiet activities (toys, books, etc.) then eventually they will catch on and be able to sit through the whole thing. This is kind of true, since kids do eventually figure out how to sit through things, but we feel like we’ve kind of been setting our toddler up for failure. He has no idea what’s going on and only cares about exploring the building. So why wait for him to start screaming for his freedom when we could just let him move around (this is an age-appropriate thing) and wait until he’s older to try sitting through the whole service? This is an example of us trying to set our child up for success instead of putting him in a situation that will be difficult for him (and not age-appropriate) and becoming frustrated when he doesn’t meet expectations.

Every child comes into the world with a unique personality. What they ultimately need is unconditional love from their parents, no matter their personality. I know firsthand that it can sometimes feel like energetic babies and toddlers will be the death of you… Well I can also say from firsthand experience, even though my oldest isn’t all that old, that they do grow up and they do figure things out. The skills and values we consistently teach our kids do soak in and will eventually be understood by them, especially if we are striving to love and live by example.