Most adults secretly love the idea of being a ‘wild child’ – a carefree independent spirit railing against authority.
However, parenting a ‘wild child’, is a whole different kettle of fish!
So, what is the best way to parent a little one with a renegade streak?
We asked our Parent’s Talk panel of mums:
Being the parent of THAT kid – the loud one, the naughty one, the one who’s off in their own world – is anything but a carefree existence.
I have a child who is on the wild spectrum. She is never intentionally hurtful or destructive, but she is anxious and intelligent and highly-strung, all of which can manifest in some pretty wild behaviour. Every week is a struggle between allowing her to explore the world on her own terms, and reining her in to conform to what other people expect.
I’m never quite sure if I’m getting the balance right, but as long as she is respectful of others and not causing major harm or inconvenience, I try to stick by her and let her be her wild wonderful self. One day she will either be a free-spirited hippy living entirely off the grid, or the Prime Minister! It could seriously go either way. Whatever she does though, I know she’ll do it with passion, and I don’t want to quash that incredible energy.
I wouldn’t say my children are overly wild, but they do push the envelope. The boys in particular put the ‘boy’ in boisterous, which is certainly not to say my daughter is a delicate flower.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a parent is to let go of being a control freak, and to delight in the quirky little spirited snowflake that each child is. Essentially, I set a few boundaries about safety, health and manners, and then let them get on with it. This can be a challenge, but if I let them have small wins, when I then have to say ‘No’ to something it has impact and is not so much of a drama.
For example, dressing up as Puss in Boots every day for approximately eight months is fine, but attempting to stand up in the seat of a shopping trolley while your brother pushes you through the car park is not, even if your cape is awesome.
Similarly, wearing a banana peel on your head during a drive home from the beach while you and your brother loudly speak ‘the language of fruit’ is acceptable also, but telling your brother that he is adopted is certainly not, even if it is true, which it isn’t.
I am proud to say I have lived and survived through all of these moments. Sigh.
Ultimately, I think the most important thing is not to break a child’s spirit.
I think we are all born wild – there is madness and genius coursing through every one of us. But then we are shaped and narrowed into the confines of what is considered ‘normal’, and are taught to behave in a certain ‘convenient’ way.
There are some children who fight harder than others against such boundaries, whose sense of self and spirit are perhaps a little stronger than most. The triangles that don’t fit into the round holes are often inevitably labelled ‘difficult’, but when you think about it, childhood is the only place we really try to quash such qualities.
In adulthood we celebrate those who challenge the status quo – the dreamers and the people who look beyond what has already been done. We revere the people who don’t accept the word ‘No’, and push through it, changing the way the world works. We recognise the need for creative rule breakers to move forward.
SO, maybe we shouldn’t be asking how to tame the wild ones, but conversely how we should be encouraging a wild streak in our kids, nurturing their curiosity, while at the same time promoting kindness and consideration.
Perhaps it is about our tolerance as adults? It is taxing to be tested continuously, and to face the question of ‘Why?’. It is much easier on us as parents and teachers to look after kids who accept things on face value, and who don’t test or challenge what is around them.
But, when we think about the kinds of adults we want to create, perhaps we should be promoting a bit of crazy, even if it makes us a little cray cray in the process!
For more inspo and advice, check out the interesting research on whether kids are born to be wild or mild depending on their birth order, and 5 ways to get your child to listen to you.
Plus could this be the key to a happy child, wild or not?