Taming the Wild Child: Navigating the Early Years

This post is not really a post, but an excerpt from a book I’ve been working on. This is from the first chapter titled I’m Screwing it Up. It will be months before I’m finished and the book is available for purchase, but I just wanted to give ya’ll a sneak peek into what I’ve been working on and why I’ve been inconsistently posting blog and IG posts. I hope ya’ll enjoy!

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This parenting thing is hard.  If you were looking for pretty lies in this book, I’m sorry. I won’t be lying  to you in any of these chapters. My hope for this book is for it to be a no nonsense, practical parenting book. I want you to leave this book with the understanding that, 1. You are not alone in your struggle. And 2. Your child is not broken. If you have purchased this book, it’s likely because you have a “wild child,” are struggling with parenting, or you’ve been convinced your child is feral and can’t be tamed.

Recently, there has been this trend of calling children feral, and throwing your hands up in the air saying “nothing can be done, my child or children are feral.” I’m sorry, I know I’m about to hurt some feelings with what I’m about to say, but your children are not feral. They’re not. Please stop saying that. Feral implies that they are some sort of wild animal, and in claiming that title for your child, you’re sending yourself and your child the subtle message that behaving in a wild manner is acceptable and can’t be changed. Your children are not feral, they are likely lacking consistency in consequences.

Is this to say that you’re somehow screwing them up, no. You are doing the best you can with what you have. There’s nothing wrong with that. Your child likely won’t grow up to be an ax murderer because you allowed them to grow up more feral than their more well behaved counterparts.  Sometimes it’s easier to admit that your child is feral, or wild, than it is to admit we have no idea what we are doing. But, why is that? Did your baby come with a “how to raise a tiny human” manual? My children didn’t. I mean, if someone wrote that manual to give out to every new parent at the hospital, and I’m missing my copy, then I’m going to be ticked. Parenting is an on the job training position. We are all perfect parents until we are sent home from the hospital with our tiny, squishy, real life pooping and peeing Baby Alive doll. If you’ve never had a Baby Alive doll as a kid, you were missing out. Just kidding, it was pretty gross. Kind of like real babies. If this were in a text message I’d put a winking and laughing emoji behind that last sentence.

My hope is, that the second paragraph of this book didn’t immediately turn you off, because this book is legitimately for you, sweet mama. It’s for my parents out there struggling, doing the best they can, but still beating themselves up because they feel like their child is feral, or worse, bad. I actually hate the term bad. Like, honest to goodness, abhor it with every fiber of my being when someone is using it to describe a child, and it sends hair prickling chills down my spine when they are using it to describe their child. If you call your child bad, please do yourself and your child a favor and stop it. Please, for the love of all things holy, if you do nothing else that I suggest from this book; stop calling your child bad.

Let me explain. The word bad implies that they are broken. It implies that they themselves are bad children. Bad people. Who likes or, better yet, loves a bad person? The answer is no one. No one loves a bad person, because they’re…bad. When you use this negative connotation to describe your child, you are approaching them from a different headspace than you would if they were a “good kid.” So, I challenge you to figure out what is bad about your child’s behavior and reframe it, and while we are in the business of reframing it, harness it. Chances are, if your child is “bad,” they are actually something very different. Your child is persistent, determined, a go getter, a leader, a no nonsense I’m not accepting that answer future CEO. Do you know what makes future leaders and CEOs? Not accepting no for an answer when doors are closed in their face to whatever their dream may be. Leaders are persistent. Leaders are determined. Leaders are no nonsense, pull no punches awesome human beings. Don’t take that away from your child by calling them “bad.” Tell them who they are destined to be. Teach them how to harness that energy and use it for good.

I know you’re thinking I’m a crazy lady at this point. I’m not. Stick with me, I promise I’ll show you what the heck I’m talking about. Let’s say you have a daughter that’s bossy. Bossy is another word I despise by the way. Anyway, let’s say your daughter is Bossy McBossypants. Instead of viewing her as bossy, we are going to reframe her behavior and say she’s direct and delegates well. How can we harness this behavior? The first thing we want to do is when we see her using her direct delegation skills, we are going to praise her behavior that we like. That looks something like this, “I like that you can tell your friends when you need help.” We immediately want to follow that praise with the next sentence, “Can you think of a nicer way to ask for help? They might be more willing to help you if you ask nicely.” Now, some experts don’t like the term “I like,” because it places the emphasis on pleasing the parent and you want their pleasure with themselves to come internally, not externally. So, if you are of that mindset, you can replace that with “You are going to be a great leader one day, but let’s think of a way to ask nicely so you can get some help picking up these toys.”

Any time we are addressing a child, especially when correcting a behavior, we want to remember to get down on their level so you can look each other in the eye. Think about the last time you were called into your bosses office. Don’t have a boss? Think about the last time you and your significant other were having a disagreement. Imagine, if you will, that you were sitting and for whatever reason could not stand up, and they stood fairly close to you while talking down at you with a stern voice. Does that make you uncomfortable just imagining someone bigger than you hovering over you while you remain seated? Well, children can’t suddenly sprout up to meet your gaze while you are working to correct a behavior. Something magical happens to you both when you get down on their level. Your voice softens because you’re eighteen inches away from their face. When your voice softens, their resolve softens. You’re both in a more relaxed a pliable state. This is where you want to be when you’re correcting an unwanted behavior. We want to mold that child to use those strong personality traits for something positive. If you can get down on their level, by stooping and gently holding their hand or placing a gentle hand on their back, you are saying to them in that moment, they matter. They are important, and so is what they are trying to communicate.

 

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