My Kid Is a Little Wild

Confession: I can’t leave my kid alone for long periods of time at all.

I can’t be distracted by my phone, TV, MY OTHER CHILD, or anything else. He needs my undivided supervision at all times. Why? Because he’s two, but also because he’s a little wild. 

I know you’re probably thinking, “Of course he’s wild. He’s two.” I know everyone has different definitions of “wild,” so let me clarify. He’s unpredictable. He’s a “runner.” He sees every open door as an opportunity — both literal and figurative open doors. He does not walk anywhere; he runs. He climbs trees, fences, refrigerators, and people. He has a war cry. People say “bless” a lot when they see me with him.

To be transparent, I expected more from myself.

I have a Master’s degree in early childhood education. As a teacher, I received the highest evaluation score possible every year. A large component of that score is behavior management. I have the training and experience. But still, the child living in my own home, whom I take into public places, is a little wild. 

We do all the things we’re “supposed” to do. We read books. We limit screen time. We play outside. We have sensory tubs. He’s still wild. Well, I’ve beaten myself up long enough for feeling responsible, and maybe you have, too. It’s time to take a step back and say together, “Some kids are just born like this.” Nothing you did caused it, and very likely nothing you are trying will fix it. Because maybe it doesn’t need fixing. Just maybe, this is the fire that will carry them through life.

Still, I know we can’t just sit back and let the wild things do what they do uninhibited. Your wild one still needs you, mama, to guide and protect. Not to squash them, but to keep them safe and learn to harness their fire by themselves. Wild is not the same as bad.

Here are some things I’m doing these days to survive:

1. I changed my attitude.

I was spending far too many days frustrated, angry, and sad. I felt overwhelmed and incapable of handling this child. A good friend reminded me that not only is this just a season, but a very important season. These wild toddler years are the very foundation for a child’s brain development, future academic success, and social-emotional intelligence (see here for more). Of course, it is important to teach toddlers appropriate behavior, but to limit their wild-eyed thirst for adventure would only harm them. I have started reminding myself every day, often before I even get out of bed, that my son needs to explore. He needs to try things for himself, even when I know he will fail. His ideas are important, and allowing him to test his ideas is GOOD.

2. I changed my expectations.

Far too often (and I am including myself here), we place adult motives on children. We think they understand the art of manipulation better than they really do. We assign our adult way of thinking to their developing brains and punish them accordingly. When you see a kid walk by a chair and knock it over for literally no reason, what do you assume went through their head? “They are being destructive,” is often the first assigned motive. But usually kids just want to know what will happen if they rock the chair like that. An innocent motive. I have started reminding myself (after counting to 10) that many of my wild child’s actions have innocent motives. He is not trying to be destructive. He is not trying to run away from me. He is not deliberately putting himself in harm’s way. He is learning about the world and how his actions affect the world.

3. I’m focusing on safety.

Now that I’ve got my mind right (notice how those were the first two things?), I’m focusing on creating a safe environment for him to unleash his wild child ways without causing me to lose it. Our backyard is fenced and there are no rogue lawn tools lying around. Furniture is bolted to the wall. Seriously, all of it. Cabinets and drawers are locked, especially those with cleaning supplies or medications. Outside doors have alarms on them. With a few safety measures in place, I can walk away for longer periods and know that while there may be a mess when I return, he is physically safe. In public, I have different safety rules. Currently researching kid leashes.

My kid is still wild. He has a spark in his eye and smirk on his face that truthfully I hope never goes away. His wildness is the essence of him. So while I hope and pray he grows up to be a responsible, well-behaved adult, I know too that this current wild phase is teaching him much more — to trust himself, to accept his ideas as valid, to take every opportunity life offers him, and to be himself with no reservations. So I’ll let him be a little wild for a little longer. It is, after all, just a phase.

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One Response to My Kid Is a Little Wild

  1. Allyson Willhite May 18, 2018 at 9:17 pm #

    I’m right there with you! This was so much my now 4yo son. I also have plenty of professional experience handling behaviors from the school setting, to ABA therapy, and kids from trauma so this was a shocker.
    I now have deep empathy for patents that hit the news with the kid in the gorilla cage like incidents. I know it wouldn’t take much distraction for that to be me.
    Busy, busy, busy! Fast, and always interested in unusual things. And anything with a button. Did you know the coke machines at store checkouts have their power switch accessable from the front/side at the bottom?? Yeah, not sure how many got shut down before I figured that’s what he was up to- he had to look underneath pretty much everything at that age.
    These are all great points and well put. And hang in there, it gets so much easier! Now he’s still as busy and adventuresome just now he can include others in those adventures and has the skills to be more creative and less destructive. I can finally turn my back for a min without him getting into trouble, it’s so amazing!!
    Really, these kids are just born this way. It’s exausting and wonderful.
    And did I say exausting?

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