Focus on the Family

The Secret Sauce to Tame Your Wild Child

Having a wild child can bring the eyes of judgment in every aisle of the grocery store. More discipline is not always the best answer. Explore how love, respect, grace, and forgiveness can equip you as you respond to your wild child.

It never ceases to amaze me how fast we go from helpless newborn to a turn-me-loose wild child of a toddler. Although, these seem like two extremes, and they are, there is one underlying need that soothes both ends of the behavioral spectrum. Learning to love and tame your wild child begins with their need of you.

Chelsea was my wild child.

It didn’t help that she was deaf. Communication was a barrier. It felt like I had given birth to a child that didn’t speak English. Instead of me teaching her how to talk, I had to learn her language. Nonetheless, God had given her an extra measure of tenacity. A trait that would carry her far in her adult life, and exhaust me raising her.

As a toddler, she reminded me of a wild kitten. Adorable. Untamed. Without the influence of the sound of my voice, she heard only the ideas in her little head, unaltered, life was an adventure.

While discipline is an important factor, not to be discounted, there are times when simply more punishment is not the answer to a young child’s behavior. It’s always important to look at the context of why a child is being wild. I’m not saying that you must excuse bad behavior, it is however, important to understand what triggers their behavior.

Why is My Toddler So Angry and Aggressive?

When I learned that deaf children are often aggressive, due to their frustration in communicating, it was a game changer. I noticed her older sister, by just two years, would often ignore her attempts at communicating. This explained an increasingly common scene.

Following the sounds of screams, “Get the baby off me!” coming from another room, I would find my two-year-old on top of the four-year-old trying to hit her.

Understanding that frustration fueled her aggression, helped me to attack the behavior issue on more than one front. Although, the child on the floor screaming for help was clearly the victim, she needed to understand her part in the conflict.

It was an opportunity to talk to her about patience, listening, and caring for someone younger than you. And, frankly, how to avoid being spontaneously attacked.

For the offender, there is no excuse for violent behavior. One of our primary responsibilities as parents is to help our children learn to regulate strong emotions. Deafness, is not an excuse for hitting anyone. Pitying a child, or dismissing bad behavior because we feel guilty for missing nap time, or allowing too much sugar, isn’t kindness or good parenting.

Loving parental kindness, is understanding what is fueling the behavior and doing our best to remove it from our child’s environment and correcting the behavior. Does she have tantrums at four o’clock without a nap? Make nap time a priority.

For some children out of control behavior can be linked to food allergies, or ingredients.

The Red Hulk Wild Child

Food allergies are a major cause of children behavior issues. I’ve witnessed it, many times, in scores of children. The key to taming your wild child is helping your child recognize it in themselves.

When they become aware of what happens when they eat certain foods, they are more likely to avoid them. Children do not want to feel out of control. When we help them to understand that their diet, and rest, helps them be happy, they can begin to have the tools to help themselves.

You might be surprised to find out how many processed foods, designed for children, are laced with red dye number 7. I have found it in chocolate pudding mixes. Don’t go by color. If you suspect it could be an issue for your child, read the ingredients. Read. Eliminate. Repeat.

How Do I Control My Wild Toddler?

I promised you my secret sauce. It’s really a simple recipe. Once you understand the environmental factors that contribute to unwanted behavior, you have the opportunity to be pro-active.

The very best way I found to control my wild kitten, was to simply make her my buddy. I say simply, because it was a simple solution. Nonetheless, it does take time, and intention.

Who Doesn’t Need a Good Sidekick?

With five children, I had a mountain of laundry and a deaf toddler that needed constant surveillance. So, she became my sidekick.

I found that keeping her beside me, literally, not only tamed her behavior, but built a foundation in many areas for her.

While sorting laundry we would sit on the floor together. I would start making piles. Dark clothes. Light clothes. Red clothes. Doll Clothes. Clean clothes– did mention we had four girls in a row at one point?

This led to great conversations. I would sign, “what color?” She had to figure it out, her reward was throwing it across the room in the correct pile. If she was wrong, she would run and get it and throw it into the next pile she thought was correct.

Yes. This made the process take much longer. There’s a lot of work to do with a house full of young children. I get it. But the real secret was my mental shift. The value of my time was not the chore at hand. It was the window of opportunity to pour into my little girl. It became a game we both loved to play.

There are a lots you and your sidekick can do and talk about together. Most household chores, you perform daily can provide for quality time with your wild child. I’ll bet you could come up with some of your own. Here are a few examples.

  • Talk about the colors.
  • Is it a shirt or pants?
  • Do you wear this in the summer or winter?
  • How many red clothes do we have? Can you count them?
  • What do we do next? Then what? (Sequencing)
  • Sorting and putting away silverware.

Final Thoughts on Loving Your Wild Child

There are few things our children need more from us than our time and attention. In this busy, distraction filled world we are raising our children in, often times the secret to taming their bad behavior, is giving them ample opportunity for good behavior. Finally, remember that taming your wild child requires your consistent love and compassion above all else.

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