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On Raising Wild Children

So I have these five kids. These five wonderful, beautiful, funny, sweet, wild, stressful, stubborn, head-strong children. Five. FIVE. All incredibly head-strong and opinionated. One would think that at least one of the kids would be calm and compliant but that is most definitely not the case. Even the youngest at 14 months is showing us how stubborn he can be. He has this “You’re an idiot” face he likes to give me when he’s being defiant. I can tell his knows what I’m saying, and I can tell he’s choosing to ignore me, and I can tell that one day soon it’s going to stop being cute and it’s going to become maddening and frustrating and I’ll be going through the entire process all over again of molding a child’s stubborn heart. It’s hard. It’s overwhelming. I wonder if it will ever end.

Way back when I only had three kids, I thought there was something wrong with my parenting. My kids are WILD, y’all. They have so much energy, it’s unbelievable. We would take them to church every Sunday and wonder why in the world we bothered. ALL THE OTHER KIDS IN THE CHURCH would sit calmly and quietly with their parents either listening, coloring, or sleeping in their mother’s arms. Meanwhile, Christopher and I would have to march our kids out one by one for discipline because they couldn’t stop fussing or fighting or fidgeting or just plain disobeying. What were we doing wrong and how could we fix it?

I talked to all the moms that seemed to have perfect kids. I read a ton of books about dealing with strong-willed children. I tried so many different methods of discipline: time-outs, spankings, losing privileges, losing toys, reward systems, etc. Nothing worked. NOTHING. What was I doing wrong? Why were my kids so bad? But then I started to realize- my kids are not bad. They’re not. Wild? Yes. High energy? Yes! Strong-willed? YES! But bad? No. I realized that I was disciplining, no PUNISHING, my children for being….kids.

Some kids are born calm and sweet and naturally docile. I do not have those kids. I know those kids, but those kids are not my kids. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with my kids. There’s nothing wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with my parenting. God gave me high-energy children and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when I lose my mind and punish my children for being exactly who God made them to be. So as I looked for the true disobedience and as I worked to separate the wildness of my children from the defiance of my children, I began to see how great they really are. I was able to appreciate them more. It’s hard. It’s REALLY REALLY HARD. Because I am not high-energy. I never have been. So I don’t understand it. But just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean there’s something bad about it.

My kids are who God made them to be. It is my job to mold them, teach them, LOVE THEM, and yes, to discipline them. But it is not my job to make them stop being kids. I do need to help them to control themselves, and as they’ve gotten older they are much better at that. I’m not afraid to take them out in public. I often take all five kids out, all by myself, anywhere I need to go: grocery shopping, a play, a park, the library, a restaurant, church, wherever! It’s not always perfect but for the most part they all do very well. I have no problems disciplining when we’re out and about and they know that so that helps with the disobedience. And I try to keep them calm. But I don’t worry so much anymore about what people may think about my wild children because they aren’t bad kids. They are great kids. Great kids who are full of life, love, and laughter.

Last night, Christopher and I took all the kids out to dinner to celebrate Robert’s birthday a couple of days early. When we arrived, the older four just kind of lost their minds. We were at a sandwich shop where you could just grab your own chips, cookies, or brownie while ordering and they all went nuts grabbing food and taking off. I didn’t know who grabbed what or what I need to pay for. Then they got their cups and started filling them full of soda and fighting over whose turn it was next. Holy smokes, they lost their dang minds! So I took away all their food and drinks. I sat them all down. And I told them very sternly that they needed to calm themselves down. Stop grabbing things. Stop running around the restaurant. Stop being selfish. And sit and wait patiently so mommy and daddy could take care of everything. I told them that if they couldn’t behave, we would turn around and go right back home. And they believed me. And it worked. We didn’t have any more problems the rest of the night. But before we left, and older woman who had been enjoying her meal when we arrived and witnessed all the chaos and then the correction told me that she was very impressed with my parenting and that I did a great job handling the situation. She could see that I had good kids. They just needed to be reminded of who they are and where they are.

Parenting strong-willed, wild, stubborn children is stressful, hard, and can be very discouraging. But I think the key for me is realizing that, first of all, they are normal. God created children with a lot of energy. It’s a good thing. And a strong-will means that they won’t be easily pushed around or swayed as they get older. It does make parenting a challenge but it’s also a wonderful blessing. My children have amazing personalities and they aren’t afraid to show it.

I was that calm, obedient, quiet child and frankly, I was boring. Strangers didn’t smile at me and say how cute I was. People don’t remember me as a kid because I wasn’t at all memorable. My sister, however. Well, she’s always been a spitfire. And people LOVE her. They always have. They remember her. They admire her. She has PERSONALITY. And that’s how my kids are. They are and will be loved and remembered because they are fun and interesting. Not bad.

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