You’ve seen likely seen the endearing side of the word “wild” on Pinterest and embedded in your day-to-day talk. The sweet side of “wild” is shown in many pop-cultural instances, like in the novel and motion picture Wild (featuring the lovely Reese Witherspoon), the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, and all of those incredibly popular “Wild One” birthday parties.
But the idea of raising wild kids? Yeah, that’s not as popular.
We are quick to assume that raising wild kids equates to tantrums, or unruly behavior, or a naturally rebellious spirit. Everyone is ready to jump on how you’re failing as a parent if you have a “wild child.” But, what if we shifted this mentality to a positive view of children who innately push boundaries and teach them how to channel their endless energy for good?
I, for one, love the meaning behind “wild” – so much so that my son is named Wilder. I see “wild” being a gift, especially when society is convincing us to fit into a specific mold. My hope for my son (and the next generation of “wild children”) is that he’ll learn to use his passions and natural energy to stand up for what is important and right.
I hope more parents and people will see that letting kids be wild (in a reasonable way) encourages exploration, boldness, and a fierce curiosity. Imagine what these types of kids could discover! The possibilities are endless.
Here are five important reasons why raising a wild child is OK:
1. They will change
Upon the departure from the womb, your baby will change countless times. Whether it’s flavor preferences, outgrowing their onesies (again?!), or even preferring one parent over the other, it all changes. So, even if wild right now means grabbing everything in sight and screaming at the top of their lungs, chances are, they’ll change.
Instead of letting frustrations or fears well up inside, I promise to love my son’s rough edges and walk with him in the process of becoming who he is meant to be, as we should aim to do with all of our children.
Let them explore. Unleash the opportunities to rub some (literal and figurative) dirt on it and discover what makes them unique. Let them choose and fail and try to understand right from wrong. Give them an arena of your home to make mistakes, errors, and messes – just be sure to have your phone ready to record all of it to be shown at their wedding (only half-kidding).
But really, allowing the warmth and safety of home to be the place where kids can change a dozen times and still be all yours is a great thing. The final combination of who they turn out to be will be thanks to your space, love, and finally, release into the wild.
2. They will grow to be fearless
What naturally comes with “wild” is unpredictability and the unknown. This can frighten any parent, from the newbie to the veteran super-mama of four! Quite frankly, unpredictability and the unknown scares most of us in general. But tackling the unknown can be one of the most exhilarating parts of life.
Our kids learn how to overcome fears and push boundaries early on through their experiences, so it’s inevitable that your wild child will give you a serious run for your money at one point or another. In the name of safety, if they tend to ignore your warnings, it’s OK to hold their hand tight and remind them to be careful in precarious situations.
But whether or not they listen in the moment, they’ll eventually grow aware of the unpredictability of life, and thus will be better prepared to face anything that comes their way. Their brave souls will propel them to take risks, find out what makes their hearts skip a beat, and one day, thank you for instilling fearlessness within them.
You’ll be proud to see them go beyond what’s comfortable and known.
3. They remind us that adventure is out there
At some point, our child-like love of adventure shifted into wanting to spend more time with the enchanting pixels on our screens. Our kids get it, and we get it: technology is endless and captivating. But, if we let ourselves admit it, we are all missing out – missing out on the opportunities to be adventurous and boldly embark out onto uncharted waters.
So, the ones who commit to and capitalize on adventure and exploration are really the ones who get the thing worth cherishing. Luckily, our kids often give us the dose of wonder and adventure we didn’t even know we were missing.
Your wild child will remind you to run barefoot – mostly because they’re already outside before you have a chance to put your shoes on. They’ll challenge your heart to love worms, squirrels, and spiders. Life will be colorful – since one color is not enough to transform your pristine white walls into their masterpiece. Sure, a Mr. Clean magic eraser will become your best friend, but so will playgrounds, beaches, and parks where your little one can truly roam free.
Adventure is good for the soul – your little one’s and for yours.
4. They are original
Let’s be real — standing out is not easy, especially for a child. Whether it’s the freckles, glasses, or skin color, it’s easy to hate some part of you and desire to blend in instead. Your little one and their wild and crazy ways might not blend in, but really, blending is overrated.
Our kids should stand out.
The secret to raising wild kids lies with encouraging each to be true to their own self. Our hope is that our kids grow to people who are fiercely their own, and yet are compassionate to all others.
Wild ones are at the forefront of that originality. They are your little wonder, rare and perfect, exactly how they are. Next time parenting gets a bit heavy (because it comes with the territory), remember you are cultivating an original design who will flourish.
5. They teach us grace
Parenting involves a whole lot of coffee, could-have-would-have showers, and woefully wondering where the time has all gone. Parenting also reminds us of grace – the art of forgiving, both ourselves and little ones, quickly.
Whether it’s when your little wild one decides she’s the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and boldly stands up to a bully during recess or when he decides he’s the next Karl Lagerfeld and cuts up your new cocktail dress, you’ll undoubtedly wrestle with a spectrum of emotions – the good, the bad, and the raw.
But, remember to take these opportunities as mini-lessons in forgiveness. They are moments to laugh and lovingly correct (if needed), and another chance to squeeze them tight, because time really does go by too fast. The more grace we give –not brushing over wrong-doings – but intentionally reminding them to be wild and kind, responsible and brave will help us love more and learn better.
When we allow ourselves to raise wild kids, we actually gift them the opportunity for freedom, individuality, and a healthy appreciation for risk.
Next time your child is called too wild, practice gratitude for the unique opportunity you have to develop these little people into passionate, fearless, and adventurous individuals.