Unruly! How Do You Tame a Wild Child?

BY: - 30 Jun '10 | Parenting

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by Aja Dorsey Jackson

I always swore I would never be that mother. You know, the one with the child throwing a tantrum at the supermarket checkout. When my daughter was small I would inwardly shake my head at parents like that and pat myself on the back for raising such a well behaved child. If you had asked me if I believed in spanking I probably would have shrugged. I didn’t need to spank my daughter because my discipline skills were just that nice.

Then my son came along and that confident, no-nonsense mother got left on the delivery table. Now I am the one trying to run through Walmart before my son has the inevitable breakdown that he always has because he hates being in the shopping cart. My son is 20 months old and whenever I pick him up from daycare or a babysitter, I always get hit with the “He’s so active” or “He is really something else” that I know is just code for “your child is bad.”

He is that right combination of very bright, active, and determined that makes me lose my mind at least once a day, usually by 10 am. He knows how to get out of his crib, his playpen, his diaper, and his carseat, so I have a hard time confining him to a space which again leads to a lot of extra stress for me.   He does not care at all about a spanking and he’s too young for me just to punch him in his chest.

My husband and I argue about this on occasion. He doesn’t understand why he comes home to me pulling my hair out and says “he’s just a boy”. Yet he doesn’t have the job of handling the boy from 7am to 7pm with no break (did I mention that he doesn’t take a nap?) I am willing to admit that there have been many days that I’ve called my mother bewildered and at my wits end, wondering what it is that I’m doing wrong.

My mother says that he acts a lot like my little brother did at his age. And while my brother spent the better part of his childhood as a wild child, he has become a wonderful grown man, which gives me some hope for the future. Her suggestion is that I take him outside and just let him run until he completely tires himself out which I have been doing whenever I’m not working. I will say that fitting in as much activity as possible has been making a difference.

While I used to pride myself on knowing exactly what I was doing, I am learning that being a good parent doesn’t necessarily mean having all the right answers all of the time. Admitting that sometimes this mothering thing gets rough and that I might have to reach out for help is not same as accepting failure. We aren’t just born good parents any more than we are born good husbands or wives. We become good parents as we gain experience through raising our kids and I strive to be a better mother every day.

And remember, the next time you see a mother struggling with her child at the checkout, be a little nicer. She just might be me.

I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with a wild child! How have you dealt with unruly behavior?

Aja Dorsey Jackson is a freelance writer and public relations consultant in Baltimore, Maryland. Find out more about her at www.ajadorseyjackson.com or follow her on twitter @ajajackson.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2199 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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33 WordPress comments on “Unruly! How Do You Tame a Wild Child?

  1. TP2

    Man, Aja!! I have this discussion everyday. My daughter just needed that look, and she got herself together real fast! So, time passes, and me and Mrs P think…”let's go for number 2″, and along comes “I am boy, hear me yell, scream, and roar in the middle of the store so my daddy can look like the bad parent that has no control over his offspring!” And, now the thought of more kids makes me and the Mrs think twice, and usually it's right around the time that my little man gets in the aforementioned role, and we say, “nah, let's table that thought”

    Reply
  2. TP2

    Oh yeah, the question at hand…I usually invoke the fear of God (since the fear of Daddy only works 1 out of 13 times!) And, more times than not, some other parent is usually looking to see how I'm going to react and act like they've never had to deal with an off the chain child!

    Reply
  3. sunt97

    I have older kids but they still have these mini breakdowns. Now I try to restrain myself but I end giving a mini beat down (slap upside the head)or the “eye”. There have been moments where my mother actually had to hold me back because was literally going to take off my rings and go after my middle son, who does not realize he continues to dig himself in a hole by talking. Sometimes you could swear that I was meditating because of the look on my face. Right now my son is on game and tv lockdown from his last performance at the store. I was late to a party because I had to tear him up when we got home.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate
    Tiffany

    Reply
  4. Aja Dorsey Jackson

    @sunt97 my son is too little for the mini beatdown, but I definitely have days where I have to put him in the highchair and walk away from him before I lose it.

    @TP2, I always say God knew what he was doing giving me my daughter first. I love that little boy but if I had him first I don't know when/if I would have gotten around to having another.

    Reply
  5. Tara Pringle Jefferson

    My son is a “wild child.” I'd go to pick him up from daycare and his coat, shoes, hat, gloves would already be on. The teachers would see me coming and race to get him dressed. They needed a break. I got the same, “That Thomas is…something else…” and they let their voice trail off.

    I was hoping it was just a little boy thing. Someone give me some hope! LOL

    Reply
    1. Tenille

      Let me tell you…My daughter is exactly like a 3 1/2 year old boy. She's super “active”, smart and clever. At least once or twice a week, I get a report from her teacher. Last week, she was such a “handful” that the teacher said she couldn''t go on Friday's fieldtrip. Not what I want to hear when I'm getting off of work and looking forward to my Friday off.

      It's not just a boy thing. Little girls are “something else” too. Lol.

      Reply
  6. TheMrs

    I think I am the crazier version of TP2 because we had more after our “wild” child. My oldest daughter was awesome..slept through the night since coming home, rarely cried, hit all her milestones early, etc. so when we got pregnant with our twins when she was about 18 mths we thought “piece of cake.” Well our twins were barely 4 mths when we found out that we were pregnant again with our “wild” child. From the very beginning she was always a lot more active then our other children. She never sits still, always needs to be doing something and trips to the store/market/playground really anywhere are a challenge. She was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5 and we decided not to medicate, although there are days that I wish I had some ritalin for her. She is now 8 and she is calming down a lot but there are still those occasions of needing to spank, yell, and walk away to keep from killing her. One of the things that has help us is putting her into an activity that she loves…for her it was modeling. She did an unpaid modeling job at age 6 and fell in love with it so we are investing in it. It gives her something to look forward to and something that we can take away when she is getting out of control.
    We now have a nearly 25 mth old son who acts sooo much like her, but in a more calm manner. Our daughter would tear up something just to tear it up while our son tries to put movies in our Wii(5 discs were in there and it damaged the spinning mechanism costing us $80 to repair!!!). For timeouts we put the baby in his stroller that has the 5 point harness so he can't get out and lay the seat back so he can't bang his head, another thing he does when he doesn't get his way. We smack his hands when he is touching something that we have repeatedly told him not(we know he knows better because of the way he is “looking out” as he does it).

    Reply
  7. steph

    Aja, I have a 1 1/2 girl and a 2 1/2 boy (14 months apart) and I know all about the mini breakdowns. For a while these two would tagteam breakdowns. One would have a fit going into the store while the other one was an angel and then half way in our trip the other kid would get in on the nonsense.
    I believe punishment is cyclical, what worked yesterday surely won't work today but you can bring it back next week. For the moment, I put MYSELF in timeout. (This seems to work at home) When they start acting out of hand and I feel myself getting over heated I stomp my feet and say, “that's it – Mommy in timeout”. I walk over to the corner. This gives me time to calm down and get a handle on things and the kids find it funny enough to either sit in timeout WITH me or stop whatever they were doing in the first place. Problem solved at least for the next 20 mins.
    Funny thing is that I would love to have more children, just trying to think how do I spring the news to my husband.

    Reply
  8. Nubian

    Wow yep by childrin are 2 years apart to the day. Lucky for me I had my boy first so when my dawta came along i felt like a relief, she was so much easier to handle. I do agree with your husband that he is just being a boy. Lots of Mothers go through the same thing with toddler boys. As bad as it sounds I usually would use chips or juice to keep himf from acting a fool in public. LOL when he starts up, pop open a bag chips so hell be occupied until you get in the car… then pop his little ass .lol j/k

    Reply
  9. Pamelawoodard

    Hi Everybody,

    My child is almost 17 and I went through a time when I cried every night because I felt unworthy of my child. You see, he didn't go into the terrible twos until he was three and a half and then he stayed there until he was almost six. And since he is brilliant, he was arguing circles around me (using logic and evidence, no less) at the age of four. So there were times that I used intimidation and the fear of Mommy. I seldom spanked (very seldom), but I would either pick him up real quick (snatch him up), put my nose right on his and talk through clenched teeth. If he took his seat belt off, I stopped the car. If he decided to have a tantrum in the store (usually because he was hungry or tired-and whose fault was that?) I took him out. He ate a vegetarian diet and seldom had sweets or candy. He never ate fast food at all until he was about seven. The food piece was easy for me because I am vegetarian and had been for years before he was born. But the activity piece? He's a boy. I tried to make certain that he got enough exercise and activity during the day. It makes a difference. He leaped off of furniture and jumped on me when I walked by. He's a boy. He ran everywhere. He's a boy. That's normal. So is pushing limits. Set those limits and enforce before you get angry. When you say, “The consequence for drawing on the wall is washing the wall, then when he draws on the wall give him a sponge and sit by him until he cleans it. and do the first time and every time. He will get the point that you mean what you say and will eventually stop trying you. It also helps to limit stimulation. Make certain your kids eat a healthy diet (and nothing that comes frozen so that you can microwave it is healthy.), get enough rest and stay away from the set. It won't hurt them. My son
    has never had a video game . He does not have his own television. We don't even have cable, and don't really miss it. He went through that time period when I cried every night because I was fussing at him all of the time, but when it was over it was over. He is not perfect, but he is well behaved, responsible, earns his own money by tutoring, and is an A student at a very challenging school.

    But when he was little he was a wild child. A very wild child for about three years.

    Reply
  10. SB

    Whew! Reading this article and the comments give me courage. I have a very wild 3 year old that is incredibly smart and logical. I find that I have to ransom out the things that he loves and keep him active all the time. Patience is something that I am constantly working on as is finding that delicate balance between freedom and discipline. You parents give me encouragement that it can be done. Keep on for the rest of us struggling parents.

    Reply
  11. Mom of 3

    I have 2 year old twin girls. One of them has break downs everywhere! We went to the bookstore last weekend and she screamed and hollered when it was time to leave. Everyone in the store was looking at me as I practically dragged her out. The other twin was walking along like she was the poster child for well behaved kids. Their behavior goes in cycles, one of them cries, screams, throws tantrums, etc. for a period of time. Months later, the behavior will change and the one who is usually well behaved will start acting throwing fits and the other one will take on the role of poster child for good behavior.

    Reply
    1. Valerie Watkins

      Well, they way the do it never really gives you a break, but they are atleast not doing the crying screaming thing at the SAME time, or from what your write not most of the time. I have a 1 and 2 year old that are 8dys shy of being offically 12mo apart and it feels like twins (at least to me) and they also do that, I just have to remind myself if they were to both have melt downs at the same time on a regular, I would most likely be sitting in the front yard in my PJ's at 2am waiting for the little men to pick me up and take me away! lol

      Reply
  12. Harriet

    My son will be 5 in December, and he is a ball of energy! I have to keep the days full of activity for him, otherwise, he's all over the place and will refuse to go to bed until 11 or 12 pm. I continue to encourage myself, knowing that this is just a season of growth for him. The activity is working wonders, I might add. I wear his butt out in volleyball, basketball, the obstacle courses at the park, in addition to reading, Bible verses, rhyme time and math time. He's loving life…and mine is getting some semblance of normalcy…slowly but surely.

    Great article, Aja! Hang in there, sis! You're the perfect mother for your son (as are the rest of the parents who have commented).

    Reply
  13. Anna

    I have 3 kids each 2 yrs apart. When they threw a tantrum I immediately ignored them. They realized how stupid they looked and did not achieve their goal of getting their way. All kids are created differently even those that come from the same DNA. As parents we all have those “Calgon Take Me Away Moments”. As “TheMrs”, commented, we do have to introduce our kids to different things , one of her children loves modeling. with modeling you have to focus and concentrate. It's working for them. Some kids love sports, or even cooking. Most kids get unruly because they have not found something they are good at. My daughters enjoy homework and they know the reward is great grades. My son enjoys sports. If we focus on the individuality of each child and introduce new things their being unruly will dwindle. According to me, 9 times out of 10 a unruly child is a bored child seeking attention. If we as parents can realize this when the child is young it sure makes for those teenage yrs. to be less fearful and stressful for us and them. When I hear stories from parents going through some things w/their unruly kid, teens it reminds me that I didn't do so bad as a mom. If you keep a child busy,(but not too busy)with church activities, after school programs they get something out of it and most kids want to please their parents not disappoint them. As some of you know my children are 20, 22 and 24. I've been there and done that and I hope I gave someone something to consider. When my kids fell I did not rush to their aid instantly. As a parent we know what cry is what. If you don't cater to every fall they pick themselves up and continue doing what it was they were doing. My grand baby has realized that grannie is not going to pick her up everytime she cries. I don't know what happens at my grandbaby's home, but when she is with me it's my house, my rules. LOL. She does now let me put her down and she loves her Winnie The Pooh Swing, finally. LOL. This site has grown since I discovered it. I don't want anyone to get the impression that I lack love, or won't help a child in need out. I can sit on my porch and a kid may fall off a bike and I can't get to them fast enough. I have always felt that I treated other kids a little bit more special than my own, only because some kids may only get attention from others. I have mentioned before that my kids did not bring home stray dogs, but stray kids for me to “mother”. They are not strays anymore , they are family.

    Reply
  14. MTM

    Have you read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child? Your kid might be overtired. I can't imagine too many 20 month olds who don't need a solid afternoon nap, every day. I know my kid is off the chain if he doesn't get enough sleep! HTH

    Reply
    1. Aja Dorsey Jackson

      @MTM I completely agree. He does need a nap. The problem is that lately I can't get him to take one. He used to take a 2 hour nap every day which was my much needed break time but for the last month no matter what I do I can't get him to sleep. I have taken to just letting him sit in his crib for a half hour but he doesn't go to sleep anymore.

      Reply
      1. TheMrs

        Is there a reason he is only in the crib for an half hour? Try leaving him for an hour of quiet time not necessarily nap time, if he falls asleep great if not he has had the time to wind down some. As your children age their needs change, sometimes drastically. Is he eating lunch and then going to lay down? Does lunch include a sweet snack or drink? If so give him the snack after nap time. My youngest son is 25 mths and his lunch usually consists of a sandwich or leftovers, yogurt/fruit/pudding, and a cup of milk. If he seems to be a ball of energy I hold off on the yogurt/fruit/pudding until after nap time.
        As a non-medicating ADHD parent, I have found that certain foods and drinks removed from the diet will have a huge impact on my child's behaviors.

        Reply
      2. MTM

        also, what worked for me was putting him down earlier after really wearing him out with a lot of active play. When he passed his natural body sleep time, there was no way he was getting to bed. but paying close attention to when he was starting to get tired and riding that wave on to sleep was gold. That book really helped me. Just don't let it scare you, because he does use that “if they don't sleep they will be maladjusted” scary talk a little too much. good luck!

        Reply
  15. Ayannacblack

    Wow Aja I know the feeling! My triplets will be two in October and the oldest is all over the place. He has to touch and take apart everything! My other boy is ultra aggressive! Now my daughter…let's get on our knees for a moment of prayer…lol This little lady can't wait to get in the public and show her behind. I had to call my mother the other day to see what to do about her. She passes out, throws tantrums, and cries to the top of her lungs and everything. I know what you're going through.

    Reply
  16. Funkidivagirl

    I'm sorry. I don't have a child like that, but you are right about judging. I will instead give the parent my sympathy. :-)

    Reply
  17. Fran

    when my daughter( two y.o. at the time)fellout the first and last time it was in walmart and i said to my self no she didnt and my self said oh yea she did. everyone was lookin at me like i was crazy for letting her fallout all. my self said run,runand dont look back. so i left the basket grabbed my 1y.o and ran to the front of the store. when she she realized she had lost her audience of me she got up and started chasing me through the store. i stopped,turned around and told her the next she did it she wouldnt be able to catch me . when my next child a was two i did him the same way. they never had TT again either. my 5 and 1 y.o are very active children and so i have to keep them busy and i let my 5y.o sons teacher know that she has to keep him busy and i provide her with extras for him strictly.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      LOL at your comment. I know I am the “Rosanne, Grace Under Fire” and ” a parent of all parents. Ignore a TT and they will be fine(if you know your child). I did not ever do things to my child(ren)to traumatize them. But be careful. One of my kids calls me “Mommy as in (Dearest) One calls me “Mama and the other calls me “Governess”. LOL. In fairness I am kidding, or at least I hope they are. I spent lots of time while they were growing up watching “Mommy Dearest” Soul Food & The Sound Of Music with them. I did also spend time with them watching “The Wizard OF OZ. None call me “The Wicked Witch”. LOL Everyone knows I have great kids and I like to make fun of me, them and my parenting. I am really a good/great mom but my kids are now older. If I can't make fun of us, what is it all for. To all the parents, don't and never sweat the small stuff, kids will be kids. Have fun and enjoy being a parent. It goes by so fast. Side Note: Most know I am a 43 yr old grannie. I found out my grandbaby does not like bubbles. I bought her big sis bubbles and now I find out one does not like them. I got my grand to like her musical swing, what are the odds that I can make her like “bubbles”?

      Reply
  18. Tenille

    Boy do I know about this! I have a 3 1/2 year old GIRL- active, busy, energetic, etc. I am at the end of my rope too often lately. She absorbs everything but NEVER sits still. Basically, I let her know what I expect before we leave the house, enter the store, etc. I do mini beatdowns on the spot. I have stopped caring about other people's reactions because they are not raising my child. Mostly, she just needs something to occupy her. I give her little chores around the house as she loves helping me: lining up mommy and daddy's shoes in the closet, emptying her little trashcan into the big trashcan in the kitchen, wiping off the table. She even likes to sweep the floor. Otherwise, I let her loose in the backyard and open the blinds so I can see her.

    What's funny is that I was NOTHING like that as a child. My mom said I could entertain myself and I knew how to sit down when I was told to. There are days when I look forward to her going to sleep like I do an upcoming vacation. She just tires everyone out. I get reports from daycare about how she didn't take a nap or spent half the afternoon in time out. Really? Not what I want to hear at the end of a long day (I leave for work at 5:30am). We even had to find a new daycare about two months ago because that teacher just ran out of patience and wanted my child removed from her classroom. I just switched preschools altogether.

    Reply
  19. MZQIANANTULLIS

    i work full time and my 4 year old daughter is off the chain with her energy but i sit her and ask her what she wants to do and we do just that but her preschool teacher has taught me a few things along the way she has been a pre school teacher for 19 years and my baby is a totally different kid when she is in school so my advise is to ask for help when u dont know what to do when they test u in public because my baby is good for that we play games in the store like looking for numbers and cereal colors like a game of i spy and we dont have these problems any more WEAR THEM OUT BEFORE THEY WEAR U OUT

    Reply
  20. april

    Ok…I am blessed wit 3 sons almost 3 years between them. Only the oldest when he was a baby would cry and most of the time 4 me not 2 b in his eye sight. But I got a hold on him quickly. And his brother after him. I have never had the luxury of knowin what a calm sweet girl is like so……lol.

    Reply
  21. Sonoma

    Nice Article! My two oldest ages 5 and 7 are perfect angels in school, but once they get home its on. They just let go as soon as they get in the door. I Thank God that they at least behave in school.

    Reply
  22. SimplyRed

    Yes, I know all about unruly children. It ticks me off when people judge parents based on their children’s behaviors. It is usually people from one of three categories: grandparents, teacher, and single folks. They make all kinds of assumptions like the children are not disciplined and it is very easy to change another person’s behavior. As adults we fail daily to change our own behavior so I do not understand. A part of the problem is the idea that we own children and maybe we dont understand the purpose for children. We were given charge over them to spark a love for God. Yes, we have to correct but sometimes our reactions to kids are purely prideful. For many it is about what others will think if we dont control the situation.
    I am glad to read that others are embrassing their humanness.

    Reply
  23. Karen

    OMG! I could not stop laughing, as I visualized this. LOL. I have a two year old and the next time she acts up in the store, I am going to try this. People may look at me crazy, but if it works…I’m in. Thanks! :)

    Reply
  24. Cnettie59

    Anna,
    I love your suggestions. With your many years of experience, it sounds like you know a thing or two about creative parenting.

    I am the mother of a super active 5 yr old girl. Most comments on this site refer to hyper boys,, but in my situation, my one and only (for now) wild child is a girl.I am a teacher and there’s nothing worse than coming home from a long days work hearing complaints from her teachers about her silly ways. I felt so badly being a teacher myself with an unruly child. I don’t believe every wild child has ADHD (that is just a quick fix solution that parents and teachers and even the medical world resorts to) Well my solution to her unruly ways may be viewed extreme by some. But I decided to leave the school system and instruct my child (I felt what good is it for me an educator to instruct everyone else’s child while my child is falling by the wayside). Since I’ve been homeschooling my child (this wont last always), her behavior has improved tremendously. I am very regimented and I provide a reward/punishment system. Furthermore, academically, she’s an advanced Kindergardener who reads on a First grade level. I think all she needed was my attention and devotion. I’m not saying that life is perfect now but it certainly is way more structured and when she acts up,I know that I have to luxury of giving her a well deserved spanking (unlike her teachers). I hope my time spent at home (nonstop) with her during her formative preschool and kindergarden years will reap great benefits in the future when she is enrolled into an a formal academic setting with other students.
    As for now, I’m just enjoying my baby and training her up to the best of my ability with hubby’s help and financial backing of course!!!

    Reply
  25. Michelle

    Hi! I just stumbled across this post and wondered how your son is acting now? Is he still unruly or has he leveled out? I ask because my oldest who is 3.5 has always been relatively awesome, but like you have stated, my second little boy, who just turned two is amazingly bright, but one of the most crazy insane children I have ever met! And I’ve babysat and helped out in my childrens church since I was 11! I just need to know…is there light at the end of the tunnel??

    Reply
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