My first two kids were fairly well-behaved, as far as kids go. The did what they were told, were polite most of the time and didn't really have any huge behavioral issues. When my third was born, he came out of my uterus struggling. He cried a lot, didn't sleep much and when he was a toddler, he began to throw epic tantrums. I'd never seen anything like it. It even scared his older siblings.
When he began school, he had a hard time, especially with transitions, taking direction and not being silly. While he's in 5th grade now, and things have gotten a bit better, he still has times when he has to be reeled in. But we both see the light at the end of the tunnel. There was a time when I didn't know if things would even get easier for him—or me—but we made it through.
Having him has humbled me and made me see parenting differently. I used to think a kid who acted the way my son would wasn't being disciplined or taken care of properly. I would blame parents, simply out of pure ignorance. But that's karma for you and now I've changed my tune. Parents who have a wild child deserve love and support, and these are the best ways for you to give it.
1. Don't judge
If you've never had a wild child, there is no way to understand what it's like. Yes, it's very easy to stand on the sidelines and judge someone's parenting. We see it all the time. We hear friends gossip, we see (and leave) snarky comments on social media. We make passive-aggressive remarks, because we think we know better and could do better. We're all guilty of this.
But a mom who has a feral, wild or unruly child is already aware of the things people talk about. They've heard it before. Sometimes from loved ones, often from strangers and sometimes from the voice inside their head. A lot of them are already feeling very confused, frustrated and sad about how to deal with their situation. Judgment and criticism literally help no one. It especially doesn't help that the child is still, in fact, a child.
2. Don't offer advice unless you're asked
A lot of times, people really do want to help, but parents who are struggling with their children will ask for help or advice when they need it. When they are peppered with questions, advice or handed articles about how to discipline their child, it makes them feel worse. Chances are, they've probably already talked to their pediatrician, their parents and close friends who have been through the same thing.
Unsolicited advice can feel like criticism. And no, it's not because parents are too oversensitive to take it and they should toughen up. It's because they're exhausted, frustrated and probably have already tried the advice they were being given.
For a parent who feels defeated a lot of the time, acknowledgment that they're doing a good job every once in a while goes pretty far.
3. Recognize she's not a bad parent and acknowledge the good
I know there are parents out there who seem neglectful, or don't care if their child is being too wild or hurting your child. But let's be honest, they are very few and far between. When you are able to step back and have some compassion and realize the parent is not a bad parent, and is doing their best, it helps so much. There were a few times I felt like people thought I was doing a bad job because of the way they would look at me and my son or a comment they'd make. But there were also times I would get compliments for handling a certain situation and those nuggets of praise would mean all the world to me. For a parent who feels defeated a lot of the time, acknowledgment that they're doing a good job every once in a while goes pretty far.
4. Realize her child is still a child who needs love
There were times I felt people would be rude or very short with my son, even when it was undeserved, because of experiences they'd had with him in the past. I realize it can be unsettling to have a child act up or not listen to your direction, but they deserve to be given second chances too. I would hate be judged solely from a really bad day or moment—and kids are no different.
While my son never acted like it bothered him at the time, he would always mention it later. He would talk about how he would try to be better and make better choices but felt certain people didn't notice. It was hurtful to him and to me. And trust me, parents of spirited kids (and the kids themselves) know when someone doesn't want to be around them, are unfairly blaming their child or are reacting in a way they normally wouldn't if it had been another child.
Raising a wild child isn't easy, but moms don't have to feel alone. We need support just as all parents do and if you haven't found a tribe that can support you and your child, keep looking. Believe me, they are out there.
Most of all, hang in there. It will get better.