Sarah Mae
About the Author

Sarah Mae has a past that would be her present if it weren’t for Jesus. A blogger, author, and co-author of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, she’s currently writing The Complicated Heart, a book for broken-hearted lovers of Jesus. Learn more at @thecomplicatedheart on Instagram or...

(in)side DaySpring: things we love
& you will too!
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(in)side DaySpring:
things we love
& you will too!
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Reader Interactions


  1. My goodness my daughter was a wild one!! She was also intense and very serious ( she gets those traits from me…sigh). She would actually hit people who would come up to her and try to say hello. That was when she was a baby! She is now near 4 and thank God she is much more calm. She was tantruming very early so I hope she sort of out grew it. We love Sally Clarkson’s books as well, and I just did the women living well gentleness challenge, which got me mindful about how I discipline her.

    • I have raised a wild daughter, she has been a delight to me in my old age. She is now the mother of 4 and has two wild ones of her own. She will occasionally call and apologize for being a wild child because she is getting pay back from her own wild ones.
      She has been a delight in the middle of her wildness. She presented me with my first grandchild while unmarried. She has been a wonderful mother to her four children. She says that I set the example for her to raise her wild ones.
      God has been with her every step of the way and with me also. I would never have wanted to miss out on the wonderful experience of raising this amazing wild child.
      I appriciate the grace and love of our Heavenly Father so much more because of the experience of raising this child.

  2. I suspect I have a wild one, and she’s only 3 months old! This girl already has me on my toes every second of everyday, but she can be the sweetest little baby too. I will tuck this advice away!

    • Please do! I wish someone would have told me earlier that one disciplinary method does NOT work for all children. No formula’s.

      I love her spirit, and I’m praying hard that Jesus gets it!

  3. Oops I think I either erased my comment or it didn’t get posted, I totally know how it is having a wild child, as mine was as well. She has thankfully outgrown that phase, in certain respects. Sally’s books really helped us, as did the Women Living Well Gentleness challenge.

  4. This is a great post and very helpful to me! My daughter Layla sounds very similar to your Caroline:) I too am finding that just lots of time and loved poured into her is the best thing I can do. Thanks for sharing!! -Audry Cece (

    • I smiled when I read this- My Layla {7 years old} is exactly the same way! 😀 Or rather was… after a fewyears of pouring out love instead of frustration- I finally “get” her personality. She is exuberant, vibrant but amazingly sweet and smart. I truly believe that her Wild days were just the primer on the painting, a foundation laid for all of the wonderful and amazing things that she is… Praying for your Layla- and please pray for mine! 😀

      • My Leila is now 10 and is amazing. We had no idea what to do with her when she was 5. Our church taught spanking, which backfired. We went the ultra-love route and she is a lovely, giving, energetic child now. Will pray for all the Leilas and Laylas. Christi

  5. Wonderful Sarah Mae,
    I love this post and have prayed for Caroline today. How honored I am by your friendship. May He channel Care’s energy into passion for Him and may He grant you wisdom, patience and grace every day to find a way to show her His true self and to see her as a gift from his hands.

  6. Oh I so needed to hear these gentle words. We definitely have a “wild one” in our house!

    • Keep praying that you will delight in your wild one, and I believe you will. I know how hard it is when you’re tired and just done and don’t know what to do. Hang in there. I’m with ya!

  7. Thank you! Yesterday she had me in tears and I was full of shame on how I behaved… probably worse than her. My spicy little girl :)… We are at our ends and really don’t know what to do. We also just had a baby which makes your advice even more applicable. Your words were so beutiful and much needed… I do love her like mad and my heart knows that’s what she needs more of. Thank you.

    • Alexis, I know how hard it is, and I know some days you don’t know how you’re going to make it. But you will. I’m praying for you right now.

      • Thank you for your prayers… I realized that I need to take this to Jesus more… He entrusted me for thsi job- he will see me through it! Pray pray pray! Also I was blessed with some quiet time this morning by a good friend and I came across this verse… I have never read it before and I wanted to share it with you and all these mamas who are struggling and even feeling the guilt: Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a sheperd: He gathers the lanbs in his arms and he carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”… Beautiful isn’t it!? He is leading us ladies- gently at that!!

  8. Wow 🙂 Thank you so much for this! My son is driving me half-mad already this morning, and it’s not even 8:00am! I thought I’d come on here to see if I could find something to put me in the right mind set to handle today, and this truly has helped me! Thank you so much for your words, and the advice you offered to find joy in our little monsters… 🙂 Just knowing that I’m not alone today! 🙂 Thank you!

  9. Even though she was our fifth child, nothing prepared us for the breathtaking parenting journey she would take us on. By God’s amazing grace I “got” her-except for one thing. I expected “traditional” discipline methods to work. Oh how desperately wrong I was, and I was unaware of any other ways to train her wild spirit. But, the scriptures are always enough, aren’t they? Although I desperately delighted in her and joined in her dance each day, I often failed her in her greatest need-the protection of appropriate discipline when her crazy train jumped the track. Until the Lord reminded me that it was His kindness that led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). Radical-at her worst I gave her my best-tenderness, forgiveness, gentle words, love, love, love- patience, compassion, kindness, love, love, love. And her heart (which had been growing cold and hard from regular “episodes”) softened, and I could shepherd her.

    We are only eight years into this glorious adventure with her and there are many more layers of our experience, But, TAKE HEART- there is great joy in this sanctification of parents and children.

    And, perhaps more importantly, as God makes us and our children strain, struggle, and sometimes succeed in our days, we can praise His name for the many times he rescues us and give Him glory when he offers us victory.

  10. Thank you so much for these words this morning. I, too, have 2 very spirited daughters! My son is much more obedient, as time out works well for him. When our first daughter came along, she was so different from big brother! And, oh! How we’ve struggled! Finally we came to the same conclusion…love her all the more, and we’ve seen such a change.

    Thanks for the encouragement and affirmation!

    • He weaves all differently, doesn’t He? I just have to remember, I was a pretty wiley spirit and He got a hold of me.

      The angry you get, the more you hug those little ones! Haha!

  11. It’s like you wrote this just for me! I have a 2 1/2 year old girl I refer to as a spitfire as well (which amuses my mother)! THANK you for this! I used to look at parents of similarly tempered children and think they just weren’t parenting hard enough… then I was gifted with this child who was stubborn from the womb!

    • Oh yea, I seriously thought I was such a great parent, then I had Caroline and my pride tripped me right over. Funny how that works, eh? 😉

  12. Thank you so much for posting this today. I have a very lovely but very demanding and disobedient toddler and I really needed to read these words right now. I thank God for his timing with these things. God Bless You and your family!

  13. Love this post so much, and totally relate. Thank you so much for sharing. Caroline sounds a lot like my Julia. My sweet J is just wired differently . . . adventurous, energetic, fearless. Exhausting for Momma sometimes! I love her so much . . . sometimes when we’re in the midst of our “craziness” I imagine adult Julia and what a wonderful independent and feisty soul she will become. Now if only I can survive until her fourth birthday . . .

  14. This is so true! We have 6-year old triplets and one of the boys is just a whirlwind of stubbornness and unpredictable emotions. Especially when compared with his obedient, pleaser siblings, he really tends to be a nail that sticks out and snags you. It goes against my disciplinarian fiber, but I have found that speaking out the good in him, talking about the awesome gifts and talents that God has given him and praying specific verses over him at night have done wonders in taming his temper and passion. My husband and I know that his strong personality will one day be an asset to him so we don’t want to crush that spirit, just mold it as we grow with him so that he continually becomes a child reflecting the Father’s love and glory. Above all, we are seeing that God is faithful to His Word and promises that relate to parenting and heart transformation!

      • LOL, if I’m honest with myself, he is much more like me that I care to admit 🙂 My dad is fond of saying that I was ready to leave home at age 5 as I had outgrown my need for parenting. And yes, I too believe that because strong spirits are never satisfied with life in the box, they are the ones that so often find the missing piece to a puzzle (or just go create their own piece.) Watch out when God gets ahold of those ones!

  15. Just yesterday I realized that when my “agitator” is working my last nerve, my tendency is to push him away, but what he really needs is to be pulled in even closer. It goes directly against what I naturally want to do, but it’s critical and it works, just like your beautiful blog has perfectly stated.

    • You know, you’re on to something. When they act “crazy” we want to get away, push them away, and then they keep acting out. But if we pull them in close and love them all the more, I believe that’s when the cycle *begins* to break. Their personality won’t change, but who doesn’t do better when they know they are secure and loved?

      Thanks for the comment!

  16. What do you do with the verses about disciplining your child, spare the rod spoil the child etc? I too have a spirited, wonderfully vibrant and strong willed daughter, but it raises concern for me when I read, stop spanking, and rub her face with your hands. It sounds very politically correct. I’m not trying to be contrary, but sincerely wondering, asking what you do for discipline? The Bible calls us to discipline our children, you have decided to stop ‘traditional’ methods of discipline, and as a professional athlete of 8 years, I understand that every child does not respond to the same form of parenting as every athlete does not respond to a cookie cutter style of coaching. I would love to hear your answer. 🙂

    • Hi Erin,

      I completely believe that God knows best with our children, and we need to take in the whole counsel of scripture. I believe that “spare the rod” is literal and figurative. Very often, in my opinion, spanking works if done appropriately. However, if spanking is clearly not working, then we must not exasperate our children, we find other ways. Let me give you an example: my Care did something that prompted a spanking from me. After I spanked her she began hitting herself in the head over and over again, and it was really sad. I knew spanking hadn’t been working (she never responded to it and I wasn’t going to beat her) and this was the last straw.

      Now, does it mean I never spank her? No, but I reserve it (and use it rarely) for VERY serious things (like running out of our house into the street). We have found that she became more obedient when we stopped spanking and used other forms of discipline (time-outs, vinegar, not letting her have a toy, etc.).

      Let me be clear, I absolutely believe that we need to train and discipline our children, just as our heavenly Father trains and disciplines those He loves.

      Did that answer your question?

      • I have a problem with spanking; I truly believe that violence begets violence. Sometimes I think that we, as parents, spank our children because we can, They are little and we have the control.
        I think of my Savior on the way to Calvary and the violence he faced. and that stops me from being violent. He said “…they know not what they do.”
        I find that time outs work if I am consistant.

        • The word “discipline” means “to teach,” not “to punish,” and a shepherd’s rod is a guiding tool, not a striking tool.

          I think that the recommendations in this post should are wonderful and should be the default way of dealing with our children, not used only for those who don’t comply readily to other techniques.

          • Years ago I read an article that showed a shepherds rod & how it was used. The hook was meant to pull a sheep back to the fold. It wasn’t used to beat the animal or spank. I do spank when appropriate. I have also remembered that any discipline should be used for direction & not to gain desired behavior by pain

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this article today. My third child( a little girl who’s not quite 2) is very spirited, energetic, and at times a bit of a bully. I really appreciate your wisdom in this situation, and it’s so comforting to know I’m not alone!

    p.s. Your little girl is adorable!
    p.p.s. I can’t wait to read your book this fall!

    • Haha, I love all your “p.p.s”! 🙂

      Little ones are hard to raise as it is, throw in a spirited one and you should just spend your days on your knees in prayer!

  18. Thank you for your wise words! I have one of “those boys” – wild, loud, can’t sit still for more than five seconds, doesn’t respond to discipline. I wonder what to do with him. Some days I feel like just sending him to daycare would solve everything. But you are so right. I have to love this precious boy extravagantly. I am ashamed of how I respond to him sometimes. I want him to know that I truly do delight in him. God’s pursuit of our hearts doesn’t stop when we are difficult, and I want to model that for my children.

    • Melissa, I think sending him to daycare would make things worse if he’s as you say. He needs you now for all that foundation, love, grace, teaching, training, etc.

      Keep going mama, you can do it, I know it. I’m praying for you right now!

  19. OH, HOW I NEEDED THIS!!!!! For this reason alone, I am so glad I didn’t shut down my blog completely when I decided to quit writing. Every now and again, I look through my blog feed and this title caught my eye… because I have THAT CHILD!

    Thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement.

  20. My 2nd child is like that. And I messed it all up for many years. Thought she was TOUGH, when really she is SENSITIVE. Felt she needed correction and discipline when she needed love love and more love. When she was about 7, my husband told me he felt that we needed to stop disciplining and just love her when she was naughty. I thought he had lost his mind! But it worked! She is almost 11 and such a different person. A true delight. She loves to write notes back and forth to me, she is poetic! She still struggles some days, but oh, it is soooo much better!

    Of course all that about her and my 4th child, he’s 5, is WAY hard. 🙂 God sure knows how to keep us humble!!!!

    • Amen to the humble thing!

      I’m really glad I listened to some older, wiser women who have gone before me who said, “don’t spank too much”. I am so glad I caught on to Caroline early and did keep going in the direction I was, I really think I would have damaged her spirit.

  21. I’m always glad to have more books to add to my stack. Thanks for the recommendations. Yesterday, after losing my cool a few times, I fished out my copy of “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The thing is, my firstborn and I are BOTH spirited/sensitive in various ways and it makes everyday full of wonder AND frustration. I have yet to figure out how to keep my energy tank filled as I’m a somewhat introverted mom spending my days with my 4-year-old full-throttle extravert (not to mention little sis who is in the middle of the dramatic twos). At any rate, it helps to hear stories of how others are working with wild ones and loving them well. 🙂

      • You’re so sweet. 🙂 Refuel times for me are nap time (which is really just quiet room time for my four year old) and after they’re in bed. My husband and I find ourselves burning the midnight oil because that quiet time is soooo precious…and then I’m sleepy come morning. LOL. I also teach in an adult ESL class at my church one night a week, and then one night a month I have my writers’ group, a wonderful place of mutual encouragement and nurture of the creative side.

  22. Your Caroline sounds just like my Grace. I’ve been so discouraged and frustrated with her wild nature. This inspired me today. Thank you.

  23. Your post was such a breath of fresh air this morning. And a CONSTRUCTIVE breath, at that. I have a VERY spirited 2yo boy and some days (including yesterday) are so tough with him. He is a sweet boy, he is smart, but he also gets carried away, touches things he shouldn’t, doesn’t take no for an answer, yells, swings at me, and says “no” more times than he says “yes”. I am trying to slow down with him, meet his intensity with tenderness (and I fail about as equally as I succeed with this) – it is always heartening to read that I’m not alone, and pick up a few more ideas to try. Thank you so much!

  24. Sarah Mae.. while reading this and your suggestions this morning..was like healing to my soul. I too have a Wonderfully Made Abigail, whom I love dearly, but struggle with like you (she’s four). Thank you Thank you Thank you for writing this. I have new hope for my days I spend with her and will be trying your suggestions.

    I believe God has shown me the answer to some of my prayers through this post!

    Thank you for letting God use you!!

  25. I too have a WILD child. He is now going on 18. My turning point came when I in desperation said to God I can’t do this he’s yours help him. With this came love and understanding, acceptance an courage. We still have our moments but God has been the bridge that keeps us loving and laughing.

  26. I had/have the wild child,…. they grow up to be AMAZING teenagers when loved on and trained toward SELF control. My beautiful and DELIGHTful oldest daughter was the definition of wild child. She threw fits and hit and screamed… and we (her daddy and I) spanked and screamed and all generally behaved badly. Then we loved and held our own tounges in self control. We learned that compromise and reconcillation are not postions of weakness but of strength. We prayed. Then prayed some more.

    I’ve vented to a friend who’s been there and has come out the other side or parenting a wild child to delighting in a strong young woman. Her greatest piece of advice “Don’t take it personally when she can’t control herself . We are all selfish and disagreeable sometimes. She is just needing control and sometimes you can give it to her and sometimes you can’t. But YOU can’t get so emotionally wrapped up in her bad behavior.”

    My friend’s wild child will be gratuating college with honors soon and just applied to her masters program all while working full time and living on her own. My wild child well…..she still has her moments but this weekend she used her babysitting money to take her brothers to the movies and out for tacos. She was one of about 20 students in a school of 1500 to be asked to be a student math tutor for younger children because “she has potential and drive and the right attitude.” according to her counselor. She has a heart for justice and those in need of understanding. She hugs me first thing every morning. I delight in her!

      • Thank you for reminding me to TELL her “I delight in you.”

        Compromising in the small stuff can lead to peace quicker than spending an hour on something that has no eternal or heath/safety implication. When you have a bad day and both of you have behaved badly (trust me it happens to all of us) the first to offer reconcillation. Be the first to swallow your pride and “postion of authority” love on her and aplogize first. Hey, that may be good advice for life not just parenting. I need to post that on the fridge.

  27. Yes it does help, thank you Sarah Mae 🙂
    This week we are starting a book study on The Mission of Motherhood at my house. I noticed similarities with your post today and Sally’s writings, and have had some apprehension on this subject. Thank you for taking the time to clarify. What do you think is the best format to follow with a group of moms reading through one of her books?
    From across the seas,

    • Erin, that’s a great question! I would just read a chapter on your own and then get together and discuss it along with the scripture and questions in the back of each chapter. You’ll have some great discussions – let me see if I can get Sally on to answer this question as well! 🙂

    • It’s certainly easy to get frustrated! Everyday is a battle, and everyday I see more and more why I desperately need His grace…as do my babes!

  28. I so relate to your post!! My daughter has been a wild child since birth, but she is crazy fun as well. I use to tell friends I wasn’t going to have any hair left! I’ve put myself in time out to keep from going berserk. Maddie is almost 11, and she’s calmed down a lot. Every now and then, she’s still capable of a fit, but she is learning to control herself more! I learned early on that when Maddie was looking for trouble, it was time for me to sit and cuddle with her or read a book…really do anything with her that gave her positive attention. She used to get in trouble ALL.THE.TIME at school for socializing, inattention, not getting her work done, but she is learning! Rarely does that happen anymore. I love her spirit, enjoy her personality immensely and love her heart for God! Keep up the good work with your own wild child!! Thanks for sharing your heart and such great ideas!

  29. This post has spoken to me so much 🙂 I have a almost 7 year old son who is a going concern! He is full of life, he’s exciteable and is spirited! I have just learned recently how to approach him differently and not conform him into someone he isn’t. I try to accept his zest for life, his talkative and hyper personality and not see it as something that has to be changed, but something that should be embraced. I try to chanel his energy in positive ways now. It has been so much less stressful on him and on me to accept him as he is and work with him where he is. God gave him to me and I love him just the way he is 🙂

  30. First of all I have to say I never saw a prettier, cuter girl than your wild one. God bless her.
    Second of all my wild one is 17 now and he brought home a dog even though I told him no dog in my house. Dad doesn’t want dog. I don’t want dog. My best friend and soul sister is scared of dogs and will never come to my house again if I have a dog. NO DOG. We have a dog now as wild as the owner. I didn’t have the heart to throw it out.

  31. I couldn’t agree with this more! I have a very similar 3.5 yr. old spit-fire. Fiery, affectionate, stubborn, and delightful all wrapped up in one little bundle!

    I came to some of these very same conclusions early last year and do some of these very same things (especially with the spanking and the hands), and it has made a world of difference.

    I have found, too, that when she is especially out-of-control, or when I’m struggling with my own frustration or impatience with her, I stop, hug her tight and just pray Scripture over her, confessing my own lack of impatience and compassion if necessary. Sometimes I feel so helpless, but I KNOW that HE is not, and I surrender my weakness that He might be shown strong!

  32. Your post brought back so many memories! I, too, had no idea what to do with my strong-willed Anna. I spent so many hours reading books, asking for advise and praying. I did the things you have suggested here and I also gave her a choice in EVERYTHING! “The choice is yours, you may close the door or you may go sit on the couch for 5 minutes.” For some odd reason, if she could make the choice between two options, she would choose the proper choice 99% of the time. When she didn’t, I made sure she realized that she had chosen the consequence.

    There was a radical change in her life when she surrendered her heart to the Lord – honestly, she was like a totally different person!

    You would not believe what a wonderful teenager she has turned out to be! She has been an absolute joy. She is very mature for her age at 15, carries herself with grace & dignity, loves the Lord with all her heart, stands firm in her convictions despite tons of peer pressure…we are truly blessed!

    Please be encouraged that you are doing the right thing.

  33. 2 thoughts on this excellent blog post:
    1- reminds me of my middle girl (who you would not have believed to ever have been bad – but she wasn’t wild – we call her the “mary poplins child” now (practically perfect in every way). spankings did not phase her. time out was hard, but only because i told her she HAD to sit still, and she could NOT sing songs – not even in her head! that broke her of it and made time out “not fun”.
    2 – good reminder for me (grandma now) to one of my spirited grandgirls – a wild child for sure – as they spend a season living with us (with 3 other siblings and mom and dad too). i have hope for these new ideas, and am encouraged by your words!
    thanks so much!!

  34. Isn’t always our first inclination to hide the fact that we have any flaws? Especially when it comes to our kids?
    I’m NOT saying — having a WILD CHILD is a flaw. Only that it’s not the first thing we want to admit. Just as…..a child with a learning disability or ADHD etc…
    We (Mama’s) want to protect and “take care of things” when our kids struggle with a weakness.
    I appreciate your frankness and willing heart to share your situation. It helps so many other parents when someone opens up about an issue that’s possibly touchy.

  35. Bravo to this entire article, Sarah Mae. I’ve got a wild one myself, and I too find he needs the hugs and words of affirmation even more than my calmer ones. Those things go a long way to prevent *and* diffuse times of emotional turmoil. But it ain’t always easy, fo’ sho’!

    You are a good, good Mama, Sarah Mae! Love you.

  36. Thank you!!! I needed this so much! We have a very spirited 26month old and we are struggling with disciplining her and dealing with her hitting & kicking me.

    Yesterday I found out I am pregnant again, a surprise, and honestly one we were not totally thrilled about, so ingesting that shock while trying to figure out how to deal with our sweet yet sassy child has been a lot and reading your post made me realize that we’re not alone and it is something we can work on. I love her spirit and I know in my heart that all of this energy and fire will be put to good use one day but “in the moment” I don’t always deal with it well, so thank you for your post, already this morning I have made my first attempts at loving her harder and making sure she knows that she is such a delight to me—-and then she kicked me as I buckled her in the carseat! Baby steps! 🙂

    • Grab those tootsies and kiss them and say “we don’t kick, feet are for going swiftly to help others, not hurt them.” 😉

      Keep up the good work mama, I’m praying for you!

  37. Sarah,

    Thanks for this. I have a difficult, spirited, impossible-to-please, defiant, independent, unpredictable, unbending one too…plus she’s 2. Nothing I seem to do works! I will take your advice and pour more love and patience into her. It’s kinda hard when she’s kicking and screaming and hitting. Pray for me.

    I will admit that I was a little thrown off by your reference to vinegar. Can you explain that?

    • Haha! Well, when our little ones talk back or get sassy, we give them a small (small!) spoonful of vinegar. Clears up attitudes pretty quickly!

      Although, I will say that Care now asks for more (I told she was a wild one). So, we’re in the process of working on her attitude. 😉

      • Oh. I read that as figurative, as in catching flies with honey vs vinegar.

        I’m going to amend my other comment and say that I think /most/ of the recommendations here are wonderful.

        What works for you works for you, but I don’t personally agree with that one, and don’t want my other comment to read as though I do.

  38. Oh Sarah Mae…what a perfect post for me. My almost 4 year old is a wild one. Sometimes it’s so hard for me but I love her spirit and I so desire to gently tame and guide her without crushing it. Thank you for this wise encouragement!

  39. Thank you, Sarah Mae. I needed this today. I’m at my wit’s end with my little Squirt. He’s a fireball. I don’t want to squelch his spirit because I love his spirit but I need him to obey and not throw tantrums at everything. Thanks.

  40. Oh I LOVE how God does this – this lining up of all our hearts unbeknownst to us! We’re talking on this EXACT topic today over at Facebook’s Moms Together. Brainstorming ways to love our intense kids, to help them press into the good intensity and steer clear of the ways that hurt themselves and others. I’d be delighted to have you all join us there today! It’s at Let’s parent these intense kids with joy and confidence!

  41. @sarah Mae My computer I think has been acting off, I wrote a few comments on how I know what it’s like to raise an intense child. Mine has been that way since birth lol!

  42. I, too, have a wild one. My Natalie is a 6 year old whirl-wind. So many times I wonder what in the world I am supposed to do with her! I’m so grateful to read your words today, after battling my strong-willed wonder out the door for school. Thank you for’s always so good to get more ideas and to try to get a new perspective.

    One thing I try hard to remember is that many of the things about my daughter that challenge me as a parent, will serve her well, if we can direct them in the right way. Her stubbornness will help her to never give up. What seems “bossy” now will make her a great leader. The things that now leave me pounding my head against the wall will make us both better.
    She’s my wild one….but she’s also exuberant and full of joy and pizazz.

  43. Sarah I remember you posting about Caroline last May or something. I was flying & it was before Relevant (which I only flew twice, hence remembering) and thought. Oh our girls are similar. My Tay, now three, is a spitfire kid as well. My husband and I were just talking last night about how to better discipline her. Your words are timely and much of what you wrote resonates to what I was communicating with Ben. Our phrase in our home is to “obey the first time with a cheerful heart.”

    I confess how I exasperate both of my daughters, because I exasperate myself. I pray for gentleness and sometimes I altogether forget to pray. It’s so hard, it is work to nurture the hearts of our little ones. I want little people who know that they are a delight. Just like Jesus says the same to me.

  44. so love this today Sarah! I am always so thankful for reminders on how to better love and parent – while my daughter is 12.5 she is still very spirited and subborn so we can have times of discord and I tend to be way too harsh and feel I crush her spirit!

    This helped remind me that she is growing up and learning from ME – I want my words to be kind and let her know she matters and is good!

    I love it when things REALLY spark me to be a better mom!

    Thank you sweet Sarah!

  45. I felt a warm smile bubble up from my toes to my heart this morning when I read your post about Caroline! I had two little boys and was so sure with my third pregnancy that it would be another boy that I didn’t take one pink thing to the hospital. You guessed it! I had a beautiful, pink baby girl and she was my “Caroline!” I had to learn that her stubborness, strong will and “spirit” would someday be used by God to make her into the woman she is today. Not that we didn’t have our battles but I did learn that I had to choose them wisely. Now that she is an adult, she tells me that it haunts her when she looks back and remembers her sometimes hateful attitude but will never forget how I would hold her tight and tell her, “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way but I love you more than those feelings.” I can tell you that there is now no mother/daughter relationship that is closer than ours and that is something you could never have made me believe, especially in her teen years. Love and consistency are paramount and as you so eloquently point out, the two attributes that God shows us daily. Putting my “wild child” into gymnastics was one of the best decisions ever. It was an incredible outlet for her strong willed mind and active body and she thrived! Help her hone her gift! God and you will triumph! I guarantee! Thank you for sharing with such an honest heart. I promise to pray for you and your wonderful family. Motherhood is absolutely the hardest and most heart wrenching job ever but as you know, the most rewarding as well. I know God will say to you someday, “Well done, my good and faithful servent!”

  46. My wild child is my third and I always said that the Lord knew I would need time to adjust to him after the other two. He spaced the first two only 18 months apart, but with my wonderful wild child He spaced him 5 years after my second.

    It’s as if God knew that I would need the time to devout to him, be there for him, have time for just him during the day and listen to him. I was fortunate that for the first four years of his life I was a stay at home mom. I had time to learn deeply from him and about him. (I was home with the first two as well.)

    I have told other parents that I feel everyone should have at least one wild child. It’s then that others would understand the specialness of them and the need for patience and understanding, and loving guidance (which is the defination of discipline).

    My amazing, delightful wild child grew into an amazing young man with a deep sensitivity and loving heart. ..he’s now 31 and a responsible adult. I have been blessed to be his mother, for he taught me so much (and still does).

  47. This article came a perfect time. My little boy is bound to do what he wants . Nothing is working and he seems to be getting worse with his not listening and being mean to me and his puppy. I have prayed to God and today I did again please help me to be a good mom. I thank the Lord for you. God bless you.

  48. I have a wild one too! Maddie (or Madalynn…she goes by her nick name) is 6 yrs old and I love her to pieces!!! She keeps me on my toes at all times but I wouldn’t change anything for the world. She has her own personality, very independent but has the biggest heart anyone could ever ask for. My husband & I learned early on that we cannot discipline her the same way we discipline our 11 yr old. I know that each of my children are fearfully & wonderfully made! God didn’t make them to be the same, He made them to stand out and shine, individually!

  49. Thank you!! Just what I needed. Have an 11 year old “wild boy” with Tourette’s and ADD whom i love madly but am afraid will soon drive me mad. Just started reading Grace-based Parenting, so wish I had read this earlier. Good to know I’m not alone…

  50. i could not agree more!! I have a few months shy of 4 year old daughter who I have to embrace this type of love with. I say that she is teaching me to love well, not easy. What a lesson….and this little bird of mine? whew. what a blessing.

  51. I’m so glad to read this today. I’ve got my own three year old daughter who behaves much like the energetic man (my husband) who raised her for the first two years while I worked. I’ve thought many of these things for a long while about her, and the affirmation here is just what I needed. I’ve tried reserving spanking for the absolute worst examples of deliberate misbehaving as she responded so negatively to the spankings – like we were chopping off a limb when most of the spankings were light taps.

    The hardest part has been trying to show my husband how to respond to her. His first inclination is to spank or smack a hand still – and while he means well, he doesn’t understand that it shouldn’t be his first response to her behaviour. It doesn’t help that he works away from home and is gone for weeks at a time, sometimes.

    But thank you. I needed to see that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way 🙂

  52. Wonderful post, Sarah Mae! So much truth and beauty here. Each of my four children were so different, all delights in different ways, all requiring a slightly different form of discipline. For some spanking helped, for others, like your little darling, it didn’t . You nailed the most important tool in our parenting arsenal: delighting in who are child is, not who you want them to be. As we study our children, delighting in them and disciplining them becomes easier. Praise God for His example with us and for your words!

  53. Thank you for the encouraging post! So humbling to remember God’s ever-present mercy and graciousness towards us and how we should be on our knees daily as we are called to parent the little ones!

  54. I have been in a tough spot with my oldest since he started walking at 8 months. We are both equally as stubborn and I feel at times that we are constantly at odds. He is turning five this week and I fear I have ruined him! I have my own insecurities and I have unfortunately come into contact with people that have been very cruel about him and his strong will – our parenting methods. Even family! Maybe especially family. That has been very painful. It is a wonder though – either people just go on and on about how special he is and “what a great kid” and “I LOVE your son” (like those that served in the children’s ministry at our large church and those in our homegroup) or there are those people that think we’re doing a terrible job and judge us when they see his strong will exhibited in the less desirable ways. I get stuck there. As if any of this is about ME. It isn’t my story – or my son’s. It is HIS.

    I have told myself lately that if I don’t extend grace to my son no one else will – or maybe I mean to say should I expect anyone else to? I haven’t done well at this! We have yelled, spanked, SCREAMED, dealt harshly with him in trying to get him to respond to our “discipline” and I don’t think it has brought about the fruit we have hoped for…

    I think for me I need courage to step out of the “proper” way to doing this and step away from the “formula” people have set out for me, and do what my son needs – which is love, patience, time, nurturing, etc. We have allowed the expectations of others and the well-meaning and sometimes ill-meaning “advice” to crowd out the Spirit’s voice. Thank you for words. I know that I am not alone in this but I certainly feel that way often.

  55. Thank you so much for this post! I have an almost 3-y-o that is a stubborn and ornery, but wonderful boy! He makes me want to lose my mind sometimes. I quit my job last year to stay home with him because of his temperament…it was so much easier to go to work, but I know this is what God has for me right now. I appreciate so much your suggestions, and the suggestions of other commenters. Can any of you specify some of the scriptures you speak over them? This is something I am trying more recently, but would like to hear what verses are favorites of others. I’ve been using “A gentle answer turns away anger” Proverbs 15:1 often (mostly on myself!) thanks for the book suggestions too!

  56. Great post and perfect timing for me! I think we may share the same daughter! Lol. at 3 she is my little spit fire!! My other 2 girls didn’t quite have her “spirit” so I’m like what’s going on, what do I do?!?! Thanks again wonderful post!! Gonna try all you suggested as I too want to delight in her!

  57. We had two perfectly sweet, obedient, cautious children before having our wild child. It wasn’t until he was three that we figured out that the discipline methods that had worked perfectly for our older two were actually crushing our third child. I wish I’d been told sooner that it’s okay to discipline different children in different ways, and that it’s not “unfair”. Thanks for these words. They are reminder to me to be intentional about loving gently on my wild(er) child.

  58. I have told myself this so many times, and still find myself at the end of the proverbial rope sometimes. My days need more time with God…when I have quiet time, my spirit is refreshed & ready to pour love on my four kiddos, but when I don’t, it just isn’t. Thanks for this gentle reminder! This week I’m focusing on the fruit of the spirit love, joy and peace….the kiddos are learning too & I hope to show them, not just tell them about it. Blessings, M

  59. I did not think I would survive my little girl’s 3rd year, it was the most stressful year to date but I did. It was a strange year, so taxing on my, and I learned as you did that love and compassion through my words and actions were a key to help me through and give me perspective. Otherwise I would have just spent the year spanking and screaming…God is so good. My little girl, now 7 is still strong and independent and I am helping her to understand how to use those God given traits. She is a delight and my blessing. Thank you.

  60. Sarah Mae – THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! You described my dear daughter and our many struggles. She is now 7 and doing much better after several years of therapy (hers is a bit more than just strong-willed behavior). I just love your strategies and will be printing this post out and putting it in my journal as a reminder for those difficult times which still and always come!! I am so grateful that you shared your heart!! Blessings and hugs!!

  61. Oh what a lovely post. My oldest son wouldn’t be what you would call a wild child but spanking never worked with him. It made everything worse. Kind of like you described in your response above about your daughter. It didn’t work and so we tried other things and well he is and 11 year old delight. I can’t tell you how tired i got of people telling me what a big mistake i was making by not spanking him and how he wouldn’t be obedient. I have parents thanking me for letting their boys hang out with him because their kiddos are better behaved after being around him. There are many ways to discipline and do it well. Thank you for sharing and letting others know there isn’t a formula.

  62. This post is very timely for me! This describes my two year old Addie Kate so well…and it’s often harder because, well, she reminds me of me. (eeeekkk!) 😉

    Just last night as she was sleeping I went into her room and just began praying for God’s clear discernment in how to handle each situation with grace, love, and firmness. You’re right, spanking doesn’t always work and each child is so different! I’m amazed at how different she is from my other daughter, who is more passive.

    I’m so glad I read this today…I believe it is an answer to my prayer last night. I know it will be a progressive learning thing for she and I both, but I am SO glad that He meets me where I am just in the ways that I need a flash of hope. She has a fiery passion that I KNOW God wants to use!! By His strength, I want to cultivate that into something that is used for God’s glory and for her to thrive in the gifts He’s given her. Balance is so hard. My biggest concern is doing that without wounding her spirit (and she really is SO sensitive underneath her wild ways!) Isn’t that how we call can be, sometimes? I’ve learned SO much about Jesus and His IMMENSE love and grace towards me just through parenting. Whew. Haven’t even tapped the surface!

    Bless you, Sarah Mae, and excited to see where He takes you in the journey with your new blog. Thank you for allowing your life to be an open testament that encourages the rest of us through the mess. 😉

  63. I love this because it reminds me of why I’m so thankful for my mother! I was that..erm.. spirited one in our family and I know I tested her, but the love she had for me is what I remember most from the growing up years.

  64. oh I love this…My wild child is 7 and we brought him home from Guatemala when he was 14months old! Oh how I adore him! When he cut the shower curtain in half at age 2 1/2 we knew we were in for a wild ride! Besides the fact that it was a Ohio State shower curtain, we were very impressed with his scissor skills! It is a struggle everyday, but you are so right-love them, love them and love them some more!

  65. I cannot even begin to tell you how desperately I needed to read this today. Thank you so much! I have a 6 year old little wild child that is making me want to bang my head against the wall right this very minute. She excitedly told me she was on BLUE today (which means she did something exceptional) at school…..but unfortunately did not bring that attitude and kindness home with her. I cried as I read this… is ME that needs to change…I need to have a better attitude so that I can nurture her instead of exasperate her.
    Thank you! What a blessing you are!!

  66. WOW! how much I needed this today! I wish I had read it this morning instead of tonight. My 7yo is a spit-fire! Discipline doesn’t work with her. We have tried everything from spanking to grounding. It doesn’t work. I just finished reading “Grace-Based Parenting” and I am hoping to refocus my parenting along those lines. Your post was right on target. I hope to have this under my belt by the time my 5 1/2 month old starts pushing her limits. She will push hers much farther than my oldest!

  67. I have a wild, quick tempered little girl. I agree that when I have neglected that one on one lovin’ time she is far crazier. Our mom/daughter quiet times seem to smooth out her rough edges. I just forget that sometime when I get busy. I call her my “happy distraction”. She distracts me to no end, but if I stop and go with her I end up enjoying her and appreciating all of her quirks. God knows I’ve got plenty of my own which she has to deal with!

  68. I will be honest I laughed when I read most of the post. I wasn’t laughing at the struggle I was laughing because I can see my momma saying most of those things. You see I am that child who is now 32.
    To give you an example, we didn’t have much to eat so my momma said we would eat every pear on the tree that she could reach. After about 2 months of eating pears served any way you can think of I had enough. I took the hacksaw combed the tree and cut every limb I could off. I was 10.
    Mommas I will tell you we do grow up. We change the world. And we will make you proud with all we become.
    Also 🙂 my mom’s attitude adjustment wasn’t vinegar but two drops of Tabasco. It was so I would learn to feel the fire my words could ignite. I adore spicy food now.

  69. Oh MAN do I have myself a wild one.

    Just when I think I have asked him to please SIT AT THE DINNER TABLE and PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE CAT (shove plastic steaks into the cats mouth) just too many times, I pray and I remember all the “unlovable” things that I must do each and every day and the overwhelming grace and kindness that the Lord shows me.

    One day when I was feeling not good enough as a parent my dad said to me, “Kaitlin, you are the best kind of parent, you are an intentional one.”

    That really stuck with me. You don’t have to be perfect.

    You just have to be intentional.

  70. Love, love, LOVE this post! Thank you! My daughter turns 9 in April and we went through the exact same thing. It was such a struggle- especially having other well meaning women try to give advice (you spank too much or you coddle too much) and it wasn’t until I committed to loving her as Christ loved the church and trusting God to work in her heart that I saw breakthroughs. Today was my birthday and she started the day by singing to me and ended the day by begging me to cuddle with her in bed. Such a sweet beautiful difference. Oh, goodness! I could write a book! 🙂 Thank you for your fantastic post!!!

  71. Thank you for sharing this. I definitely needed to read this tonight. My little guy is a little over 2. Love him to pieces but I get so frustrated sometimes at the things he does. I keep reminding myself that he’s TWO. I am going to implement some of these ideas and pray that things begin to change in both my heart and his. Blessings to you!

  72. God’s message for me today came through your post very clearly. I am adoptive mom to adopted son, Johnathan, 9, who has fetal alcohol syndrome and it’s myriad of other delays and complications. He, too laughs in the face of discipline and will simply hit me back following my desperate trial of the spanking. It can so easily get out of hand.

    This battle is not new. This has been going on since he was about a year old with anger & defiance. I am finding myself giving my role as loving momma to John back to the Lord EVERYDAY and really leaning on Him to show His love & compassion through me. I have a loving Christian husband who’s a great Dad, but it seems John saves all his anger & disrespect for me. It’s like my Heavenly Father keeps bringing me back to a place where he whispers “Lean on me, we can do this”.

    So, Sarah Mae, thank you! Thanks for sharing your story with us and reminding me that I’m not the only momma on the planet struggling with a wild one, and they need us to love them as we have been loved.


  73. Late getting to this post and no time to read all the comments but as a preschool teacher I deal with many wild ones. Please !!! read this book: Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller. And check out Kirk Martin Calm Christian Parenting. Here’s a link HE has a great you tube called parent like God! Please check it out

  74. From a mother who has a wild daughter, three years old, it is a blessing to hear your words, friend. Just this morning, I spoke harshly to my wild one and she, in typical turn, rebelled. My five-year-old son, who is one of the sweetest and most sensitive people on earth, came up to her and spoke softly and lovingly to her and she turned around and did exactly what I had told her to do.


    As mothers, our children emulate us; including how we treat our wild ones. So, as we treat our wild ones with love and respect and delight, our “non-wild” children, in turn, will not only learn to abide with difficult people, they will also learn to delight in one another.

    Thanks, friend, for this encouragement.

  75. Sarah! This is wonderful!!! This is the exact encouragement and reminder I needed! I was just confessing to a friend and we prayed for my daughter’s heart and continue to pray for good soil–a undivided heart so His Word can seep deep in and cause a growth. I have only been home with my children (6 and 4) for the past two years and God has taught me so much through His Word..I no longer believe in ‘terrible twos or threes’ but rather ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ and love does cover a multitude of sin and my Hope is not that she will change but in Christ alone…that God the Father will draw her and she will love Him the Deuteronomy 6:5 way. Oh I’m enjoying blogs and posts like your spurring us to love and good deeds and also shaing what He teaches you! I just bought Sally’s book ‘The Mission of Motherhood’ and it’s practically highlighted entirely because it confirms what God has been teaching me about being a mommy…I found her through you…thank you for shaing your mentor with us…thank you for shaing Jesus Christ, thank you for reminding us we obey because His Holy Spirit helps us to obey, that allows us to give grace to all non believers, beginning with our little ones who don’t know Him for themselves yet. Keep writing and exhorting and encouraging, I’ll keep praying 😉

  76. Thank you for sharing. I cherish our daughter, hug her, spend time with her. What do you do when all of that doesn’t work?

  77. If all of that doesn’t work, and it didn’t with our son, who ended up having Asperger Syndrome, get them assessed!

  78. Love this! I had a wild one and loved on him as much as I could! He’s a precious, loving teenager now! I couldn’t be more blessed!!!

  79. My younger sister was as you describe, but of my mother’s 7 children, we’ve voted her most likely to change the world. There’s something special about these kids – HUGE potential, and I love your hints for not breaking their spirit and building them up. Beautiful.

  80. My “wild one” turned thirty in January…she loves God, her husband, her children, her family, her neighbors and her friends…WILDLY! I WILDLY THANK GOD FOR HER!!!!

  81. […] Loving a Wild One  by Sarah Mae via (in)Courage. I am the proud, frustrated mother of a “wild one.” He challenges me and smothers me with his love every day. This post not only spoke to me- it ministered to me. […]

  82. Wow! This is sooo me! My spit fire is my 3 year old son. He laughs if he gets spanked…in fact he laughs at most forms of discipline. You’re right – it isn’t working, I need to stop and do something else. He’s such a sweet child and I do love him so much! I like your suggestions and plan to share them with hubby and start trying them. Thank you for posting this!

  83. After the day I had yesterday {Literally hollering, “Get thee BEHIND me Satan!”} because I felt like my marbles were never to be found again, I was praying God would lead me to some clarity. And then I find this post. Completely and totally by His Grace. Thank you. I’ve been so frustrated with my four year old that I thought for sure I have failed as a parent and wondered what will the road look like from here on out–God is bigger than my poor outlook. I WILL love on her more {sadly, I think this is where I haven’t been showing up as mom…I’ve been too stressed to stress my love for her} and harp on her less. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And praise God for your wisdom!

  84. I really appreciated this post. I’m struggling lately with my 2 year old son. He has a strong personality, loves testing the limits, but yet is extremely attached to me (so much so that I can barely get anything done during the day because he always wants to be held). The methods of discipline we have tried are absolutely NOT working. He doesn’t respond to it at all. My husband thinks I’m not firm enough with my son, but I think my approach with him needs to change, not necessarily the severity of the discipline. I love what you said about speaking out that the child is a delight. Words have so much power. I think the part about making time for more kisses and cuddles is good, too. That’s honestly the last thing I feel like doing when my son is going wild, but maybe that’s just what he needs to settle him down a bit and help him see that he is secure in my love.

  85. our #2 was expecially wild and wooly in many ways…but not in all. she was the most sensitive and creative in regard to gifts at xmas! learning to see weaknesses and extremes of strengths helped me to find her strengths and see her weaknesses in perspective.

    instead of labeling her a “liar”, a trait she used well and creatively. one which i wanted to kill off quickly as well. i commented to her one day that i tho’t she would make a great fiction writer , as she was in the middle of spinning one of her fables. she knew what she was doing. but pointing fingers with harsh accusing words, wasn’t the way to her heart. when i would comment on her fiction writing abilities, it was something of a compliment, but was also a way of letting her know, i knew she was not telling me the truth.

    the same went for her drama skills. she was a bit of drama queen…as in disruptive in the home!! attacking it directly did NO good! one day, i calmly told her she deserved an oscar for that performance. she stopped and looked at me…and had to laugh:) that became our signal that i gave to let her know she was over the top.

    it will take all the creativity the Holy Spirit and the grace of God can give you to deal with the child(ren) that is your wild child(ren) but in the end, the most important thing to remember is: what is most important? our relationship? or my being “right”. i can be “right” and ruin the relationship…which will end up being the wrong thing to do!

    don’t follow the books that tell you one size fits all when it comes to raising children “right”. those books are wrong!! raise your children the way God made them to be.

    where is my wild child now? she is 38, has 3 daughters, a PhD in developmental psychology (involves a lot of writing:) the career is on hold for now while the girls are young. her husband is in international finance and she “ministers” informally to women whose life styles can be quite different from hers. she needs the temperament God gave her for the life she leads! and they are believers.

  86. “a time-out or a small spoon of vinegar works well, but I am saying to be intentionally compassionate and gentle.”

    Separating children from our love, or forcing food grade acid into their mouths are neither compassionate or gentle acts.

  87. I smiled, sighed, and laughed at your account and suggestions. I have a few of these “wild ones” myself–a couple of whom are now teenagers.

    Every day demands reliance on Him. Without His grace, I’d be wrapped in the arms of a funny white suit. 🙂

    Blessings and thanks for the encouragement!

  88. I’m sure I’ll have a little spitfire on my hands before too long – he’s already energetic and all over at 6 months! 🙂 This is some great advice, thank you for posting.


  89. I’m probably the only guy here…I’m not even sure how I ended up here, but I read this because I identify with this article. I have a 5 year old boy and he’s a wild one. I have to keep telling myself over and over to not to lose my temper, to be patient with him. Some people say he needs some kind of drug to calm him and my wife and I both say NO. I say no because I know his gentle, smart, compassionate side that I see frequently, and I know he’s capable of great things. I do NOT want to squash that enthusiasm, but steer it in the right direction.
    But I appreciate this article as a reminder that I need to KEEP being patient with and guiding him over and over and over. And over.
    So, thank you!

  90. Thank you for this!! I needed this after a day like today! I laughed and cried while reading this!! So many similarities in my little Ruby!! 2.5 and a wild one!! When you say from the womb, I know exactly the feeling. She cried for 3 days straight in the hospital, and so our road began! I know in my heart that loving her even more, instead of yelling/losing my mind/wanting to take a mental hospital ‘vacation’, will help in our situation. I need to put these things into practice, and know when I’m in her room for the 75th time a night, shutting off the light, picking up crayons and paper, vacuuming up a bottle of baby powder, etc, I should be happy for the time I have with her and not upset over petty things. Tomorrow is a new day, and I will be sure to tell Ruby that she is a delight!! Love that little stink.