The ultimate guide to raising children to be free-spirited 

Kids’ personalities are related to both their genes and their environment, a product of the interplay between nature and nurture.

Babies don’t seem to follow any rules or care much about the norms of society. Just try to ask an infant to please stop crying on an airplane and see how much of a response you’ll get!

But as they grow up, their different personalities start to show.

Many children seem to be natural rule-followers, but some are natural free-spirits.

The question is, can you raise children to be free-spirited?

You can certainly encourage and nurture their natural free-spirited tendencies and also encourage more conforming children to come out of their shells.

In this ultimate guide to raising free-spirited children, we’ll focus on how best to nurture a free-spirited child.

At the same time, we’ll also look at how to prepare yourself for what this journey will entail and, hopefully, help you free your own spirit along the way.

What is a “free-spirited” child?

Someone who’s free-spirited goes their own way and does their own thing.

Free spirits are non-conformist, living outside of the boundaries, limitations, and norms of society, at least in large part.

This doesn’t mean, however, that they’re loners, misanthropes, or in any way anti-social.

Not at all!

Most free spirits are just the opposite. They’re often fun-loving, social creatures who enjoy the company of others.

They simply dance to the beat of their own drum and don’t let the world tell them how to act or who to be. From a young age, they go their own way and may even be completely oblivious to the fact that most others don’t.

They don’t feel the immense burden of culture and societal norms like most other kids eventually do.

Instead, they stay true to their own paths and listen to the songs in their own hearts.

How can you raise children to be more free-spirited?

Raising kids to be free-spirited involves helping them in their life journey and also changing your own mindset and behavior to encourage them to develop. Here are some tips:

1) Guide them, don’t tame them.

Instead of pushing your kids to follow rules blindly and do what they’re told, help them learn when and why to follow.

Sometimes, it’s for their own safety, and sometimes for the good of a group.

But understanding why and knowing when to go along with others can save them a lot of grief down the road.

2) Let them make choices.

So many parents feed and dress their kids without ever asking them about their preferences.

If you want your child to be able to follow that special voice inside, give them the opportunity to express it by letting them make choices.

Start with little things. Let them choose their clothes but maybe not choose their school just yet!

3) Encourage them to experience things.

It’s easy to just tell your kids how things are.

But if you want to open them up to learning and exploring the world on their own terms, you should direct them to experiential learning.

Let them use their senses.

Let them try things out even when you know the way their experiments will go.

This will also help them develop confidence and learn to trust their instincts.

4) Set rules together.

All children need at least some structure in their lives, and certainly, teaching them about consequences is important.

But if you’re the only authority handing down rules and punishments, you might just be encouraging fear of authority in them.

Instead, as long as they’re old enough, try creating rules together based on a healthy balance of what you know is good for them and what they can happily manage.

5) Limit your no’s.

I don’t mean you have to completely keep your nose out of their business and let them run completely wild.

But raising a kid to be free-spirited means letting them try things without living in fear of rejection.

So keep your no’s for when they’re really needed, like for safety issues, and try to be positive and encouraging.

6) Be open-minded.

Easy enough to say, but to let your kids have freedom, you will have to really challenge your own assumptions and knowledge.

You might need to free your mind from so much that you were taught as a child about how to live and who to be.

One great way to challenge yourself is with the Free Your Mind masterclass from famed shaman Rudá Iandê. In this free course, Rudá challenges you to discover and transcend your limiting beliefs in order to be more open.

Getting rid of many of your own limits can help keep you from unwittingly imposing them on your children and snuffing out their free spirits.

7) Communicate.

So many parents are just trying to get by that they often forget to find time to sit down and listen to their kids.

But asking them how they feel, what interests them, and what they want to know will certainly encourage them to express themselves.

It will also build trust between you, letting them feel safe to explore and experiment while still feeling loved and valued.

8) Let them do their own thing.

I know you love your kids and want to spend all the precious time you can with them that you can.

But if you want them to feel their freedom, you might need to back off a bit and let them do their own thing.

When they can direct their own activities and choose what to do next, they’ll feel free to really be themselves.
And don’t worry, they’ll still choose to spend lots of their time with you.

What do people say about free-spirited children?

How people feel about free-spirited children depends on the interactions they have with them.

People in traditional positions of authority might struggle with free-spirited kids, while many who meet them can have totally opposite views.

Positive points of view

They’re creative.

They have great imaginations.

They express themselves beautifully.

They have their own ideas and opinions.

They’re positive.

They think outside the box and color outside of the lines.

They’re not afraid of the world.

They love life.

Negative points of view

They don’t listen.

They don’t follow the rules.

They’re difficult.

They’re flaky.

They’re clued out.

They’re rebellious.

They’re out of control.

It seems that what makes free-spirited children so wonderful in some people’s eyes, like parents and friends, can also cause issues for other people who are usually in positions of authority like teachers, coaches, and yes, even parents yet again.

This seeming contradiction that parents are wrapped up in, the idea that their children are wonderfully open and free but also hard to guide, is what we’re going to focus on here.

It’s also crucial to be aware that your children will probably attract these opposite opinions throughout their childhood and maybe even their whole lives.

After all, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But you can work on managing how these opinions will play out in your children’s lives.

How do free-spirited children behave?

Most parents agree that their free-spirited children do what they want.

Younger children might seem to be wild and out of control, not just pushing their boundaries but totally ignoring them.

They’re strong-willed and don’t want to listen to the word no.

They want to do the things that interest and excite them, and this can include deeply imaginative play, interactions with new people and novel objects, and experimenting with all sorts of new experiences.

This story from a mother of a very free-spirited young boy illustrates some of this behavior:

“When Marcus was four years old, we decided to go out and leave him with a sitter for the first time. 

When she came over, he hid under his bed to hold his audience with her. He told her he was the Mole king and had tunneled underground because he’d been watching some nature documentaries with his father.

But soon, he came out and started asking her dozens of rapid-fire questions. They seemed to hit it off, so we left confidently.

But two hours later, we got a call during dinner.

“Can you please come back? I can’t find him!” 

We hurried home and joined the search, finally finding him in our bedroom. 

He was totally naked and had found a lipstick with which he had decorated his entire body. Now, he was humming to himself and drawing big murals all over the wallpaper.

He jumped up and shouted, “I drew Mommy!”

I don’t know which scribble was meant to be me, but he was just so full of joy at the experience we had to laugh through our frustration.”

– Melissa G.

This young boy felt no boundaries or limits and just did what he wanted, seemingly oblivious to the negative effects his behavior might have.

When free-spirited children get older, they start to better understand how other people react to them and learn not to cross some lines.

But they still definitely do their own thing.

They’re often very creative and refuse to let anyone’s expectations dictate how they’re going to live their lives.

Their behavior can be unusual and hard to predict, as this story from a tween’s father shows.

“Our son is very quiet and reserved, but our daughter, Ellie, is almost the complete opposite.

I think she started dressing herself for school at the age of six. Now that she’s 11, she essentially wears a different Halloween costume to school every day.

She likes to get up in the morning and choose her costume and a role to match. So, by breakfast, you could be meeting with Bigfoot or dining with an ambassador from France.

She even does voices.

You never know what to expect from day to day. I don’t know where this comes from either since both her mother and I are kind of introverts.

I’m just glad her teacher is so cool with it, and her classmates don’t even think it’s weird anymore.

Still, Jackson still tells us it’s embarrassing sometimes.”

– Andrew S.

 

In some ways, these are typical stories of free-spirited children. But in other ways, there’s almost no such thing as typical.

However, there are common threads through these experiences, including some of the challenges these children face and the way they’re parented.

What are the biggest challenges for free-spirited children?

Free-spirited children are non-conformist by nature, and this means that when they do run into pressure to conform or follow rules, there can be friction.

Any system that imposes control, top-down rules, and limits on these children can be a challenge.

School

You guessed it!

School is usually the biggest challenge for free-spirited children, especially those who’ve been encouraged to be this way in their home lives.

Teachers don’t have an easy or enviable job.

They’re given a class of students and are charged with keeping them interested, engaged, happy, and interacting positively. Oh yeah, the kids are supposed to learn something, too!

While they’d probably love to, they can’t give all their students one-on-one attention at all times, so instead, they rely on systems and rules to keep things flowing.

This generally translates to telling students what to focus on and when. Art is over – it’s time for math now.

But free-spirited children are used to following their own interests. If they feel artistic now, they want to do art and not math. Or vice versa.

They also want to talk to their friends, move around, or get up and dance when they feel like it.

But for teachers, this is a huge source of disruption.

The delicate balance of letting kids express themselves and maintaining flow in the classroom usually leaves free-spirited kids as the losers.

They’re often told to sit down and be quiet or even get sent to the principal’s office for causing disruptions.

Most teachers aren’t awful people out to get these kids.

But they often have to make the choice to sacrifice the happiness of the few for the good of the many, and free-spirited kids are usually the few.

Socializing

Kids who are different get picked on. That’s simply how it is.

Very young children don’t notice much who’s different as they’re often quite wrapped up in themselves.

But in the later years of primary school, conforming to the group becomes a big priority.

And kids who are different, who do their own thing and have their own style, are suddenly treated as outcasts.

This transition can be very hard on free-spirited kids who were previously accepted by their peers.

Safety

As a parent or other caregiver, one of your primary jobs is to keep your kids out of harm’s way.

However, with kids who don’t like to follow rules and accept limitations, this can be a real challenge.

For example, my friend’s daughter is tremendously chatty and loves meeting new people. He has a real struggle teaching her about stranger danger without snuffing out her naturally sociable instincts.

My nephew is also very free-spirited and has always been very athletic. He’s now into extreme downhill mountain biking and is flying off massive jumps that make me shiver.

He has to be constantly reminded to wear his helmet and armor so he doesn’t hurt himself, and his mom is always telling him to hold back from the biggest airs to prevent him from having a major accident.

There’s a tricky balance here between keeping these kids safe and encouraging them to follow their free spirits.

Self-discipline

I don’t mean discipline in terms of external rules and punishments here.

I mean the discipline that helps us do things that are good for our bodies and minds.

A free-spirited kid might want to eat chocolate chip pancakes for every meal but has to learn that indulging in junk food all the time is bad for their body.

Likewise, a child who wants to stay up late and sleep in the next day will have to learn that this schedule conflicts with school and other priorities.

So often, free-spirited children need help and guidance to understand that only doing what you want all the time isn’t a healthy strategy for life in the long run.

Why encourage your children to be more free-spirited?

With all of these challenges, is it a good idea to actually encourage your children to be free-spirited?

I think there’s definitely a balance to be found.

While there are certainly challenges, teaching children to be more free-spirited can often help them learn about themselves and lead happier lives.

Encouraging your kids to be more free-spirited can:

  • promote healthy self-expression
  • help them embrace their strengths and weaknesses
  • let them explore and learn freely
  • help them make friends
  • teach them to follow their hearts and be their genuine selves

I don’t know about you, but these are all things I wish my parents had encouraged me towards more when I was a kid so I would be more free-spirited myself!

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