Quirky kids challenge their parents, and that's what makes them such an unexpected gift. Here are four reasons to cheer on (and grow with) the oddball in your family.
After adopting our daughter and then overcoming a five-year bout with infertility, I looked forward to hanging out with other moms so I could share in the joy of all thing’s motherhood. I found a wonderful group of kindred mommy spirits, but I also found something else—the ability to compare my kid’s milestones and accomplishments with her peers. This was a positive when my child was developing ahead of the group, but an unexpected downer when one of my children was clearly behind schedule. Not only that, but she didn't behave like the rest of her peers did—she was the odd one.
The other toddlers explored and created things with Play-Doh, but my daughter wouldn’t touch it until she smelled it. She also took big whiffs of the crayons, glue sticks, and the construction paper before she’d color. She was also fixated on a popular Cartoon Network series, The Powerpuff Girls. She resonated with the character Buttercup, the black sheep of the family. For several years, she likened herself to this cartoon tomboy who hated girly stuff and liked to fight.
Every child has a unique personality, but some kids are particularly unusual in comparison to their peers. While this can be a flag for a developmental concern, it might just be that you have a quirky kid on your hands. Here are four ways to embrace and celebrate your beloved oddball.
1. Quirky kids are creative
Quirky children are not only endearing, but they're often highly creative. They have unique views of the world.
My daughter expressed her creativity through her infatuation with Buttercup. She also articulated her creativity in the way she dressed—stripes and plaids for this gal!—and in the way she decorated her bedroom with loud colors and patterns. Singing at the top of her lungs while moving and grooving was also freed her spirit!
Science supports the notion that those who march to the beat of their own drums—the highly individualistic people we often see as strange—are true originals.
As an article in the Canva blog points out, science supports the notion that those who march to the beat of their own drums—the highly individualistic people we often see as strange—are true originals. They're less likely to respond to authority and respect (or even truly understand) social norms. But they've got something else going for them—they're uniquely positioned to develop off-the-charts creative talents.
The article about how weird people can be ultra-creative reinforced what I already knew. Rather than trying to redirect my daughter’s quirkiness, instead, I needed to embrace her unique ways. I chose to see her as entertaining and refreshing instead of odd and challenging. Fifteen years later, my daughter is getting her master’s degree in graphic design. She has a thriving freelance design career. To this day, she has never concerned herself with what other people might think of her. If it makes her happy, she does it!
2. Quirky types take advantage of daydreaming
Today's kids live at a fast and furious pace. Most children hop from one commitment to the next with little downtime. If you have a child who marches to the beat of a different drum, you will soon realize that they know how to enjoy downtime. And sometimes, that means going off by themselves to spend some precious time daydreaming.
A 2012 study suggests that although daydreaming may seem mindless, it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state. Daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it's related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions.
Quirky kids may get a bad rap for being odd and distracted, but the bottom line is that they know how to turn off daily pressures and tune in to outlets that foster their wonderful imaginations and creativity.
3. Quirky people think outside the box
For the oddballs in our midst, the world has more meaning. Most of us are so caught up in trying to run from one obligation to the next that the world around us is just a blur. To creative, quirky people, the world is their canvas. They learn how to think outside the box without even trying.
Thinking outside the box means confronting problems in atypical ways, thinking creatively and freely, and encouraging frequent challenges to the status quo. Quirky kids are able to do this because they lack a preconceived notion of what the box is.
My colleague Stever Robbins, Get-It-Done Guy, has a terrific episode about thinking outside the box. He explains how our beliefs generate the cause-and-effect of human behaviors. He cites the Rosenthal Effect, named after researcher Robert Rosenthal.
[Rosenthal] took kids of equal ability and told teachers that half were slow and half were gifted. Two years later, the kids had performed according to the teachers’ beliefs, not according to their pre-existing abilities. The beliefs affected the teachers’ behavior in thousands of tiny ways and the kids responded by performing differently.
My daughter definitely did not learn the same way her peers did, and her quirks set her apart in the classroom. I'm thankful that she had a few teachers who embraced her different ways of problem-solving. She was able to rise to the occasion and excelled at most of her studies.
At home, her siblings had to adjust to her peculiar ways of expressing herself. That had unexpected benefits for all of us. We ultimately learned to embrace her quirks, which allowed her to feel comfortable and flourish at home. This, in turn, not only taught us that unique personalities make the world go 'round, but helped us become outside-the-box thinkers, ourselves.
4. Quirky kids will keep you humble
Raising a quirky child has taught me humility. I had always been a high-achiever in all areas of my life, so I assumed my children would follow suit. When you have a kid who falls outside the mainstream, you begin to embrace other people who are anything but typical. You learn that normal is a setting on a washing machine, not on a human being.
Normal is a setting on a washing machine, not on a human being.
Humility, in its simplest sense, is the ability to consider others ahead of oneself. It has been said that a humble person doesn’t think less of himself; he simply thinks of himself less. As parents, we can start developing empathy in our kids by creating an atmosphere of teamwork and cooperation in our homes. This was pivotal for me when I helped my own kids feel more comfortable when their sister broke out into her role as Buttercup during church!
Throughout my daughter’s childhood, I've been humbled by the need to advocate for her different interpersonal skills and her unique learning style. My goal was never to make her adhere to the usual way of doing things. My hope was to have others accept her for who she was, not who they thought she should be. She was okay with being different because that was her norm. Realizing she was happy being herself has made me more appreciative of each of my children’s unique strengths and personalities.