Vilde Chaya

January 28, 2018

4 min read


When your precious child turns out to be a “vilda chaya” – Yiddish for a “wild animal.”

There are few things more beautiful and precious in this world than a child, except when a child acts like a vilde chaya.

The term “vilde chaya” is Yiddish and literally means "wild animal" but it often is used (somewhat) lovingly to describe a wild child, i.e., an overly rambunctious youth. For the record, no child should be permanently labeled a vilde chaya. All children have different challenges that may contribute to their conduct and some of those challenges may not be within the control or understanding of the child (or the parents). Thus, vilde chayas should be given the benefit of the doubt and should treated with patience, kindness and understanding, except if they use the kitchen sink as a commode or if they post your debit card and pin numbers on social media with the following hashtag:

Vilda chayas continue into adulthood. This is evidenced by adults who enjoy Tough Mudder.

Thus, some misbehaving children probably deserve a temporary vilde chaya moniker, especially in those moments when they in fact are acting like a vilde chaya. For most kids, such misconduct usually rears its ugly head during the “Terrible Twos” and is replete with temper tantrums and conniption fits galore. Of course, a child can act like a vilde chaya even after the “Terrible Twos,” including during the “Thrilling Threes,” “Frightful Fours,” “Fierce Fives,” “Sinister Sixes,” “Psychotic Sevens,” “Insane Eights,” “Nutty Nines” and “Tumultuous Tens.”

Some may argue that once a vilde chaya, always a vilde chaya, even in adulthood. If true, that would explain the grown-ups who enjoy participating in the (i) filthy and crazy Tough Mudder adult obstacle course competition, (ii) frigid and crazy mid-winter Polar Bear plunge into the Atlantic Ocean and (iii) ferocious and crazy late-night Simchat Torah hora dancing. Others may argue that, in certain extreme instances, vilde chaya adults should not be compared to animals because that would be completely unfair . . . to the animals.

Many vilde chaya children who are precocious and obstreperous eventually adapt to civilized society and learn to conform to society's unwritten rules of decorum. For the average vilde chaya, this is a gradual learning process during which they may intermittently relapse into a hopeless hooligan, mal-adjusted mischief-maker, radical ruffian or dangerous delinquent. For the record, it is safe to say that a child is acting like a vilde chaya if the child:

  1. blows out the candles . . . on someone else's birthday cake . . . using the back of a Florida Everglades fan-boat;

  2. plays ball . . . in the house . . . while riding a motorcycle . . . and shooting a squirt gun filled with indelible purple grape juice;

  3. sings the Hatikvah . . . using an electronic bullhorn . . . in the middle of the night . . . every single night;

  4. uses a permanent magic marker . . . to write graffiti on the garage door . . . including the following message: "We are not home so this is the perfect time to burglarize us";

  5. harasses counselors at summer camp . . . by placing insects in their beds . . . and replacing their bug repellent with bug attractant;

  6. prank calls your office . . . by impersonating you . . . and rudely tendering your resignation to your boss;

  7. ruins a family vacation to Disneyworld . . . by getting the entire family kicked out . . . after leading the daily Disney parade south . . . into the Everglades;

  8. destroys the family's backyard swimming pool . . . when trying to reenact scenes from "The Hunt for Red October" . . . using a full-sized nuclear submarine;

  9. tarnishes the family's reputation . . . by getting kicked out of nursery school . . . for finger-painting on the principal's forehead . . . using the principal's fingers; or

  10. invests and loses substantial sums . . . in extremely risky stocks . . . using money from your bank account . . . and then demands an obscene commission.

The most interesting thing about vilde chayas is that many grow up to become upstanding individuals including revered rabbis, terrific teachers and bigshot businesspeople. One could say that such leaders go from mischief to chief. One also could say that such vilde chayas undergo a menschy metamorphosis during which they magically transform from degenerate to decent, hooligan to humane and from savage to sweet.

Bottom-line: If your brat is acting the worst, that does not make your child a bratwurst.

Next Steps