Everyone knows that raising kids isn’t easy. That’s true whether you have one who’s mild-mannered and mellow or another who is everything but. Each one is different in his or her own way.
Maybe your child’s not a toddler anymore, but still wants to bargain or have fierce fights with you about bedtime. Perhaps you’re a teacher and struggle to understand why two of your kids never follow the rules— it’s not always ADD or badness. Or your mini-me needs much, much, much more than a gentle reminder to behave in public because he feels he should be in charge at all times.
According to author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, you could have a “spirited child” on your hands. Very loveable but also a living, breathing test of your patience, your spirited child is almost an enigma. Almost.
There are other kids just like them and other parents experiencing the same things that you are. You are not crazy, and you are definitely not alone.
The traits outlined in Kurcinka’s book, Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide For Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, can help you pinpoint whether you have spirited children and some practical ways to deal with them.
Supporters of the book have said not only has it changed the way they interact with their child, but it’s changed the parent-child relationship permanently – for the better! Let’s look at some of the characteristics of a spirited child.
A child may express this intensity outwardly or inwardly. With certain kids, being loud and boisterous in everything they do is the norm. But on the other side are the extremely focused, thoughtful, analytical, or seemingly calculating children who tend to be quieter. Which type of intensity does your child manifest?
Often characterized as being “stubborn” or “bull-headed”, spirited kids who display persistence hone in on what they want and aren’t willing to bend. They will argue, bargain, and refuse to change their minds over the matter. The bright side? They tend to be ambitious and goal-oriented.
What seems to be a minute detail to you is a big deal to them. Kids are sensitive to smells, textures, noises and other elements in the environment that can send them into a tizzy. Large crowds and gatherings are too much, and your kid may wind up in tears.
Certain clothes textures can be off-putting and one thread out of place will cause a major reaction. What else? They can sense changes in your mood and are not shy about telling you about it.
While it may seem like they’re not listening or paying attention, these kids are absorbed in something else around them. They could be watching your dog chase its tail, the flicker of a light, or get caught up in the origin of a ketchup stain on the wall. They forget what they were sent off to go do because someone or something else is way more interesting.
Point blank: change is not a friend. Spirited children are not fans of change (or surprises) and you will incur their wrath if you switch up plans or your routine. This can extend way beyond the toddler years!
Kurcinka wrote: “Adapting to change, any change, is tough: ending a game in order to come to lunch, changing clothes for different seasons, sleeping at Grandma’s house instead of at home, getting into the car, and getting out of the car.”
Sticking to a schedule – especially when it comes to sleep – is almost unheard of. You may have a hard time getting them to have their meals on a routine, or take naps and go to bed on a schedule. No two days are the same.
Like Eeyore, spirited kids can focus on the negative in a room full of positivity. Most of the time, they have a serious disposition. That doesn’t mean they’re sour all the time, but they spot what’s wrong and have a desire to fix it.
What the book does point out is that spirited children will typically have a combination of these qualities but not necessarily all of them. You may think you have a difficult child and feel exasperated, but you’re not the only one dealing with these types of behaviors. They’re normal with a little bit of extra sprinkled on top!
It’s important to find support and speak with your child’s pediatrician if you suspect their behavior is related to a medical or developmental issue. Otherwise, Kurcinka encourages parents to use positive language when describing and interacting with their spirited kid.
With a new understanding, parents can embrace the fact that someday their spirited children will grow up with a strong sense of self and are comfortable with who they are. Focused, determined, and unafraid to speak their minds, they grow up to do great things in the world!
Do you think have a spirited child in your life? Are you familiar with the book? Which of these traits sound like a child you know?