All children have moments of being difficult and challenging; but some children are just MORE. I think of a spirited child as a child who is MORE intense, energetic, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and uncomfortable with change than the “average” child. Many times, these children are identifiable from birth, starting out as what are sometimes called “high need” babies. As they grow older these children show their spirit in other ways, challenging their parents beyond what we ever thought possible. This is my life, people!
Are you nodding your head along with me? Check out these 6 signs that your child might be spirited to find out more:
1. You think your child should be on broadway, they are so dramatic. A spirited child is extremely intense.
The emotions of a spirited child are BIG. If little Joey has a major meltdown because you gave him the wrong color socks, he might be spirited child. If Susan becomes extremely ecstatic when she wins a board game and tips over the game when she loses, she might be a spirited child.
2. Your child is very sensitive.
Her pants are too itchy so she can’t complete a simple task. Her pizza is cut in squares and it was supposed to be triangles. Your spirited child’s day is disrupted by the unfairness of receiving the wrong color plate at breakfast. Small, seemingly insignificant details will set your spirited child off.
3. Your child is extraordinarily perceptive.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. A spirited child is very sensitive to the emotions that are going on around them. This means your child knows if you’re having a bad day. She comforts you when you are sad, but she also feeds off of the emotions of others and knows when you’re trying to hide something from her. It might even feel like she uses your emotions against you, and your child might even be a master manipulator.
4. Your child does NOT give up.
He will keep asking… and asking… and asking until he gets the answer he wants. This trait can be a huge positive – your child will not give up until she accomplishes what she set out to do. Unfortunately, this persistence can also be a negative, your child might come off as nagging or have trouble moving on from a task if they haven’t gotten it “perfect” yet.
5. Your child is uncomfortable with change.
Your 5 year old comes home crying off of the bus because the wrong person came outside to meet her… even if that person is someone she would usually be excited to see. Small shifts in routine can be very upsetting to a spirited child and therefore challenging for both parent a child. Life is crazy! Sometimes, we have no choice but to do something unexpected but your spirited child will have trouble coping if you pick them up on Tuesday for a doctor’s appointment when they are used to taking the bus home.
6. You sometimes think you are raising the energizer bunny.
Your child has boundless energy. A spirited child can keep going… and going… and going all day and all night long. If you are raising a spirited child, you probably haven’t slept much (if at all) since they were born.
So, if you’ve read this far you might be thinking: “this sounds exactly like my child!” If so, don’t lose all hope. In my experience, there are many moments filled with frustration, anger, and tears on both sides. Sometimes it is easy to wonder why your child can’t “just” do things like everyone else. Getting dressed and putting on your shoes should be so simple! But there are also moments filled with joy, pride, love, and success. The trait of persistence especially, can be a blessing and a curse. Don’t get between my spirited child and something she is set on accomplishing!
Still thinking this sounds scary? If you think you have a spirited child, here are 3 things you can do:
- Learn everything you can! Read and re-read and re-read “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Dr. Mary Sheedy Kurcinka . This book changed my life and how I interact with my child. The techniques she suggests in this book don’t work unless you are committed to DOING them. But learning them is a great start in the right direction.
- Meet your child where they’re at. Don’t expect them to change. We are the parents, and that means we are responsible for learning to help our children manage their physical and emotional well-being. These children feel so much and so deeply that it can be easy for them to get labeled as problematic or obnoxious. We can’t expect them to learn to manage these feelings all on their own. They aren’t being annoying on purpose, we need to teach them how to manage it and be their biggest advocates.
- Love them! It’s not always easy when your child is screaming in your face that they hate you because you gave them different toothpaste that they were expecting, but we have to love them! If anything, your spirited child needs extra love. We also have to celebrate the parts of their spirit that make them who they are. My spirited child is strong, opinionated, confident in herself and knows what she wants. She won’t give up, and she won’t take no for an answer. She is wise beyond her years and extremely empathetic. My spirited child made me a mother. She loves deeply and she has taught me to love her fiercely in return. I’m incredibly lucky.
The crew of parents with spirited children is a special one. If my words resonated, welcome to the club!