I recently found on a blog the term "spirited child." I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I wrote a previous review of another book this month about this topic and this book was a second on the list that I thought sounded interesting. As the mom of a pretty smart, creative, curious, and busy boy I wanted to learn if my son was one of these so-called spirited children. After reading I see that nope, he's just a middle of the road, all-boy, "spunky child," as this author calls it in her book. Some good info in here. A lot to take in, but if you seriously think you have a spirited child this is a MUST-READ for you. Great parenting how-tos in here.
Raising Your Spirited Child - A guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
-From page one Kurcinka explained that spirited children are "more." "Spirited kids are the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls. Other kids bounce three feet off the ground. Every bounce for a spirited child hits the ceiling," she wrote.
-The author explains that labels are oftentimes negative and hurtful toward these children. Instead of saying aggressive, demanding, etc. one should say excited, creative, curious, etc. The focus is on the child's positive traits versus the frustrating moments.
-Kurcinka explained that asking an energetic child to sit still too long is like asking you to ignore your full bladder. It's going to burst, it's inevitable, unless you shorten the time and do something about the need.
-As for children who are innately louder than the average child, Kucinka said they cannot help it. "They are not loud because they know it irritates people; they are loud because they really feel that much excitement, pain, or whatever the emotion or sensation may be. Their intensity is real," on page 42.
-In chapter 3 the author details a quiz for you to figure out if you have a spirited child, spunky child or low-key cool child. It is based on the traits of a spirited child including mood, energy, persistence, sensitivity, etc.It was very interesting to walk through this and see that some areas my son scored higher (energetic!) and other areas he did not even show anything of concern at all (sensitivity). It's definitely an interesting perspective of seeing our kids this way in that these are character traits, part of who they are, not them going through phases or trying to annoy their parents.
-Kucinka encourages recognizing your child's cues before they erupt into a tantrum or issue. On page 108 she wrote, "Think about your child. What cues does he send you? How do his body movements change? What happens to the tone of his voice? What irritates him that doesn't when he is calm? Take note of these changes. Store them in your brain." She encourages you intervene when you see these signs. For us, we know that our son gets so excited easily when he sees his family. He can't calm himself for at least 15 minutes afterward because he's over the top happy to see them. So if they are coming over we make sure we take care of business beforehand. Last night for example when we were preparing to go out for a date and his grandparents were coming to watch him, we made dinner early, got into pajamas, went potty, brushed teeth, etc. BEFORE they arrived because we knew otherwise it'd be much more difficult for him to calm down his excitement and do those tasks when all he wants is to play with his buddies. Knowing ahead of time these cues that your child needs you to settle them is what Kucinka said makes all the difference.
It takes being two steps ahead all the time. Which is challenging as a parent especially of multiple children. Doing your best and trying to stay focused is helpful.
-Teaching children to name their emotions is so important. It helps it become less confusing and frustrating for them when they experience strong emotions. (page 111)
-Kucinka explained that for many kids lack of sleep causes a stress situation in their body, where they cannot slow down enough to sleep even though they need to. The author actually confirmed something I've said for years about my son regarding their being a "window" of time for nap to happen, and if we miss that time (even 20 minutes past regular nap time) in most cases he won't sleep even a half hour. I've always been sooo big on making sure we stick to nap time because my son really needs it. He's not one of these "spirited children," so I imagine for those who truly are they REALLY will need their rest.
-It's important to help children see you are listening, you understand, you care about their feelings. Saying yes, I understand, is sometimes all it takes to calm a crying child or someone in trouble. (page 145)
-"The problem with consequences is that punishment is the least effective means of getting good behavior. The most effective way is teaching appropriate skills and reinforcing your child when she uses them," Kucinka wrote on page 173.
-Kucinka stresses throughout the book that teaching kids to "use their words" is the best method for working with any type of child. Encouraging them to explain their point of view, wants and needs, feelings, etc. is the best way to understanding them and helping them feel understood, and thus behaving better.
-Helping children calm themselves is important, too. A few ideas:
paint the shower with shaving cream
baths! even in the middle of the day, are so calming
sand and water play
rubbing their back or massages
writing letters and numbers on their back or them doing it to you
A very good read. If you feel like your child is "more," like the author wrote, this is a helpful book. There is a lot of information in here though so plan to take some time to go through it if you find that your child really is a spirited one. And for those whose children, like mine, are just a little energetic or other forms of spirit yet not exactly defined as "spirited," it was still helpful to read some of these tips.