Liking My Spirited Child

by Jasmine Carlson on October 30, 2010

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I was browsing– okay, I fess up–I was googling the term “spirited child.” I immediately came up with some book advertisements and then with a few pages that explained what a spirited child was. My son is a “textbook” spirited child. The next few pages I came across were things like “taming your spirited child” and how to “cope” with having a spirited child, how to “survive.”

I am not big on always using positive words. I am actually somewhat of a self-proclaimed pessimist and don’t mind that I look at the glass and see it as half empty. I have had troubles with that before. Wishing I was more “positive” and “upbeat” but the truth is this is the way I am and if I am to embrace the way my son is and teach him how to embrace himself I will need to start by embracing myself. Fairly basic priniciple but easier said that done.

Now I understand how difficult it can be to have a spirited child. Though in some ways every child has their rough points. It is difficult to be a parent period. My son has had me in tears of frustration and exhaustion wondering if I was going to make it until bedtime only to find no relief because he wouldn’t sleep. If you have a spirited child, I don’t have to explain this to you.  You are already nodding your head and going through your own personal lists.

I in no way think that I need to “tame” my child. He is not going to change. He is going to be spirited for the rest of his life. Thank goodness! He is never going to be boring! He is going to be a creative and passionate person. I would not want to take that away from him. I don’t need to survive raising him. We both have to find a way to embrace our life today and all the tomorrows that are coming.

Here are just a few things that I have learned about my spirited child and that have helped me to embrace him and have helped him to organize himself.

  1. My son needs time to organize himself, I need to make that space and time for him. Since he is so disorganized he has had to learn discipline early, he has to discipline his mind and body, I can’t do that for him, but because of his age I have to help him identify his times of overload and help create the space he needs to organize himself.
  2. It works best if I let him know everything that we will be doing and where everyone is. This is no small feat sometimes considering we live in a community and there are 13 people here. He doesn’t feel “right” when he doesn’t know or understand what is going on, it creates confusion.
  3. My son can be loud and mean on occasion. This has to do with being a toddler but also has to do with him being spirited because he does not easily identify that he has hurt someone. This is not okay because no one wants to be around a child that is inconsiderate. I don’t want to be around a child that is inconsiderate! Appropriate discipline should be decided on before something happens because it is easy to become angry or frustrated with a spirited child. Discipline needs to happen immediately as a spirited child does not have a great attention span.
  4. A spirited child definitely changes a household (all children do) but they do not need to rule the household. Adjusting schedules so that they get a good amount of sleep and are not too distracted to eat is important but it is also important to be able to flex a schedule a bit without having your child freak out and ruin your time. Planning favorite stops, or for us, favorite snacks or activities along the way works great, something along the lines of “We are going to the coffee shop. They have toys there. Won’t that be fun?” We limit our time there so that we don’t push him too far and then suggest that we head to Target and while we are there we will get a chocolate milk. We do not bend to demands but calmly repeat exactly what we said we would do before, “No book today honey. I told you we were getting a chocolate milk remember? We’re going to do that now.”

None of this guarantees that we won’t be pulling our hair out at the end of the night but they are a few things that I have found that work for us. I also have found that it is very important that I get a little “me” time, especially if we have had a rough week. It doesn’t have to be much but it is extremely necessary.

In conclusion, why is it important that we discuss our spirited children? Because we want to do more than love our little ones, we want to like them and want them to become likeable people.

Any other spirited children out there? What do you all do to handle difficult situations? How about everyday life?

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Jasmine Carlson (49 Posts)

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. (www.shapingher.com) Join the conversation at (www.facebook.com/ShapingHer)


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sonya-Justice November 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Thank you for writing this. I found it very helpful. just talking calmly, explaining explaining and explaining have helped my spirited daughter to be less upset about things and I really am beginning to like her a lot more. She is very strong willed and it can be hard to parent a child like that but like you said parenting is difficult anyway.

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Cindy November 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm

My nearly 20 month old daughter is also a text book “spirited child”. She tests me every minute of the day. I am always engaging her, talking and entertaining her. If for one moment I stop talking or entertaining her she has a fit. She never sits still, has to nurse through her naps during the day (and nurse every hour or two during the day) and by the end of the day I’m spent!
I am not a routine person myself and I don’t normally talk to her about what we are going to do and what she can expect from the day. I do sometimes, but I don’t make a habit of it.
I am wondering if I need to try harder to be more of a routine person, for her benefit…
Something to think about.
I do however sometimes feel that I do need to learn how to “survive living with my spirited child” : (
Thanks for sharing your story.

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elle May 14, 2013 at 5:54 am

I can finally put a word to my sons behaviour and very very very challenging personality! he is 3 years old and every day of the past 3 years i have just tried to make it through the day and dealing with al his demands! when het opens his eyes in the morning he starts demanding something…I am one emotionally tired mom! but i am relieved to say the least that there is probably ways to deal with him in a positive way which will also make life at home easier.

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Gaby September 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Thank you for writing this post. I can relate to it very much! I have been at home with my very spirited two year old since his birth and it is completely draining me and who I am. He nurses constantly day and night and if for a brief minute my attention is not on him he breakdown! Eating and using the washroom are often a challenge for me because he doesn’t want to take a break from the activity we are doing. I am really starting to wonder how he will be in preschool. Anyone have any stories to share on a spirited child at school?

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JoAnn February 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I have a spirited 3yo daughter that makes me feel I’m being punished for something. On a particularly tough day, I will look up ‘spirited child’ online to remind myself that I am not alone. Most journeys out in public begin and end in frustration and embarrassment as most parents don’t understand what a struggle it is EVERY DAY and shoot you judgemental looks. On the other hand; she is fantastic for the preschool teachers!!! No issues!

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Rosa April 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I have a spirited 4 month old. He’s gorgeous, bubbly and sociable BUT, and there is a but, his temperament and lack of sleep rarely affords me any time by myself or with other adults as he is overtired most of the time due to extremely short catnaps. I do feel I need to discuss him and get help, sadly, because it’s affecting my own happiness, and what he needs is a happy mum. But yeah, as long as your happiness is intact, no reason to discuss!

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kathy May 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

My son is now 9 years old. I love him and have always tried to remind myself that his determined personality is a good thing. I know I will never change that in him and I don’t want to. I would love to embrace it, but let’s face it, it is EXHAUSTING. I do not go to bed smiling because of the ‘spirited’ day I had with my son. EVERYTHING is a challenged and is challenged. There are three things I’m grateful for; one is the Holy Spirit that leads, guides, and refreshes me, the internet so that I can find reassurance that I’m not alone in this and, of course, the LOVE I have for my wonderful son.
At times, I feel like it is a privilege to parent him. But so many people in our life see him as out of control, loud and hard to be around. So, sometimes I feel defeated.
I just want to share this with all you out there feeling tired and exhausted. Bed time is wonderful. If there is anything I could do over, that would be insisting on quiet alone time for your ‘spirited child’, even just for 5 minutes and increasing with time. It is the one thing that has been struggle for my son, but we have worked on over the past year. It sounds like some of you struggle with that too. My son was and is still demanding of all my time. He had meltdowns regularly, and we knew it was because he needed to unwind and relax, but I don’t think a ‘spirited’ person knows how to do that. Perhaps they think the world will fall apart if they aren’t there. So, I really suggest helping them relax, with lot’s of encouragement, set a timer, let them know as soon as the timer rings you’ll be there. Like I said it’s the one thing I regret not doing as a toddler. That 5 minutes is enough time for you to take a breath and avoid a meltdown. It has worked for us and he has a lot less meltdowns, we can say to him, ‘I think you need some quiet time, just 20 minutes, we’ll set the timer and then you can play’. Sometimes he falls asleep.

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