How do you know if you’ve been blessed with a “spirited child?”
Well, like most things when it comes to parenting, there is no precise definition and no two spirited children are exactly the same.
But, let’s look at some clues.
Do you find yourself getting those “looks” in public from other moms who wonder why you can’t quite that child down?
Do your closer friends ever gently ask whether you’ve looked into an ADD or ADHD diagnosis?
Do you yourself sometimes wonder what you’re doing wrong? And why all your best parenting tricks that keep your other children on track just don’t work for this one?
These may be some clues that you’ve got a spirited child on your hands.
Spirited children can be active, loud, emotional, sensitive, creative, strong-willed, full of big ideas, have tunnel vision, and be a bit impulsive.
As a parent, raising a spirited child can be exhausting.
Let’s face it, parenting a “normal” child who responds at least by the third time you ask her to do something and doesn’t break down in tears when you look at her wrong can be tough enough some days.
While the spirited child is a true blessing, she’ll make you laugh every day and open your eyes to look at many things in new and fun ways, it does help to have some specific strategies for dealing with her highs and lows so you don’t find yourself feeling frustrated and hopeless on a daily basis.
1. Have a Routine
While all children benefit from routine, it’s crucial for the spirited child.
When he knows what to expect he learns that it’s non-negotiable, is just the way things are done, and he won’t think to challenge it.
Your spirited child will enjoy the stability of a routine because it makes him feel in control and safe.
You may be thinking, but my life changes every day depending on what’s going on with each kid and parent that day, which is of course totally normal.
The most important, and fortunately the easiest, times to establish a routine are in the morning and at night.
Focus on doing the same things in the same order every morning and night.
Listen to a song
Brush your teeth
Both starting and ending with a routine will help your child feel balanced and ready to dive into a busy day or relax into a peaceful sleep.
If there is a lot of variety in how your child’s day goes, prepare him at the beginning of each day or week by going through what the day will look like so he’ll be aware of expectations.
For some kids it helps to have a chart where they can read and even check off what they are doing and what comes next.
You can find charts designed for this at your local toy store, or simply use a white board that’s located somewhere your child can see and easily reference.
2. Practice Mindfulness
This one may take a little practice, so start as early as you can and have patience while your spirited child learns to love this time with you.
Mindfulness is basically being non-judgmentally conscious of the present moment.
It’s a great tool to teach your spirited child because she can learn to come back to it at times when she needs to calm her emotions or handle a situation that isn’t going her way.
The best way to get your child interested in mindfulness is to bill it as some special time that the two of you are going to spend together.
For starters, it doesn’t need to be more than five minutes, and really it never needs to be more than 15 minutes.
One of the most effective mindfulness practices is just to lay down and do a body scan.
You can choose your child’s favorite surface and start by asking her to just feel the warmth or squishiness or whatever it is she likes about that surface.
Then have her notice her breathing, then go through and have her focus on the different parts of her body.
At first it will be too much to conquer the whole body, so you may just choose to do your legs and feet one day.
Just spending a few minutes with mindfulness can calm your child (and you!) for the rest of the day.
If your child simply won’t lay still and buy into your body scan, start with mindfulness while she's doing an activity she loves.
Tell your child you’re going to pause for just five minutes and notice the feel of the grass on her toes, the warmth of the sun on her face, the buzz of the other children around you.
Whatever it is you’re doing, the point is to just stop and be with that moment.
It’s important not to point out the good or bad of anything going on, but to just feel every part of the present moment for a few minutes.
If your child is having a hard time focusing, reassure her that’s normal and just encourage her to let whatever comes into her mind pass right through and return her focus to what’s in the present moment.
Making mindfulness a fun and special part of your daily routine can be life-changing over time, and can add an important coping strategy to your child’s toolbox.
3. Discipline with Patience and Empathy
No amount of yelling, screaming, and punishing is going to be effective for the spirited child.
There are certainly times when you’ll feel like doing it, but the only thing you’ll accomplish is to make the situation worse.
And even if you were able to frighten your child into modifying his behavior, no one feels good about that and it doesn’t teach your child how to regulate himself in the future.
Spirited children respond well to natural consequences because it allows them to make mistakes and learn from them.
Natural consequences can be a bit harder as a parent because you’re allowing your child to make the bad choice and learn from it, but over time he will learn that it’s best to listen to you if he wants things to turn out in his favor at the end of the day.
Of course it will never be “perfect” with the spirited child, or with any child, but we’re just after getting the best results we can as often as possible.
The other discipline strategy that goes a long way with the spirited child is having empathy for the strong emotions he’s feeling.
Remember your child is not just choosing to be “bad” despite what the old lady in line next to you might be suggesting.
He’s hard-wired with big emotions, too big for his years a lot of times, and he often just needs a hug and some understanding from you.
Let him know that you’re in this thing together, and while this reaction or behavior isn’t okay, you’re going to work it out so that everyone’s as happy as possible with the situation.
And remember, there’s nothing your spirited child likes better than a big party . . .
A KidsPartyCharacters.com party is perfect for your spirited child.
She’ll have over 200 characters to choose from as her special party guest and will be treated to an exciting show as well as all the extras that make the party complete, like cotton candy, face painting and balloon twisting.
When it’s time to celebrate your spirited child, head over to KidsPartyCharacters.com and choose the package that’s right for you.
Also stay connected with us on Facebook for party updates as well as more tips on how to parent happy and healthy kids while keeping yourself sane in the process!