Q&A: new information?

Before today's question (which was actually last Friday's question, but the new Typepad interface doesn't let me post from my BlackBerry. FAIL.) I'd like to announce that I've created a new holiday: Candletime. It runs from November 1 through the day before American Thanksgiving (so November 25 this year), and the celebration is that you dim the lights and light a bunch of candles every evening when you get home, and enjoy a cup or tea or coffee or cider or glass of wine. The official greeting is either "Happy Candletime!" or "Light up! It's Candletime!"

Happy Second Day of Candletime!

Now, to the question. A long-time reader with a 5-year-old writes:

"OMFG we're idiots.

all this time and guess what? [Kid's name] totally fits the profile of a spirited child.


Well, I can't really say I'm that surprised. Knowing this child and
having heard the stories, she just always seemed somehow "more" than
other kids in intensity and emotion.

But I also don't think this is entirely new information for the poster,
either. Five years with a person and you start to figure them out. The
way I've witnessed the poster's parenting process, it's looked to me
like a slow but sure journey of figuring her daughter out.

So it seems like figuring out the label does two things:

1) It makes you pissed off that you never knew before. How much easier
would it have been to have been able to look at someone else's roadmap
instead of driving blind?? And to not think it had something to do with
your parenting or the dynamic between you?

2) It makes you relieved. It's not just her. It's not just you. It's
not just the combo of you. You're not crazy, and you're not raising a
psychopath (eeeeeveryone with a child older than 6 months knows what I
mean here, spirited child or not). You're not a bad parent. And you can
use someone else's roadmap from here on out to prep yourself.

So all in all, having figured this out is great news. Go get a cup of
coffee, or take a bubble bath. Or have a cup of coffee in the bubble

The other thing about this, though, is that you may now have a framework for dealing with schools and other adults who don't understand your daughter. If you can find resources that describe the "typical" spirited child, that may make sense to them and help you all help your daughter to grow and learn and all that other stuff, instead of making people feel bad about expectations and "normal" and everything else.

(I'm not going to go into the "I can't believe we missed it this whole
time" thing. You know what? Parents miss stuff. Sometimes we're just so
busy parenting the kid we have that we don't see them as a category.
While sometimes it's helpful to see the categories, most of the time
it's exactly right to parent the person right in front of you.)

Anyone have recommendations for the poster for books or websites for parenting a spirited child? Especially ones that are written in language that would make them useful for bringing into discussions with teachers and school administrators? Any other tales from the trenches about spirited kids or anyone else who deviates from the median?

72 thoughts on “Q&A: new information?”

  1. “Anyone have recommendations for the poster for books or websites for parenting a spirited child?”…. Calvin and Hobbes 😉
    Enjoy the journey…..

  2. I’d like to put my greeting this way:”Honey, the kids are in bed. Light up; it’s Candletime. (and it’s only 6 pm because OMFG end of Daylight time, see you at 4am.)”
    Happy Candletime to everyone.

  3. @enu…HAhahaha!! So true.Yes, child #1 is spirited. Yes, MORE of everything:
    – more emotion, more drama, more energy, more sensitivity, more imagination, more creativity
    but also LESS:
    – less sleep, less patience (on his part, and occasionally, our part)
    He came out of the womb, eyes wide open, drinking everything in. He hasn’t stopped since.
    It’s great to know your kid’s brain chemistry, but sometimes it’s also great if other people (friends, school) treat them the same as everyone else. That can work, too. They’re going to be bumping up against the world their entire lives. We advocate for our son when needed, and also try to let him feel the bumps.
    Not sure yet whether #2 is spirited, but I have a feeling she is. Hoo boy.

  4. That would be my Elfbaby too. Well, sort of. The only thing that doesn’t fit is that most of the “spirited” descriptions talk about extra crying… but she’s a really happy baby – at least having gotten past the colicky first few months, and since I’ve been wearing her in a sling so often. But not so much with the sleeping, and plenty of energy and excitement and activity and… hoo boy.We’re just 7 months in and I am clearly not the person to recommend any resources; but I agree with meggiemoo about basically treating them as just another individual.

  5. I am looking forward to reading the recommended books as my child is definitely spirited. I had to lol enu at your suggestion – right on.My E is 28 months and wow, she is a challenge. Last night it took 3 time outs (in front of company) to get her to pick up her juice box. I caved and had her just apologize instead.
    This is how it went: she threw the box, I said pick it up, she replies, “no, you pick it up”.
    Me :”Umm, no, you threw it, you know we don’t through things, you need to pick it up or you will go for a time out.”
    E: “no, you go for a time out”
    Me: E, pick it up now or time out.
    E: No
    So off she goes to her room for the first time. After her set 2 minutes I go back in carry her out to where the juice box is and she continues to refuse to pick it up. I carry her back to time out number two.
    My husband then tried to make a game of it by holding her by the ankles above the juice box and she balled her hands and half laughed and cried so she wouldn’t have to pick it up. He picked it up for her, essentially giving her an out, and she punched it out of his hand. Back to time out!
    I caved at this point. After the third time out and she still refused to pick it up I had her apologize and was done with it. Probably not the best result, but what are you gonna do?
    Neither of us raised our voices, and she was really working on less sleep than normal as she hadn’t napped that afternoon.
    Ah…. spirited children.

  6. For the book recommendations, I’ve had great success with “Playful Parenting”, “The Highly Sensitive Child”, and “Positive Discipline”. In my experience, traditional methods of discipline (time outs, punishment such as spanking) do not work as well (or at all) as non-traditional ones.We use lots of singing, games, distraction, do-overs and imagination with our son to get through the day. Spirited kids are usually extremely persistent, so you don’t want to back yourself into a place where it’s all or nothing.
    There’s a positive discipline listserv on Yahoo that has been enormously helpful to me.

  7. I HIGHLY recommend: Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Just reading the book makes me feel so much better, and the ideas in it are so helpful for understanding my daughter and for figuring out ways to work with her.ITA with what meggiemoo wrote! The Playful Parenting book and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk books were also extremely helpful for me.
    There are so many bright sides to having a spirited child, but I’m sure you already knew that. 🙂

  8. Ok so more of EVERYTHING. But how much more? I’m almost sure mine are not ‘spirited’. What does a Spirited Child really look like?

  9. I’m with paola on this one – I’m pretty sure my kiddo is not ‘spirited’ – though he is stubborn as all get-out when he decides to be – which is both good and bad. And Aaron, that sounds like something we would definitely go through – I just chalked it up to normal toddler behavior. But maybe not?

  10. @paola: There’s a list located here: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-spirited-child.htm.I’ve only gotten up to age 4 so far, but my son was remarkably different from other infants I knew from the moment he was born. He had pretty severe sleeping problems for the first year (and still does not sleep through the night). He was extremely sensitive to light and sound (and still is bothered by very bright lights). He wouldn’t go to anyone other than me for the first year. He hated the stroller, hated the car seat, hated the bouncy chair, hated the swing. He only wanted to be held. He would not take a pacifier, and was only soothed by the breast.
    Now, he’s different from most of the children in his class because he’s more advanced in some things (imagination, verbal abilities) but less advanced in others (took him far longer to potty train than any of his classmates).

  11. Parent of, Thomas, an almost 3 year old sprited high-needs child and a mellow 7 month old as well (so different!).I find that Thomas has a great deal of trouble with transition and with calming down. Things that have helped us:
    -Lot’s of warning/pre-work before any transition or new activity. Such as “In 5 minutes we are going to eat lunch.”, followed by warnings at 2 minutes and 1 minute as well. If we are doing something totally new we talk about it for days beforehand. We went to Disneyland recently and although he was genuinely excited to go he threw a fit as we were packing up the car to go. He did have a wonderful time once we got there.
    -Timeouts do not work for us – very clear, consistent consequences do. We take away bedtime stories and toys for inappropriate behavior. Specifically, each day he starts with 5 bedtimes stories. He loses them one at a time for each infraction. We usually give a warning. It goes something like this: Thomas throws something in frustration. We warn “You have until the count of three to pick that up or you lose a story.” If he doesn’t comply (it’s about 50/50) we say “OK, you have lost a story. You now have 4 stories left. Please try to listen to Mama/Daddy so that you can keep all of your stories.” Some days are great and we have all five left at the end of the day. There have been many days where he has none left and he is sad, but will often vow to try to behave better the next day.
    -Sleep has always been a huge challenge for us – especially unwinding at the end of the day. Now after we turn out the lights we sit with him and “talk about his day” doing a thorough review of the day. This can take 20 minutes or so but it really seems to help him unwind. We also sit with him until he falls asleep. Not ideal, but if we don’t he will be up for hours (we’ve tried).
    Good luck.

  12. @anotherAmy…certainly all children (especially toddlers!) exhibit some of these characteristics, but with spirited children, you can look at the behavior over the years and see a pattern.

  13. @sarcasticarrie – not kidding. It’s killing me. Sunday morning 4:30, last night 3:30 and a two hour fight until it was 5:30 and I gave up. And I used to think 5:30 was a crappy wake up time for a two year old.But yeah, happy candletime for sure!
    @meggiemoo – “Spirited kids are usually extremely persistent, so you don’t want to back yourself into a place where it’s all or nothing.” That’s the truth.
    Last night he was determined to get up. I kept putting him back in his bed. At one point he sat on his floor crying for about 15 minutes then he got up (I was watching him on the monitor) and climbed back in his bed. I thought wow, he’s going to go back to sleep. He picked up his stuffed dog that he brings out with him every morning when it’s time to get up and climbed right back out of bed and came in my room. Two hours and he never gave in.

  14. @mom2boys: sounds familiar! Last night was all about “one more”. One more piece of candy. One more TV show. One more book. Anything to avoid that ultimate transition: BEDTIME.We actually have to call it “naptime” now, as in, “After naptime, we’ll wake up and you’ll go to school”. Otherwise, he fights it even more.

  15. @paola, anotheramyOh, if you had a spirited child, you would *know* that there was something different bout them. Or, maybe not – that is the point of this post. Hmm. Our spirited one came out different – never did the sleepy newborn thing, yelled like a wet cat (as her pediatrician put it) for about a year, while not sleeping at.all, then developed into a strong-willed, emotional, hypersensitive toddler and preschooler. (we were given the Raising your Spirited Child book at her 4 month well-baby appt. she was an obvious case) At 5, she’s showing signs of slowing down and fitting in. Our non-spirited child is so so different. It was shocking when he came out that he ate and slept and didn’t scream all the livelong day. And has he’s grown (he’s 2.5 now) he’s stayed fairly typical.
    The one major piece of advice I have is that non-traditional discipline tends to work better than the obvious time-outs.
    My spirited girl is perhaps on the extreme end of spirited, since she has in the past qualified for OT to help regulate her body responses. We’re having a meeting with the school district soon to discuss whether they should be continued – it looks like she’s normalized. Hurrah!

  16. Ah yeah, the suckiness that is the time change. Pumpkin handled it surprisingly well this year. Petunia in only a month old, so she just kept her usual schedule in blissful ignorance of the hell that made in my life. Oh well.I second Caramama’s book recommendation. We bought that book and read it, decided that Pumpkin isn’t truly “spirited” but that she has those characteristics in a couple of areas (energy and intensity), and the ideas in the book have been really helpful.
    Sadly, the sleep ideas were not new to me. However, Pumpkin just got better at the sleep thing on her own. Interestingly, she did it at about 2 years old, which is when my Mom says I started “getting” the whole sleep idea, too. Luckily, Hubby’s parents can’t really remember what he slept like, so he can’t definitively pin the blame for our two years of crappy sleep on me.
    And I definitely agree- don’t back yourself into a corner with one of these kids. Pumpkin is WAAAAAY more stubborn than I am. I long ago decided that it was going to have to be OK for Mommy to change her mind sometimes and I am very careful about what battles I pick. Interestingly, she is not more stubborn than Hubby. At least I know where she gets it….

  17. @peaceinyourcrib…you’re welcome! This topic is obviously close to my heart…our son has been such a joy and challenge for us. He didn’t react to anything in the way that any of our friends’ children or children in the baby books did. I would inevitably hear, “Oh! Have you tried xx? My son/daughter LOVED xx.” Haha, lady, not only have I tried xx, but I’ve tried every other thing you can possibly think of, and no, it doesn’t make my kid eat/poop/sleep/behave/listen any better.One of these days, I’m going to create a website that will be a clearinghouse of information for parents with children who are spirited/high-needs/sensitive. These kids can wear you out, but they’re also really quite amazing.

  18. I really like Raising Your Spirited Child. She goes through the different ways in which kids can be spirited (persistent, intense, sensitive etc), and how to deal with each of these dimensions. Also how to deal with your own “spiritedness”, working on the assumption that a parent of a spirited child may also be spirited (ah, genetics!). One of my twin boys fits the spirited profile very well in many senses, the other is just ridiculously persistent (more than his brother). I also found the chapter on sleep really helpful. And the overall vibe that what works for ‘typical’ kids will not work for spirited ones.

  19. Thanks meggiemoo. I googled the same article after posting and it confirmed that my kids are not spirited. However no. 2 is prettty damn stubborn most of the time, her sleep sucks most of hte time and she can be pretty intense. Then again, this is very typical 2.5 year old behaviour as I remember it with my now almost 5 year old who was/is an easy kid.

  20. I agree that if you are asking yourself what does a spirited child really look like, you probably don’t have one. All toddlers and early preschoolers are stubborn, but everything about the kid I have is at the far end of the spectrum, just like it was said, just MORE of everything. I find having the check in of his daycare providers, who have their eyes on lots of kids (and several different people, with different styles, who have seen several years worth of kids this same age) has helped me a lot. Most comments about behavior of kids his age from my son’s teachers end with the phrase “oh and Especially with E…!” It isn’t just one or two points, it’s ALL of the points hit the extreme.@meggiemoo totally with you on the “Have you tried XXX” I have had it about up to HERE with that line. Of course, now that he’s older (nearly three) there is a little less of that.
    I have found that traditional measures like time outs just don’t make sense with my kid. He isn’t “bad.” He almost always listens when asked not to do something/ to do something and he almost NEVER does stuff just to spite us. But he takes everything to heart and just processes everything so intensely. Things that are funny are hysterical, happiness is extreme joy, a small disappointment is a deep abyssmal despair (Yesterday the not quite three year old said “I’m sad, mama, I’m ALWAYS SAD!” Which isn’t true but man the poor kid. Ten minutes later he was elated.
    I’ve enjoyed “how to talk…” and am about to dive into some of the other books recommended here, so I can’t help yet on that front.

  21. I agree with the recommendation on the book How to Raise a Spirited Child. I have a spirited 23m old and the book has at least helped me to understand her better.And as others have posted, sleep is the major issue. She just finally started to sleep through the night. It basically happened from one night to the next. Almost as if she decided that’s what she wanted to do. But, that seems to be the case most often anyway. In order to get her to do something I have to make it seem like it was her idea. I’m afraid what the teen years will bring if she’s like this at 22m!
    Still working on figuring out the best way to discipline her, but age is a factor here as well IMO. I have found lots and lots of praise when she does something right, or when told, is most beneficial. That, and ignoring her when she’s misbehaving helps too.
    It’s challenging raising a “spirited” child, especially when it seems as if all your friends have easy, or “textbook” children. I often feel as if I’m doing something wrong as a parent.

  22. Does that “Pick up the juice box before I count to 3” thing actually work with any kids? I only have one 4.5 year old (Chuckles) that I have tried it with to spectacular failure. I don’t think he’s spirited (intense, stubborn, no sleep ever ever ha ha NO, but not spirited). I’d say do this before I get to three and once I got to three, he might start to do whatever or might now. What works better for us is “Let’s see how long it takes you to XXX” so I start counting (slow or fast, whatever) and we see how long it takes.Speaking of the no sleeping ever EVER. I went to a party yesterday with a lot of parents of young kids. Chuckles was one of the oldest kids. There was a mom there complaining about her kid’s sleep and I commisserated, and said I bet you’ve tried everything and people just keep suggesting things that you’ve tried and haven’t worked. She practically hugged me right there. I told her the story of buckling Chuckles into the car every day for a year (with his blankie and no shoes) and taking him for a nap ride (and then transfering him to the crib, but I could have just as easily left him in the car with the baby monitor in the attached garage). And then one day, the car wouldn’t start, and she said, “OH NO, what did you do?” And I said, “That’s when I learned that he just needed to be strapped in where he couldn’t move to make his body stop and fall asleep, so I never took the car out of the garage ever again for nap since sitting in the car worked.” We both got a good laugh at me and my desperation.
    By the way, Chuckles still doesn’t sleep through the night. He routintely gets up and does things in the night, but he doesn’t need parental intervention most of the time. Our house is small, so I can see/hear him (and he’s not sleepwalking since he’ll talk about it in the morning in great detail with info about his rationale, etc). He’ll do things like get out of bed at 2 am and change into different jammies (or socks, or into clothes and then back into jammies because he wanted to go back to bed?!? or he’ll put chap stick on but the chap stick is under the couch, so he has to go get it). Or he’ll read or play or go to the bathroom, brush his teeth, arrange his crayons by size, color, amount of sharp part left, rearrange stuffed animals, come in and tell me he just had to get up to tell me he loves me (sweet, but dude, wait until daylight, k?), and 900 million other strange things he does in the middle of the night so as not to sleep. But it’s not my problem. And it’s not a problem. He’s well-rested enough in the morning. He just requires very little sleep. He gets maybe 9 or 9.5 hours at age 4.5. At age 33, I like to get 9, but that’s not happening until almost-one-year-old Bobo’s four top teeth come in and the ear infection gets out (and the biting while nursing ends…please let it end).

  23. I love the idea of candletime!I’m in Denmark, and it’s dark at around 5 pm now. So it’s a nice transition lightwise, too.
    Hugs for everyone with a spirited child, or just one who doesn’t sleep. Since our trip this summer, Boo boo hasn’t slept through the night more than a handful of times. It’s wearing on me.
    Before that, she was the model sleeper. I’d like that back, please. I’ve talked to her, done sticker charts, presents even, and nothing is sticking. She’s 3 1/2.

  24. “Raising Your Spirited Child” was AWESOME. It helped me understand my daughter and also, myself. I am defintely “spirited” (although without the energy–oh, how I would love a tenth of my daughter’s energy) and was always made to feel weird and bad and like I was the screwup and my (nonspirited) brother was the angel although guess who got in considerably LESS trouble over the years? Here’s some things I wish my own parents had done differently:-They aren’t being this way to spite you, or because of anything you did wrong.
    -Embrace what makes them different instead of setting a “norm” in your family that they deviate from. Get interested in whatever that persistent little brain is working on.
    -Learn to talk about the way they are positively (this was the biggest takeaway I got from “Raising Your Spirited Child”). Instead of “Wow, you are a WILD THING” say “Wow, you are so full of energy!”
    Honestly? I like my daughter’s spiritedness because it makes her the remarkable little being she is, and it’s also one of the reasons she and I are a good fit. Certain aspects of it are not a walk in the park –I get the most horrified looks from my brother and sister in law about the kind of backtalk I let her get away with, and sometimes I think “Could we just put our jacket on and leave the house without it being 15 minutes of sleeve-related drama??” I also have to talk down my husband sometimes from getting in a battle of wills with her. We’ve already has a few teacher issues, too, but luckily she seems to be doing very well in a traditional classroom so far (with a GREAT teacher, I don’t know how she’d handle someone less skilled). She’s never going to be a kid who will obey — but she likes praise and people pleasing, so she can be a kid who cooperates.
    Given the caliber of parenting I see from the people here, I think you all can handle it beautifully. As Moxie said, it’s a matter of figuring your kid out — and then re-figuring them out when a new phase starts. As I say about my daughter all the time “She is the LEAST boring person I have ever met.”

  25. Another vote for Raising your Spirited Child. I’ll bet we have a higher percentage of parents of spirited children (PSC)here, since we’ve obviously all been pushed to our limit at some time and reached out to the internets for support…My almost 3 y.o. daughter is (whoo boy) spirited. And yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You do get used to the extra effort, and really, my biggest challenge now is balancing the needs of the rest of my family – making sure that my 5-month old, my husband and of course ME don’t slip through the cracks.

  26. I love you people. It really helps to read about others’ struggles with the sleep and the disipline for spirited kids. The “traditional” methods of sleep training or disipline just don’t work!@SarcasticCarrie – The only way the counting to 3 thing works for me is if the alternative is that I’m going to do it. This is because she likes to do everything herself, and I use it very carefully. I don’t think it would work for picking up anything, but it does work to get her in the carseat. Me, said in a conversational tone, not a do-it-or-else tone: “Go ahead and get in your carseat by the time I count to three or I’ll put you in.” I think the key for my girl is that it’s not do it or else, it’s you can get in all by yourself or I can be the one to put you in. Sometimes, she just looks at me and asks me to do it, which is also no problem.
    @AmyinMowtown – The using positive descriptors was a big take-away from that book for me as well. (However, I do call her a wild thing but in a fun way–we just got the book and like to stop around and pretend to be wild things.) Especially important to me was using the positive labels to other people, like teachers or extended family.

  27. Niothing for spirited children, but I do have to say that “Light up! It’s Candletime!” reminds of a ritual we had in college, as well.

  28. @Rudyinparis – I was also thinking about the other connotation of “light up.” I thought maybe Moxie was lighting a bunch of scented candles at her Candletime celebration…

  29. @caramama – That is good because Chuckles likes to do things himself, so “Start brushing your teeth by the time I count to 3 or I’ll start brushing them for you.” That’s good. I might try that.

  30. @caramama…we do that too, because little K *hates* having his physical space encroached on in any way. So the thought of me actually lifting him up to put him in his carseat is way worse than if he climbs up himself.He’s also very into being the first at everything these days, so we “let” him win at eating his dinner first, getting buckled into the car first, etc. It’s working for now.

  31. My daughter is vastly different from the children in her preK class. I’ve read The Explosive Child and utilized some of those techniques.I may be alone here, but I read Playful Parenting, and it is on my most hated book list. I hate hate hated it. Perhaps because I read it from a place of darkness and expected some *real* techniques, rather than the idea of making things into a race and a game. The idea that when you’re at the end of your rope, they’re at the very tail end of theirs and need you more than ever is the only thing that’s stuck by me. None of the playful stuff worked with my daughter at all until I started implementing the Basket concept from Explosive Child.
    I’m not sure if mine is spirited. I know that she’s just not very flexible, and I know her thought process is complex and difficult for me to understand. But that playful stuff? With the smart ones? I wish I had my money back from Amazon for that one. My daughter had no patience for that stuff. She knew what I was doing.
    I am going to check out How to Raise a Spirited Child, and also The Highly Sensitive Child.
    On an aside, I used to feel like my kid was super-difficult. I could see she was different from other kids, and felt like she was always hard-timing me. I understand, now, a little better that transitions and decisions are perhaps a little harder for her, and that guiding her through those things gently and with great patience (not easy) makes our lives better. We’re enjoying each other more, for sure.

  32. I was kind of there too in terms on not being sure if my child(ren) fall into this category/lable. I think I’m worried to give him a label that doesn’t actually apply so I’d be more inclined not to use to the term even if it is staring me in the face.One of my boys seems to fit the descriptions in same cases – he was high-needs baby in the sense that he didn’t sleep well, he hated car rides (would scream the entire time), hated baths (again would scream the entire time), was sensitive to lights, loud noises, etc. He seems intelligent and pretty verbal. But we do use time outs and they work (sometimes). There is so much drama with him – when he’s happy, he’s happy and life is good. Any little thing happens, and there are so many tears (immediately). Someone besides my husband or I raises a voice or laughs (he feels it is at him but typically it is with him), he immediately starts crying. That is the hardest part. There are a lot of “you are hurting my feelings” as the tears are flowing.
    My other son (same age) didn’t have the same “sensitive” characteristics as a baby but he fits the stubborn, time outs don’t work, battling everything, etc. descriptions. Wants (NEEDS) to be first at everything.
    Realistically, I just have 2 different children but neither are truly spirited. I do have the Spirited Child book – I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It sounds like it would be good to read even if my kids don’t fit the label.

  33. @meggiemoo – I think I could just shadow all of your posts on this topic and go “That’s just like T.” Hates his personal space invaded, also currently a big fan of One More (finger waving for emphasis – but he’s also gotten really good with Last One for when we have to end the current activity) and recently has discovered that his clothes have tags and they must all be cut out. Apparently his pajama top tag got missed so that was another reason to be awake at 3:30 this morning. So I could snip snip his tag for him. Thankfully just turning it inside out was funny enough to him to work.@sarcasticarrie – love the new socks and pajamas and other middle of the night adventures of Chuckles. love even more that you are so relaxed about it.

  34. Alright, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable comeback here, but I’m going to say it anyway.I googled ‘spirited child’ because when I read the OP, I had no idea what Moxie was talking about. And I read that article (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-spirited-child.htm) that was mentioned earlier. And so here is my rant for the day.
    I don’t know about anyone else, but I am TIRED of people coralling, categorising and labelling our children when they don’t conform. Now, I’m not denying that spirited children exist. I suspect, from my mother’s stories, that my sister was a spirited child. And actually, I’m not so much opposed to people calling children who are a little more high maintenance ‘spirited’, as it seems to fit the bill and I’m sure it helps to have a common adjective so that you can share tips and stories.
    But what really riles me is when it’s termed a ‘disorder’. From what I’m reading here, these children are NOT ‘defective’ in any way. They are just different. And it would appear that the chief difference that people have difficulty with is lack of compliance. How wonderful is that! Yes, it’s difficult and you have to adjust your parenting style, but you’re raising INDIVIDUALS! Sensitive individuals!
    I hope each and every one of you is proud of your spirited child, and I hope you don’t let the system tell you that there is something wrong with him or her.

  35. @Anonthistime…I don’t think anyone here labeled it a disorder, did they? I certainly don’t think of it in that way. It’s just a different brain chemistry. It’s not better or worse than any other brain chemistry…just different. The science of the brain is light years behind the other sciences, but it’s starting to catch up. And that’s very exciting.For a parent who is at the end of her/his rope, to read a description that *finally* fits your child is totally comforting. Yes, everyone is different, but spirited or highly sensitive children make up a certain population. We’re all just trying to help our children make their way through the world, and a lot of the world (traditional schooling comes to mind) is not necessarily set up for anyone with a different mindset.

  36. @Anonthistime – The spirited child is definitely not a disorder, and definitely not defective in any way. You are so right about those things!I was really happy to find a “term” for my child, because too often I was afraid people were giving her another label, like “difficult” or thinking she had/would have ADHD. She is just an amazing person with a certain set of personality traits. I like the term “spirited” and really like the How to Raise a Spirited Child book because it does take the attitude you are suggesting in your comment.
    One of my favorite ways to think about my child (and I got this from the How to Raise… book) is that often the qualities we admire in an adult (independent, thinks for themselves, creative, persistent, etc.) are ones that frustrate us in children. But these children will become those adults, as long as we help nurture these great qualities.

  37. @sweetcoalminer- I think you’ll really like Raising Your Spirited Child. If I remember right, it has an entire chapter on how to help your child with transitions. I liked it because it gave me ideas to try even in the areas where I don’t think my daughter is spirited.I’m laughing at the number of us that use the “do X by the time I count to Y or I’ll do it for you” approach. We do that a lot- but I will say, we have to be willing to follow through and do X for her, despite the tantrum that ensues.
    And yes, yes, yes on the gritting my teeth when someone asked “have you tried Z?” with our sleep problems. I’d always smile and say yes, we had, but in my head I was always thinking “lady, I’ve tried just about everything except an exorcism. This baby is NOT going to sleep through the night until she’s ready.”
    @Anonthistime- Kucinka’s book most definitely does NOT call being spirited a disorder. In fact, it is more of a plea/how to manual to help parents keep their spirited children from getting inappropriately labeled as “bad”.

  38. @Anonthistime:I think that is why we are calling them spirited and not “difficult.” I think I would also certainly use the term highly sensitive to describe my son. He isn’t non compliant actually. He doesn’t often push the borders of what is expected of him and frequently does exactly what would be expected as “good behavior” for a chld of his age, more so than other children I know well that I wouldn’t classify as “spirited”. But a car starting 100 feet away can turn him into a screaming gibbering mess. If I gently ask him to do something he begins to cry as though I”ve screamed at him. He is difficult to console, still doesn’t sleep through the night, he squirms and wiggles constantly as though he is uneasy all the time.
    He is weird and funny and charming. There’s nothing wrong with him and I don’t think having read all the comments here as a mother with a similarly spirited child, than any of these commenters are suggesting their children are disordered.
    Human beings are by nature classifiers. It helps to order our world to group people, things, behavior and if something drives these similar sets of behavior or certain tools are more appropriate for kids who exhibit certain types of behavior, identifying your child in that group can really serve to better your life, and improve your ability to parent the child you have… and to appreciate their special qualities. And if you are lucky you can help them identify and learn to smooth their sharp edges so when they bump them up against the world for their rest of their lives, the hurt a little less. Just like every other child.

  39. Our modification of the counting thing is first asking which of two ways he wants something done. For instance, “Do you want me to take your shoes off or do you want to do it.” “Do you want me to turn the TV off or do you want to do it?” He picks and then if he doesn’t begin right away, he gets the count to three before we perform the non-selected action. In the end there is a tantrum if the non selected action is performed, but at least I didn’t wait around until it happened, and about half the time he just does it and we get on with our day.

  40. Raising Your Spirited Child is good. For us, C didn’t quite fit a lot of the description of a “spirited” child, but in many ways, she was way BEYOND spirited. The book that changed our lives was The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder. (The new, revised edition.)If the spirited child description doesn’t go quite far enough for your kid, it’s worth flipping through the first few pages that characterize kids with SPD to see if it fits.
    And, of course, those Ames and Ilg books are fantastic for describing “normal.”

  41. In addition to Raising Your Spirited Child, I have also read and liked:Living with the Active Alert Child, by Linda S. Budd
    Taming the Spirited Child, by Michael Popkin.

  42. We do the counting (5 to 1, in part to counteract what I remember my mom doing, ‘four and a half, four and three quarters, four and …’ – harder to do between 2 and 1…). I remember my brother-in-law watching my kids hop sudden motion nearing 1, and him asking what happened when I got to 1, because clearly it was POWERFUL. I said ‘nothing, really – I just help him do it’ He thought that was totally crazy, but it was clearly also working.I have to be careful because my kids will take the counting too harshly, too – they’ll beg me not to count, the way I remember begging not to be spanked.
    My favorite book on the spiritedness-related-to-sensitivity is Sensational Kids. This is by the major researcher on sensory processing who is referenced in both The Out-of-Synch Child and The Highly Sensitive Child. It is more in-depth (IMHO) than either of the other two, and takes the ‘normal spectrum’ approach (that is, these behaviors are not abnormal, they’re part of the normal range, but they just require some skills to manage – for both parent and child). Yes, they can get to the level where they affect participating in life in a negative way. But a lot of the management is understanding what is going on, and then building skills to work with that.
    I have never read Raising Your Spirited Child, but I suspect three of four of my kids qualify, and the other partly does. They’re all very sensitive in some way. They all have sensory processing issues, but also are all insightful and astute about people, community, the world.
    The other book that really helps is Mother Styles, because some of what is the ‘sensitive’ aspect is being a Feeler rather than a thinker – being emotionally very responsive to the universe. Some of the issue is just personality. Combine that with the sensory process and you get different expressions of the whole ball of wax.
    Oh, and reading neuroscience research also – these very hair-trigger kids likely have very sensitive dopamine processing systems. They feel any drop in the levels as a punch to the gut. It makes life challenging now, but as they hit their teen years, they’ll have a very strong sense of ‘this doesn’t feel right’ or ‘I need to make a different choice’ – where kids who are easy mellow babies have more struggle as teens to determine what road to take. Not that they won’t choose eventually, but they can be maddening for their parents at that age, because they kind of wander into adulthood, and don’t seem to notice that one road might be better or worse in the long run. I have a brother who was like that, and he did eventually even out and find a direction and a drive and determination to succeed, but it wasn’t until late college age (through about 38 years old). Meanwhile, he wandered back and forth over a variety of lines that made my mom very stressed out… And even with drive and determination, now, the flavor of it is still that gentle, easy feeling. He just rolls with everything, takes risks without fretting, is willing to try and fail and not worry about failing. Never gets tied in knots. Just ties his mom in knots (because she’s Not That Way).
    So, combine those three factors, and BOY HOWDY. You get Miss M, who announced when she was 2 1/2 that she wasn’t going to be a Rocket Scientist, she was gonna be the Rocket. Which is pretty much spot-on. Any time she moves, it is like she was launched with no brakes and no way to stop without coming apart or crashing into something first. She’s all destination, and doesn’t consider what the path involves – she’ll crash through anyone and anything on the way, even if it gets her hurt (or them). Yet she’s also tender-hearted, needs reassurance and caretaking, finds satisfaction in tending to others, can focus forever on something that interests her, understands social consequence, etc. Not ADHD, nothing ‘wrong’ (though plenty of areas where skills-building has really helped her enjoy and participate in life effectively), just a Rocket.

  43. Oh, and also The Explosive Child for helping coach the skills for the child… and being able to spot the lock-up before it was fully in place. (And recognizing that I’m the same way on locking up emotionally.) That book is geared toward kids with disabilities of some sort, but frankly, it applies to any child between 18 months and 4 years old – when their needs are greater than their communication skills.

  44. @SarcastiCarrie,My 4.5 does the wake up and fool around thing a couple of times a year too. Not that it is tiwce a year, but for two longish periods a year, and at the same time each year too (a couple of months after a birthday, and at half birthday time). I therefore have come to the conclusion that it is growth/developmental related. It is so bizaar (for him) as he is such a good sleeper the rest of the time and then boom, he’s up at 2.00, in the bathroom playing with my make up, regularly for a good month and a half.

  45. I have a “spunky” child (very spirited, though, on persistence and sensitivity). I LOVE “Raising Your Spirited Child.” It’s great even for kids who aren’t spirited–the parenting strategies are fantastic for any kid. Also I LOVE LOVE LOVE “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk.” OMG. It completely and utterly changed my parenting for the better. The techniques very often stop my son’s tantrums dead in their tracks.What was especially nice about learning all this stuff is realizing that I’M spirited, so I need to help myself chill the eff out as much as my kid does.
    Good luck!

  46. just to add on, i’ve heard great things about “all children flourishing” by howard glasser. i’ve heard it mentioned by parents whose children had behavioral challenges, but it sounds like parents of all kinds of kids have read it and really found it helpful.

  47. I stumbled upon the counting thing and am amazed that it works. “you can get out of the bath by yourself before I count to 5, or I will take you out”, “you can get in bed before I count to 5 or I’ll lift you in bed”. It only took a couple of times of me doing it for him for this to work 99% of the time. This only works on my son who has to do everything himself- I use it on the other guy, but more often than not I end up doing it for him.

  48. @Geek in Rome- what a funny coincidence. I’m reading a book called “Pink Brain, Blue Brain” by Lise Eliot (a neuroscientist and mother), and she is pretty critical of Sax. Before this, I’d never heard of him.Anyway, you might want to check out that book, too. It is an interesting discussion of what gender differences are truly likely to be innate and what differences we probably amplify by how we raise our kids. It includes some ideas for how to work with the innate differences so as to increase every child’s skills- i.e., help boys be more verbal and help girls learn spatial reasoning better.

  49. I read the first half of the book, “The Difficult Child”, recommended by my dentist. The first half of the book is one where you make observations about traits and behaviors and the second half is where you do something about it. I’m not sure that I would completely recommend the book, but I did learn a few things:1. Your children feel more challenging when you have strep throat or a sinus infection. (I think this goes along with the various posts about yelling triggers, but is also appropriate here, because sometimes you just don’t have the energy to put in to “managing” your child.) But once I finished the course of antibiotics, I didn’t feel strongly about finishing the book.
    2. I thought one specific kid was “the difficult one” but it turns out that both of the older ones are, the 6 year old more than the 15 year old (which is the reverse of my guess), but between the two of them they pretty much have the whole list of challenging traits.

  50. @cloud. thanks for the recommendation. I will def.ly check it out.There were several things I didn’t agree with in Sax’s book, but the premise is that boys and girls do have innate differences ex. hearing ability, energy levels etc…

  51. I have read both ‘raising your spirited child’ and ‘your difficult child’, and preferred the second, although I hate HATE the title. Neither of my children fully fit the description, but I liked the way that ‘your difficult child’ described the variations in temperments (I also read a book on ‘your child’s temperment’ – I forget the exact title, but it was similar, but dealt more with all temperments). It allowed me to see my son’s (and daughter’s) behaviour in terms of their temperment, and gave me some language to use with his teacher.

  52. We’ve pretty much gotten rid of our candles, as they contribute to indoor air pollution (soy candles have less but not zero). With asthmatics in our home, we don’t need any more nasty particulates.Candles are also a safety hazard. Since most of the readership has small children, this should be a big concern. Our “kids” are college aged, but we have big dogs we’ve all tripped over, and their tails have knocked over drinks and cleared coffee tables. No, candles would definitely be a bad idea in this house!
    Yes, candles are romantic, charming, etc. You can dim the lights and NOT use a candle and get the same effect.
    I like to read in the evening, and prefer decent light, because my eyes are getting old.
    Anyway, an alternative point of view, in support of better health and safety, something you’re usually in favor of! 😉

  53. Ditto the “great post” comment. As the mother of a 24 mo. old boy often described (by other parents of toddlers) as “busy,” “active,” and “a climber,” I’m wondering if the “spirited” shoe fits us. Emotionally he is pretty even-keeled, it’s his physical side that is lot MORE!

  54. wow. I stumbled across this because I wanted to find out what Candletime was, and I’m so glad I love candles because my son fits this temperament profile to a T. Wow wow wow. I’m so excited to start reading some of the books, so that I can get some help. My son is so awesome and wonderful and amazing, and everyone who meets him falls in love. But there’s a flip side to his being so outgoing, funny, and sweet- he flips out over the tiniest things, he gets so overwhelmed and melts down, he doesn’t stop moving or talking EVER, even in his sleep. And I tend to be very even and mellow, so the two of us have been clashing more and more as he gets older and his personality continues to develop and unfold.I feel like everyone else- even, to some extent, my husband- sees the good stuff, and all the more challenging stuff is saved for me as his childcare provider (I’m a SAHM). When I pick him up at his little part-time preschool, his teachers gush about him. Then 5 minutes later he’s melting down and I’m losing it, and it makes me feel so guilty, like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t appreciate him or that he only behaves this way with me.
    Anyway, THANK YOU everyone for your insight. Can’t wait to learn more. I love my little guy so much and it hurts my heart when we so often seem to be at odds.

  55. Oh, just wrote a nice long msg only to erase it by accident. Shorter version now:I knew my child was Spirited when I would get really frustrated that other moms at the playground would try to talk to me … how could I possibly carry on a conversation when every bit of my attention was required to keep my toddler from flinging sand at kids, hurling himself off of something too high, etc? I longed for one of those kids that sat there quietly playing with sand toys. Now I have one of those too. Love them both to pieces, but I do not consider it an exaggeration to say that my marriage has really suffered from the challenge of raising the Spirited One.
    Two great books:
    1. Setting Limits with your Strong Willed Child
    -great section describing “hard to learn” children that need to continue gathering data time after time after time before they really understand a consequence. Nothing else is rocket science but it does show how ambiguous our language can be, especially when fearful of an explosive outcome.
    2. Parenting the Strong Willed Child http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Strong-Willed-Child-Clinically-Six-Year-Olds/dp/0071383018/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257367211&sr=1-3
    This book includes great techniques for breaking the cycle of negative attention seeking that my Spirited Child can thrive on.

  56. I might try to celebrate Candletime when my kid is older… right now it’s a mad dash between getting home from work and bed time in between trying to get bottles washed, lunches prepped for the next day, dinner eaten, mail read, etc.

  57. I think it’s absolutely hilarious that you decided to establish Candletime – my husband doesn’t read your blog, but just in the last week or so has started lighting a candle before bed every night while we’re settling down to sleep!

  58. Just catching up on my reading and wanted to comment on how thankful I am for this post! This is my son. My poor husband has recently taken to asking, “What are we doing wrong?!” I’m grateful to now have conviction behind my response of, “Nothing.” At three, my son is certainly spirited. We’ve found some workable responses when he hits his sister, cries hysterically when he can’t have the ORANGE cup, …etc, and I plan on reading Raising the Spirited Child for more. Time outs and spanks did not work, not at all. And I felt so on edge around my friends with their less intense kids. It’s good to know that we’re not alone.Candlelight sounds like a fantastic holiday! At our house, we set up a small Christmas tree on Nov. 1 to help offset the early darkness.

  59. @otterj – Wow. I thought I was the only one who got frustrated when other moms at the playground or friends and family who wanted to hold actual conversations while my son was awake. I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you blind? My 20 month old son has climbed 25 feet up in the air and you want to talk about who was on Ellen?!?” But like everything, it was just a phase. Mind you, that same kid is still a dare-devil, he just has a lot more skills now. Still requires a watchful eye, but mostly to pay witness to his feats of strength and bravery. Regardless, I wish I’d known you in real life then – we could have silently played at the playground together and occasionally exchanged glances of solidarity.

  60. I recommend “Raising Your Spirited Child”! 2 out of 6 of my children are spirited. I believe that it’s normal to not necessarily know until around 5 yrs unless you have a lot of experience with kids.

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