Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Raising Your Spirited Child

After complaining about my difficult son, a friend recommended that I read Raising Your Spirited Child. The subtitle of this book is the best: a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic. Immediately I went to amazon and read some reviews. I was skeptical. However, not completely doubtful that I could glean wisdom from this book, I borrowed a copy from my public library. In 48 hours I've devoured 75%. Convinced I'll reread it I'm going to buy my own copy and mark it up. It's that good.

There were a few minor points where I disagree, where the book seems to approach child-centered parenting but on the whole, I recommend it.

The author uses "spirited" in lieu of stubborn, difficult, strong willed, mother killer, or Dennis the Menace. I don't hesitate to use all those words to describe my son, Destructo. Spirited, however, seems to have a more positive twist.

Best of all about this book has been the guilt-relieving factor. Never, well, seldom have I thought, "What's wrong with this kid?!" More often, I've thought, "What's wrong with me? Why don't I like my child? How can he make me so angry?" *note: He doesn't always rub me the wrong way but it is quite frequent.

I appreciate the author's use of real-life stories in the book, as well as confessions from other parents who have survived "spirited" children. The book gives good ideas for parents of children ages 6 months to 10 years or older.

There are five categories of a spirited child, yet not all spirited children possess all of the following characteristics (overview from pp9-10):

Intensity - noisy when play, laugh, take a shower. They can skip into a room...only to depart 30 seconds later inflamed. Their tantrums are raw and enduring.
Persistence - they can "lock" right in, committed to their task, goal oriented, and unwilling to give up. Getting them to change their mind is a major undertaking. They love to debate and are not afraid to assert themselves.
Sensitivity - keenly aware, spirited kids quickly respond to the slightest noises, smells, lights, textures, or changes in mood. Every sensation and emotion is absorbed by them.
Perceptiveness - Send them to their room to get dressed and ...they forget about getting dressed. They notice everything. (I would call this one distracted easily - but the author warns against negative labels.)
Adaptability - Spirited children are uncomfortable with change. They hate surprises and do not shift easily from one activity or idea to another.

At face value, my son is all of the above. However, on a given day (before reading this book) if you'd asked me if he was "sensitive" I'd shout, NO WAY because he's not emotional. But according to this author's definition, YES! Some of the real life instances that jumped out to me while reading the sensitive chapter:

- he can't take loud noises, even noises that I wouldn't consider loud (like a big truck and he loves trucks)
- his sock seams must be just so. It sends him to the moon if they're not.
- he can taste brand differences of milk, cottage cheese and bread. All three he has tasted and said, "This...tastes yucky" when it's not our normal brand. I knew something was awry when we were at a friend's who served organic milk (he didn't see the carton). After tasting it he said, "Momma, this milk tastes yucky." It didn't. He could taste that it was different than ours. Weird.
- the author mentions television, "spirited children are entranced by it...Beware! You'll pay for it later." Anyone who has seen Destructo zoned in front of a TV will know what this means. When it's turned off he becomes a monster. Thus the reason we don't own a TV (we watch media thru our computer).
- he likes to wear "soft jammies close to my skin...not the baggy kind"

Beyond the five main characteristics of a spirited child, there are "bonus" characteristics:
Regularity - sleeping and or eating (or not) on a schedule
Energy - bouncing off the walls
First Reaction - unfamiliar things may be met with a vehement 'no'
Mood - smiles are few and far between, prone to whining (this is one category that he doesn't fit. Our guy is quite happy-go-lucky.)

Some of the above seemed similar to what I'd written in another book review, specifically, that my son seems to be at the extreme edge of each characteristic. I felt very validated by the author of "Spirited Child" because more than once she said, "these children are difficult to parent...especially if they are strong in more than one characteristic. "

So - do you have a spirited child? What books have you found helpful?

[Edited to add: I wrote another post on this book.]


John and Pam said...

Yes Julie, I have a spirited child! And grandchild! I am praying for you.

Shannon said...

Yep...Josh is "spirited" too! We find Love and Logic by Jim Fay to be extremely helpful. BUT only effective if Mommy and Daddy remember to do it correctly. Which I struggle with!

andykiara said...

Julie, I am so excited to read this book. Sounds like it will be a real encouragement to me with Destany! :)


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