What does a spirited child look like? Mine is smart, demanding, argumentative, funny, loving, sensitive, emotional, impulsive, and easily distracted.
Many children who’ve been diagnosed as having ADHD possess the traits of a spirited child, but not all spirited children are ADHD. Oxford defines spirited as full of energy, enthusiasm, and determination. Gifted is defined as having exceptional talent or natural ability.
Sounds great right? But put these two character traits together into a six-year-old boy, and you’ve got yourself a handful.
Raising a child who challenges you on every level is tough. My spirited child is my first born, and my love. I would do anything for him. And I do every day that I am his parent.
Over the years I’ve had to develop some habits for myself in order to help him succeed and in order to help our relationship thrive. Below are 5 Strategies for Raising Your Spirited Child.
This may sound a bit tired, but it is truly one of the hardest traits to develop… especially when being tested on a daily basis. Patience is less a habit than a virtue, and should be developed if you want to encourage growth in your child and peace in your home.
It is so easy to lose your temper when you’ve repeated the same directive 13 times. Believe me, I know. “Brush your teeth. Brush your teeth. Brush your teeth!”
But these children lose focus from one instant to the next, and many times it is necessary to not only repeat the directive, but to help them accomplish the task.
My son looses focus and tries to discuss heavy intellectual concepts with me when all I want him to do is complete a seemingly simple task. It can be exasperating. Deep breath. Patience.
Take the time to develop some coping skills. Before you lose your temper with your bright cherub, count to ten, take a deep breath, remove yourself from the situation if you need to. Practice listening to your child, as they love to talk and can do so endlessly. Slow down. This is an opportunity to get to know your child better.
Routines are super important for spirited children. They function better when they have the foundation and know what’s coming next. Develop a routine for most things, and keep them the same every day.
Some children do well with motivation charts to remind them of what’s expected and what needs to be completed in their routine. The contents of the chart will depend on the age and functioning of your child, but can be implemented very young.
We started our son on a motivation chart when he was three, and it worked great.
Our a.m. routine-
- Eat breakfast
- Get dressed
- Take inhaler
- Brush teeth
- Brush hair
Our p.m. routine-
- Take inhaler
- Brush teeth
- Lights out
These routines stay the same every day and help him transition from one time of the day to the next.
TAKE YOUR TIME
My husband struggles with this one more than I do, but it’s imperative that you don’t rush your child. The spirited child doesn’t do well when rushed. It makes them nervous, and they lose their focus even more.
Rushing your child will quickly turn into a losing battle. Give them the time they need to accomplish the task. It may require some hand-holding to get it done, but schedule in as much time as they need to finish.
We start getting ready for the day earlier, much earlier, than some of the other families I’ve talked with. It easily takes my son an hour to get ready for school, and that’s okay.
My son is highly emotional. He is sensitive, cries with the least provocation, and does so several times a day. This character trait of his is the hardest for me to handle. To see him struggle breaks my heart, but it can also be incredibly irritating.
I’ve had to grow as a parent, and instead of getting upset when he gets upset, I show him empathy. Many times it just means I’m present with him while he is experiencing his emotions, sometimes it means a hug or a kind word.
I also have to be empathetic in regards to his boundless energy and impulsivity.
It’s so easy to try to parent him like one would a typical child, but he really doesn’t have the self control to manage his behaviors all the time. There are times when he’s managed his behavior all day at school, but the moment he gets in the car when I pick him up he just explodes into tears.
Empathy for his emotionality and impulsivity are imperative.
HAVE A THICK SKIN
I’ve seen the looks. I’ve seen them when my son cries loudly in public for seemingly no reason. I’ve seen them when he argues with others. I’ve seen them when he is impulsive and can’t keep his hands to himself.
No one has walked in your shoes or knows exactly what is going on with your child. Develop a thick skin to strangers and family alike.
I’ve gotten lots of unsolicited advice on how to raise my spirited and gifted son. “Oh, he’s just being a boy.” “A good spanking never hurt anybody.” “You should be stricter with him.” And the advice just keeps pouring in.
Screw them. They don’t know what you deal with on a daily basis. They don’t know your child like you do. They don’t see the miraculously amazing individual that is developing before you.
And they don’t love him like you do.
Arm yourself with patience, routines, empathy. Take your time and develop a thick skin to those who don’t know.
You are the best parent for your child and he is the best child for you.
Although parenting a spirited and gifted child is challenging, it is so very rewarding. Watch him grow into the person he is meant to be. Arm him with tools to thrive and be his biggest cheerleader.
Together you can do this!
(Note: the motivation chart we use is Melissa & Doug Deluxe Magnetic Responsibility Chart.)
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About the Author
Darci Lopez wants to live in a world where her closets are organized, she is on time everywhere she goes, and yoga pants are perfectly acceptable attire. As a mommy blogger who writes about parenting, lifestyle, and inspiration, she’s been honored with the Liebster Award. When she’s not running around chasing her kids or writing, you can find her behind her sewing machine creating beautiful pieces of clothing, household items, and accessories. Her first ebook, How to be Less of a Hot Mess- Inspiration for Stay-at-Home-Moms, launched June 2016! Share ideas, lifestyle tips, and inspiration about parenting, organization, and personal development at Life Unplanned, on Facebook, or on Pinterest. While you’re there, sign up for post updates and awesome freebies.