Living with Your Spirited Child
Posted Jun 21, 2007.
Some children are just MORE. They get more excited, happier, intense, more physical, and more upset than other children do. Because they feel emotions intensely, it can be a challenge for parents to teach these spirited kids how to manage the flood of feelings they have every day.
When you are trying to get your child to stop playing and start cleaning up toys, it’s hard to remember single-mindedness can be a valuable trait. While having strong emotions about the way things are can be an asset, getting upset because the soup does not have curly noodles can drive a good parent crazy.
Some tips for living with a child of strong emotions:
- Beware of negative labels such as picky, stubborn or wild. Recognize how these emotions can become strengths when a child learns to manage them. Our view affects how our child views himself and how we respond to him. Remember when your child grows up, being selective, determined and energetic can help him accomplish much.
- Use emotional outbursts as opportunities to teach your child a better way to handle strong emotions. “When I feel like screaming, I do something to calm myself down, like take a walk. Then I can think and talk about it without screaming.”
- Try to tune into your child’s emotions. Is your child really being stubborn or is it frustration?
- Help your child understand what he may be feeling. Give him words for the emotion. “You seem really frustrated because you can’t finish building.”
- Set clear limits for your child. “Even though you are angry, you can not hurt people.”
- Recognize change is difficult for spirited children. Say things like, “you are learning to be flexible.” Allow time for change from one activity to another. Warn your child of what is coming.
- Keep your eyes open for safety concerns. Tell your child things like, “I wish I had your energy or you need to wiggle and move”.
- Take care of yourself so you have the energy to help your child. Highly spirited kids are more vulnerable to spillover tantrums, a flood of emotions that overwhelms them. Stay near your child, but reduce stimulation. Recognize your child is overwhelmed, and not trying to embarrass you or make you angry.
Sources: Mary Sheedy Kucinka, Raising Your Spirited Child and John Gottman and Joan DeClaire, The Heart of Parenting