Friday, October 12

Just Like A Liquor Store, We Got Whines And Spirit

So it turns out our child is a rare breed. A specimen of American society found in only 10-15% of children. Much to our chagrin he is not an exceptionally gifted genius. No, our rare breed is 'spirited' as defined in the book "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

ElectricMommy was doing some research on the internets, trying to find out if The Sprite's bossy, rowdy and explosive behavior was within the realm of normal toddlerdom, and found many a reference to the above mentioned book. It was clear after the first chapter that our little monster is a prototypical Spirited Child, displaying every trait that defines such character. Most of these traits are off the chart to the extreme.

So what are these traits that make-up such a child?

They are more intense, hyper sensitive and emotional, extremely perceptive, stubbornly persistent, and excruciatingly resistant to change. Noticeably more so than your typical, yet already intense, sensitive, persistent toddler. The typical toddler tantrum is cranked up to elevin with these children. GSM is loud and explosive, and it is easy for him to go on for hours. Spirited kids are unable to burn out or turn off by themselves. When they want to be held, they should be held, and when they need their space you gotta leave them alone. And the little things that can set off a toddler tantrum are on a hair trigger now, the slightest thing that's not quite right, and boom it's meltdown. For The Sprite, if the wrapper of his juice straw is stuck, or one of his socks is slightly twisted, oh boy it's the end of the world.

It's never a good tactic to yell at any kid, but MasterG will sense the slightest tone of voice and really take it to heart. His little eyes well up and the lip quivers. And seemingly inane things create tension and blow-ups with him. Clothing tags, the wrong color T-Shirt, hats, water in his face. All cause strife in the Life of a Sprite. And trying to get him to do something he does not want to, like get dressed in the morning or get in car after school, is an exercise in futility. A battle of wills with a Spirited Child can be a marathon, not a sprint. More often than not it's easier to cave and find a compromise just to make some kind of progress. Even trying to get him to sleep correctly, lengthwise in his bed, instead of crunched up widthwise like he has done since he was born, is impossible. Once set in his ways he is so resistant to change, even change for the better. Any kind of change in routine creates major tension with these kids and GSM is so, so typical of this trait. We have to mentally prepare him for any upcoming change in routine. And all of these we though were bizarre quirks of our little boy, turn out to be very typical Spirit traits.

Typical for a Spirited Child, MasterG is very cautious, opting to watch and check a situation our for a lengthy while before trying it. His first ventures into a bouncy castle were tentative and brief. It took a good 2 months before he was comfortably bouncing with the other kids in the Bounce House at the Farmers Market. Perceptiveness, how doth he manifest thee. For example, at the Farmers Market in town, all the kids are running around being kids, doing kid things, but The Sprite would often sit back and observe. He'll notice a ceiling fan in a third floor apartment (another strange quirk of the spirited personality, an obsession with spinning objects), or notice a balloon 3 blocks down the street. We thought at first he was just anti-social, or obsessive, but we realize now it is just part of his chemical make-up. His personality. His temperament. It is pointless to try to change him.

With all this revelation, we both agree that his temperament is sometimes difficult but we wouldn't change a bit of it. What makes him spirited, makes him unique, and interesting, and so entertaining. Spirited kids tend to be really creative too, so we obviously have little problem with that. And as he grows up, being perceptive and sensitive and single-minded can be really positive traits. And whether this is part of his spirited temperament or not, when he gets something, he really gets it right away. This post is a great example of that.

So it is good to know what we are dealing with, and that he is entirely normal, if a little unique. We will have our problems for sure, but no more than any other parent of a toddler. Heck it's not like we are dealing with autism, or ADD, or worse. He's a little more challenging than normal, or average, kids. It will just mean using a few different techniques to deal with him, the usual parenting advise often does not apply or work with Spirited Kids. For example, time-out's don't work as punishment for a Spirited Child. They are to be used, apparently, only when he needs to calm down and gather himself, to avoid a tantrum spiraling out of control. We haven't figured out what to use as punishment instead. Maybe further into the book will reveal some answers. We are hoping that the book will also reveal that Spirited Children grow up so be super successful and wealthy allowing their parents to retire early. We have to hope for some payoff for all this right.

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Lee said...

Yep, we're devotees of that book as well. Advice: stay away from drugs to try to change him. We went that route with our older girl, and didn't like the effects at all. She became moody and withdrawn, self-destructive even, and we decided we like her better when she was wild and exuberant. We still give her some pills, but more natural stuff, mostly fish oil, and that's had much better effects.

The good news: there may be light at the end of the tunnel for you. In the past few months, she (now 7 years old) has matured tremendously and has become much easier to manage. Which isn't to say she doesn't still have some freak-outs, but they tend to be shorter in duration and she can pull it back together better.

Also: your next kid could be completely different. Her younger sister, 3 years old, is 180 degrees different in personality, a very gentle, mild-mannered type.

You're right, don't yell: I've yelled at ours so many times, I wish I could take back every single one. All it did was make me crazy and her upset. I work really hard now to catch myself in those moments.

Mainly: Enjoy how full of life and fun a spirited kid can be!

MadMac66 said...

Hey, thanks for the comment Lee. We wouldn't dream of using drugs to control this. We have not even given him one vaccination. I'd rather keep it as natural as possible, and keep chemicals out of the equation. And yeah we believe in the fish oil too. We have not had much luck getting it into our child yet however, he is SO picky.

At least knowing what is going on chemically inside him, we have a better understanding now of how to manage, if not control, his outbursts. And the plus side of things is heavily weighted, the wild and and exuberant play is fun to watch.