The spirited child or more commonly referred to as the difficult child, is beautiful, if you don't let the world tell you otherwise. In all my years of teaching, the "difficult" children taught me more than I ever taught them. They have a fire inside, my job was to help them find where their flames were needed and to guide them when they were lost. You see, they didn't need me to build their fire or stoke it to keep it going. These children are passionate and simply need our love and understanding.
Conversely, instilling this fire in others was so much harder and often meant I was constantly working to keep the flames alive. Both of these children are beautiful and unique, but for this post I want to highlight the spirited child in a positive light.
As a teacher, I loved both roles, but the spirited child holds a special place in my heart. If you are a parent of a spirited child be ready to advocate for them. Be ready to step out of your parenting comfort zone. You will be exhausted. You'll be their biggest cheerleader and at times their only cheerleader. You'll explain over and over your child's good intentions to those that only see the negative. You'll question every parenting decision you have made and then see that all along you were exactly what your child needed.
Spirited children seek what they love and want with an intensity that can be felt. Felt by the exhausted parent that has given themselves a timeout to breathe several times before lunch has been served. I get it, I truly do. Parenting a spirited child is no easy task, but I promise it's worth it. I have watched my spirited kindergarten students become high schoolers and lead the way. Taking time to focus on all the positives, will allow your mind time to breathe and know that all will be fine.
Some ideas to support your little one:
My number one is LISTEN. With these little ones it's easy to become frustrated. Instead listen and ask why. “Oh you don’t want to brush your hair today, why?” You might be suprise by their response. My daughter will usually say, I just need time to think about it, then we can brush. We move on and in minutes all good and we are brushing hair.
Make time for them to be fully passionate about whatever holds their interest.
Be ready to just hold your child and breathe or when they push you away, be ready to just sit and do something that slows their flames. For us this is parallel play with very little talking, reading a story while on my lap or near and tactile art. Getting outside is also huge for us, but sometimes that is a battle when things are intense. Holding space!
Don't remind your spirited little of what they didn't do or did wrong. Talk about it and move on. These little ones do better with concise information and then moving forward.
Avoid power struggles by sticking to a routine and set rules. “After we eat breakfast we always brush our teeth that's the rule,” or “We can build with blocks after you clean up your other stuff, that’s the rule.”
Give choices allow them to wear rain boots with a tutu and snow gloves. Their need to express themselves is strong. Don't squash this, unless they are in danger. Explain and show that they have 5 more min left and give reminders as they time passes.
Give them room to experiment and explore. They rarely like the step by step activity and would prefer to create their own way.
Through their lens! They are emotionally aware. If you forgot to do something you promised they will let you know. Usually because they relate it to the standards you hold them to. They do not understand why it's alright for you to forget, but not for them.
Discipline through connection (everyone longs to be loved) and building a relationship that is safe. Forcing a strong willed little one (or any child) to do anything is only going to lead to more tears and drawn out frustration. Trying to teach a lesson when in meltdown mode, is going to get everyone nowhere. Take a breath, connect, love and move forward. More often than not your child will come around.
Love, love love and hold space! It always wins.
Would love to hear ways you have found to support your little one, spirited or not!