Does your child have convictions stronger than most star Olympians? Have they ever been voted ‘Most Likely to Star in a Broadway Production’ by their preschool peers? Do your neighbors often wonder whether your kid has amputated a finger because their tantrums can be heard clearly from the next street over? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you may be blessed with a spirited child. Here are eight signs that your kid is a kid with spirit.
1. Their perseverance perseveres, and keeps right on persevering. The spirited child wants what they want, and they will stop at nothing to get it. They are like The Little Engine That Could…If you gave The Little Engine That Could a bunch of ‘special coal’ and seventeen shots of espresso. Be soothed, dear parent, and remember that determination is a positive quality (even if it’s frustrating at times when they’re 3 years old). You could be raising a future leader of the free world, or paint-throwing member of PETA. We’ll hope for the former.
2. They don’t sleep like normal kids. If you’re raising a spirited child, chances are you probably haven’t had a full night’s sleep since they were born. This is because they are often awake in the middle of the night. You’ve tried a hundred strategies to get them to settle, but nothing works because their will is stronger than their need for rest. They’re like tiny creatures of the night with an important agenda. Those block towers aren’t going to build themselves, you know! Spirited children view 12-3 a.m. as a perfectly acceptable time for toy construction projects and plotting world domination.
3. Their emotions are large and in charge. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon back in 1969, I’m pretty sure his “One small step for man…” speech was interrupted by the echoing screams of spirited baby Gen-Xers who’d just been told they’d be having lima beans for dinner. Spirited children have an innate ‘go big or go home’ approach to feelings. Downside: they might throw screaming tantrums until they’re hoarse, leaving you wishing you had a soundproof room in your home where you could curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth. Upside: they express their joy and love with reckless abandon. They run to you gleefully when you arrive home, throw their tiny bodies across your legs when they want to cuddle, and give bear bugs without warning.
4. You’ve worried the neighbors are going to call the police. If you find yourself feeling concerned about what the neighbors think because your 4-year-old is screeching at ten thousand decibels after you politely requested that he put on pants, you may have a spirited child. You regularly assure Bob and Jeanne next door that your kid is fine (REALLY!), and invite them in for a cup of tea (and a quick tour to confirm that you don’t actually have a child-sized torture chamber in your home).
5. People have multiple theories about your child’s behavior. Maybe they’re eating too much sugar. They act that way because they aren’t getting enough rest. They need more exercise. They need less stimulation. They need to play outside to burn off the extra energy. Have you eliminated harmful food dyes from their diet? What about television? Have you tried timeouts? Have you tried sticker charts? How about healthy food rewards? Herbal remedies? Magic potions? Voodoo?
6. People have multiple theories about your parenting. You need to just ignore the tantrums and they will stop happening. You need to be more flexible. You need to practice relaxation exercises with them. You need to punish them. You’re approaching parenting the wrong way; here’s a book about how to do it. Or better yet, here’s how I do it because my kids are so serene and agreeable. Try positive/free range/attachment/authoritative/slow parenting instead of whatever it is you’re currently doing that’s wrong. (You also need to tell the unsolicited advisors to shut up.)
7. They want to do it all. Brushing their teeth, putting on clothes. bathing, baking a cake, painting the shed, climbing a 16-foot ladder and cleaning the gutters on the house, changing the oil in the car, driving the car… If you have a spirited child, they will want to do all of these things by themselves with no help from you whatsoever. Attempts to intervene are met with resistance because they believe they’re masters of every craft, and it’s their life’s mission to prove it. Their perseverance has perseverance, remember?
8. They have a difficult time with transition. Do you dread leaving the house in sub-zero weather because you know your kid will actually need to wear shoes? Is getting them dressed each day like trying to wrangle and clothe a rabid wolverine? Have strangers at the grocery store questioned if you’re kidnapping your own child because they are screaming in the parking lot? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you may be the proud parent of a kid with spirit.
While life with a spirited child can be exhausting and frustrating at times, take solace in the fact that you could be raising a future leader of the free world. Perseverance, passion, and strong convictions are all positive qualities. The boundless cuddles and intense joy are also good perks.