Defining the Spirited Child

Do you have a SPIRITED child? You know; the ones that don’t seem to fit into the ‘norm’. The ones with the loud voices, bouncing bodies and emotions like roller-coasters? If you’re finding your child difficult to parent, chances are you do have a spirited child.

I remember the first night in hospital when my daughter was born. She screamed and screamed until the lady I was sharing the room with said ‘what is WRONG with her?!’ I couldn’t seem to comfort her enough to calm her down. She was going ballistic. Her face red, her eyes squeezed tightly closed. I was at a total loss of what to do. In the end the night nurse took her away for a few hours so I could get some sleep after my C-section surgery. I remember thinking ‘wow this parenting stuff is going to be harder than I thought’. Well I was in for a shock, I had NO IDEA!!

Defining the Spirited Child

odd one outSo what exactly defines a child as SPIRITED?

I like to define spirited kids as the ones who parents find trickier to raise. They can be emotional, energetic, intense, perceptive, persistent, sensitive, determined, courageous, lively, sprightly, enthusiastic, vivacious, animated, reactive, alert, charming, charismatic and unique!

So what is it that makes some children spirited and others not?

Well the first consideration is temperament. Each of us is born with our unique temperament; some people are calm and laid back, others loud and energetic, some tend to feel emotions very deeply, whereas others feel them to a much lesser degree of intensity. If you think about your own friends and family and how different they are temperamentally to each other, you will start to see how they may have been easier or more difficult for their parents to raise, due to their different temperament traits.

The below points are what I like to consider when determining whether a child is spirited or not. A child may exhibit all, a few, or only one of the below. It is important to note here that being spirited is not a diagnosis; rather it serves to help parents better understand their children’s behaviour and therefore learn strategies to better cope with the challenges.

Consider your own child when reading through the below to determine whether your child falls into the spirited category or not.

  1. Child’s Born Temperament – As mentioned above, we are all born with our temperament and this determines how we interact with the world around us. Temperament has nothing to do with external influences (though a person is definitely shaped by these) rather we are born with our temperament just as we are born with our nose shape, height and eye colour. To find out more about your own child’s temperament traits, click here to complete the Spirited Kid Quiz.
  2. Mismatch with Parents’ Temperaments – This is a very important element to consider because a temperament trait that one person determines as ‘difficult’ to handle, others may not have an issue with. For example, I have a friend who is very energetic and physical. She is always on the go and is addicted to sports. Her son is very active too and she enjoys the fact that they can play sports together. I know for a lot of parents having a very active child can be totally exhausting and draining; so it really depends on how a parent and child’s temperaments match (or more importantly, don’t match). Complete the Spirited Kid Quiz here to find your mismatches.
  3. Developmental Stage of Child and Phases – Children can be deemed as more challenging to parent at different stages of their development. The terrible 2-3s and the teenage years for example are well-known for their challenges for parent-child interactions. They may also be going through challenging periods in their lives such as transitioning to another school or to secondary school, moving house, or when a close friend moves away. All of these may cause a child to become spirited (harder to parent) for a period of time.
  4. Learning or Behavioural Disorders – Particular disorders such as ADHD/ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, sensory challenges etc. can make it very challenging for children and parents alike. Such disorders cannot be changed (though they can be managed and lessened via medical intervention) and so for parents, raising such children can be overwhelming and distressing. I would think that most children with any of the above disorders would automatically be defined by their parents as being spirited.

So by looking at the above, you can see that unless your child is going through a tricky phase, being spirited is not actually something that can be changed. However, parents’ unique ways of dealing and coping with the challenges is something that can be changed. The way we interact, discipline and perceive our children can actually make them more or less difficult to parent (or more or less spirited). As these are the only areas that can be changed, this is what I focus on here at Raising Spirited Kids.

Missing piece of puzzleThis is what I like to call the missing piece of the puzzle for raising our beautiful spirited kids and is the very foundation on which I’ve created Raising Spirited Kids. It is the formula that I have personally used over the last 3 years. It has been so successful in our household that I don’t even see my daughter as particularly spirited anymore (except for the odd blow-up when I have clearly gone back to my old ways).

Finally, if you are finding parenting challenging it really doesn’t matter whether your child is considered spirited or not. What does matter is that you’re getting the support you need and that your well-being is intact. Raising all types of children can bring challenges; parents of the spirited ones just seem to have more of those challenges. Parenting can be enjoyable and much easier; sometimes we just need to learn how.

If you found this article helpful, sign up for the FREE Monthly Newsletter for more tips!