Friday, March 8, 2013

My Spirited Child

Knowing your children and their personalities is SO important.
I can't stress how incredibly important it is!
Especially when you are staying home with them 24/7.
I have really been trying to understand my youngest.
Pea was so easy to get.
Right from the start,
I noticed so many personality traits of myself in her.
I just seemed to get her right away.
Ellie on the other hand,
I have struggled to understand.
She is becoming more and more her own person
as she grows older and older.
From the beginning, 
we had this idea that she may be a really quiet, shy girl.
then she got her voice
and everything changed.
She really grew into herself more and more
and each day her personality grew.
She is such a vibrant
full of spunk little toddler.
She has a mind of her own and she is not afraid to let you know.
Luke sent me an article not too long ago
about the "spirited child"
written by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and this is what she said:
"Living with a toddler can be like sharing a house with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And if your child is "spirited," the toddler years can be especially trying.
What defines a spirited child? "All toddlers are busy: They're climbing and jumping and throwing things," says Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of the popular books Raising Your Spirited Child and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime."But the high-energy kid is the one who can get to the top of the refrigerator.
All toddlers say 'no' too, but a spirited child's 'no's!' are louder and more frequent, and his tantrums last longer and are more intense. You gradually realize that as a parent you're working harder than your neighbor, whose child is simply not as intense, persistent, and emphatic as yours. Your child is still normal, he's just more of everything."
Spirited kids are definitely a challenge, but there are ways to defuse daily battles and help your toddler learn to control himself. Here are Kurcinka's top strategies:
Let him know what's coming.
All toddlers become anxious when they can't predict what's coming next, but most spirited children need events spelled out to a degree that you might not expect. When it's time to leave the playground and your 2-year-old throws herself on the ground howling, it might be because she's insecure about what's coming next. Tell her in detail: You'll go to the car, we'll drive straight home, find Sis and Dad there, and have spaghetti for dinner.

Remember that with toddlers, words aren't always enough. You might tell her "Daddy will pick you up from daycare this afternoon," for example, but she may well have trouble remembering it all day. In this case, you might ask her daycare provider to remind her later in the day that Daddy's handling pick-up duties.
Sometimes visual cues can help. If Grandma and Grandpa are coming for an annual visit, show her photos ahead of time. You might even make a picture book outlining her bedtime ritual: Bath, pajamas, story, bed. You can't cut all the surprises out of your toddler's life, of course, but you can minimize the stress by giving her a heads-up when you can.
Be clear and consistent.
Spirited children need the security and consistency of clear rules, so it's important to set limits. If nap time is always after lunch and your spirited 3-year-old puts up a fuss, be firm and confident as you enforce his rest period. If movies aren't allowed after dinner but you let him watch "just this one" tonight so you can make a phone call, he'll test you and demand one – forcefully – every night for the rest of the week.

Maintain physical contact.
"As toddlers move toward independence, they still very much need connection," says Kurcinka. Maybe your toddler would like a backrub before bed. Or she might enjoy cuddling with you in a rocking chair in the morning. Have her bring toys into your room so she can play near you while you dress for work. At daycare, sit with her on the floor until she moves into the group on her own.

These tactics may seem to slow you down initially, but they'll actually save you time in prevented tantrums and battles. "Toddlers need to know they can trust you to be there for them. That way they'll ultimately be more independent," says Kurcinka.
Create a "yes" environment.
"Me do!" are a toddler's favorite words, says Kurcinka. Let your child pour his own juice out of a little pitcher, use a fork at dinner, and put on his own shoes. Even if everything is a little messier and takes a little longer, his increased independence and cooperation are worth it.

Also, look at how your house is organized. Is there a low cupboard in the kitchen filled with pots and plastic containers that he can play with? Are his toys and books easy to reach? Is there a bed, couch, or floor pillow that he's allowed to jump on? The more child-friendly your home is, the less you'll be fighting with him to keep away from special things and places.
Avoid danger spots.
If your highly energetic child can't sit still at the table, choose restaurants wisely – or plan a family picnic in the park instead. If she's slow to adapt to new people, don't plop her on Santa's lap. Stay with her and approach Santa gradually – or just wait until next year. And if you find yourself in an overly stimulating situation, such as a playmate's big birthday party, don't be shy about leaving early – before your toddler loses it.

Soothe his senses.
Help your spirited child wind down when the intensity level starts to rise. Water can be especially soothing: Give him a warm bath on a cold night or put a cool washcloth on his forehead on a summer afternoon. For older toddlers, finger paints and modeling clay are also calming sensory activities. For younger toddlers (under 2), it feels good to spread sand, cornmeal, or shaving cream on a play surface.

Acknowledge feelings.
Talk to your spirited toddler about why she's starting to melt down and let her know she's not the only one who is overcome by difficult emotions sometimes. Try saying "The people and the noise are bothering you. They're bothering me too. We'll leave the mall as soon as we've paid for these shoes."

Even if she doesn't seem to learn much from what you say at this age, explain it to her anyway. (Just don't become angry with her when your perfectly logical explanations don't result in quick compliance.) Toddlers usually aren't able to change their behavior in response to verbal reasoning, so keep it short and sweet.
For now, this exercise will help you empathize with your child. And eventually she'll learn to recognize what winds her up before she goes over the edge.
Reward good behavior.
Don't worry that your spirited toddler will get a big head if you praise him. Reinforce his efforts with positive messages: "Good job getting out of the tub when I asked you to" or "You really used your quiet voice at Peter's house today." Try not to pass up a chance to praise the behavior you're trying to teach.

Set realistic expectations.
The many daily transitions adults take for granted – getting out of the house, in and out of the car, to daycare, to the store, home again, going to bed – are especially hard on a spirited toddler, who needs extra time to cope with change and who may become overwhelmed by people and noise.

Ask yourself, "Can I reasonably expect my toddler to handle this? " And when possible, skip unnecessary trips and demands. Do you really have to make that last stop or could it wait?
Avoid using negative labels.
Most important of all, examine the way you describe your toddler. The "wild child" who is "stubborn," "exhausting," and a "crybaby" is also a spirited child who is persistent, energetic, and sensitive – all traits that are admired in adults. Use positive labels when discussing your child with relatives and teachers, and they'll come to see his wonderful attributes too.

And with increased self-esteem, your spirited child will want to learn to behave well. You'll know you're on the right track when your 3-year-old announces to Grandma, "I had lots of energy today!" instead of saying, "I was a bad boy." When you focus on your child's positive features and strengths, it changes your behavior, and that in turn changes your child's behavior.
Give her time to run and play.
Toddlers like to keep moving. Make sure she gets plenty of physical activity and time to explore every day – especially outdoors. Unless they're sleeping, toddlers shouldn't be inactive for more than an hour at a time.

Being active does more than help your toddler improve muscle control, balance, and coordination. When you play games with her where you each take turns, such as kicking a ball back and forth, she'll get practice exercising self-control. As she masters a new physical skill, she'll also gain self-confidence. And the more confident she is, the more well-behaved she's likely to be.
Take care of yourself.
You may find it difficult, if not impossible, to admit that you need more time for yourself. But the house doesn't have to look perfect and the dinners don't have to be gourmet. If it's already midnight and you're exhausted, leave the dishes in the sink.

Rest or take a bubble bath when your child naps instead of vacuuming the living room. Take full advantage of your time at night after your toddler goes to sleep to connect with your partner or a friend, or to relax on your own.
Most important of all, says Kurcinka: "Build a support system. You can't do this seven days a week, 24 hours a day." Your child will benefit when you're revitalized, and so will you. Whether it's your partner, a friend, a relative, or a babysitter, find a consistent caregiver you and your child can trust and let them help out."

As I started reading through this,
I realized this is Ellie in a nutshell.
And how many times have I described her as
"the wild child"
This article really opened my eyes to who Ellie is
and that her traits are not negative.
She is an amazing child
with such a glow and spark!
Sometimes, ok often that spark tires me out.
Often those moments of being in a public bathroom and she hears the
toilet flush or the hand dryer go off and she starts freaking out,
those moments,
they are part of her.
I can't get upset.
I can't get frustrated.
She needs to know that it is ok
and it will not last forever.
That I am here for her
and I will take care of her.
The moments when stopping in at one more store
will set her off,
I need to be ok to not go in.
To just find another time to go.
She is sensitive.
So sensitive.
And that is not a bad thing.
I am 28 and I am probably one of the most sensitive people I have ever met.
but that is one of Luke's favorite qualities about me.
It's funny when you see it on a toddler,
you think so negatively.
Why can't she just stop crying?
Why can't she just be normal?
Why does she have to cry after every little thing that happens to her?
That is just her.
She is perfect the way she is
and I am slowly learning ways to keep those amazing traits
while helping her learn to control them.
Parenting is not easy.
I have said it time and time again.
And the older my children get,
the more effort I have to put into this amazing role God has called us into.
Ellie is my persistent, energetic and sensitive little girl
and I am going to embrace that with all I have.
Even though days will be tough,
understanding her more and more makes
it that much easier to give her a little more patience,
a little more grace,
a little more understanding when needed.



  1. I've been thinking about the same things... just linked to you on my blog. As always, thanks for sharing :)

  2. I could not agree with you more, Lee-Anne!! I believe that "spirited" children have the loveliest personalities as adults! Their sensitive nature turns into empathy and compassion and they are good advocates of right and wrong (their stubborn nature demands it). I was nodding my head reading the article you included. We have a spirited little one too (I think he gets it from Justin.. ;) I love his personality, and think he will go far with it, but some days it can be exhausting.