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The reaction that I get when I tell someone that my son M is spirited is usually a baffled “really?”. This reaction makes me ecstatic.

You see, people often associate spirited children with misbehaviour, off the wall way crazy, difficult children to be around. What they see in my son is an energetic, happy boy who generally plays well with others.

However, there is no question he is spirited.

We were recommended “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka when M was seven months old. Even then it was evident that our son was spirited. He’s now almost three and he has all the main characteristic traits of a spirited child – the intensity, the perceptiveness, the persistence and the sensitivity. He also scores high on most of the bonus traits including adaptability, regularity, energy and mood; the only one that he seems to have missed out on is first reaction.

Being spirited isn’t a bad thing, many of the characteristics that make children spirited are viewed as positive traits in adults. However, it can make growing up difficult, especially in our busy, loud society. We’ve had to work with our son to develop ways to work with his spirit rather than to suppress it. There are many things we do to ensure a (mostly) peaceful household but three main things we do on a consistent basis are:

  1. We protect his sleep. If M is tired, meltdowns are inevitable. In addition, if M is overtired by bedtime, he has a more difficult time falling to sleep and is prone to night terrors. So we ensure that he gets a chance for a nap in the afternoon and goes to bed around the same time each night. This was easier when he’d sleep on the go in his carrier, stroller or car seat but now it sometimes means sacrificing a midday hike or making sure M has quiet time after a day at the ski slopes. It also means being flexible and changing plans if he’s more tired than anticipated.
  2. We make sure that he eats regularly and stays hydrated. In addition to regular meals and snacks, we never leave the house without a snack and water – even if we’re just going to the store. While he’s generally a good eater and not picky, he’s two and has picky days – so we tempt him with his favourites such as peanut butter sandwiches or pasta with tuna. I would rather he ate the same thing 10 meals running and be happy than make mealtimes battle zones.
  3. We watch his stimulation levels carefully. Parties, malls, trade shows and other busy places are definite stimulation rich environments – the noise, smells and activity can quickly overload his system. We know that most of the time an hour or so is all he can handle. He’s very social but is an introvert and needs his “quiet time” to recharge.

We also get him outside everyday but that is a subject worthy of it’s own post.

Raising a spirited child is not easy and I know we have many challenges and changes ahead but I have to say that I love his spirit and energy that fills every corner of our home. I’m ecstatic that our work to date is paying off and that people enjoy having M around.

If you have a spirited child, I highly recommend reading Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

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