Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Spirited Child Part 2

Before I continue, I want to say that these posts (I hope) are meant to be informative. I am in NO way putting down my children or critiquing them. They are who God made them to be. Yes, it can be challenging at times but the same qualities that can drive me crazy can be good things in life too, as I will point out later. :)

As I mentioned yesterday, I quickly went through the "quiz" and figured out pretty quick that our youngest (I could try to be all secretive but you would figure it out pretty quick) is a spirited child. (I also figured out that both Mark and I are NOT spirited parents. We are "spunky" parents. :)

What was interesting though was that as I went through the ratings scale, another one of our children came to mind several times. So I decided to go back and rate her.


But in a totally different way.

One of the first things the book reveals is that there are "introverted" spirited kids and "extroverted" spirited kids.

We have one of each. :)

And reading through this section made so much sense.

One of our children feeds off the energy of others (often leaving others with NO energy). He has to be around people. I have felt suffocated some days when I couldn't even make dinner without that little person right beneath my feet. I am more of an introvert so that can be really draining for me. But for him, it was just what he needed.

The other child is on the introverted side. In fact, she reminds me a lot of myself in some ways.

Being around people, being social for long periods of time, etc, can be exhausting.

In fact, if I notice that she is getting agitated and I feel like it is because she is drained from being social, I send her to her room. Not as a punishment. Just as a time to "recharge". I sure need to do that sometimes...

But most people fall into the extrovert/introvert category. We are pretty much evenly split in our house.

So, what are the qualities of a spirited child? What makes the spirited child different?

Intensity. Strong reactions. That is one of the obvious ones with both kids, but especially the youngest. We have always said whatever he does, he does it to the fullest. When he is sad, he is REALLY sad. When he is happy, he is REALLY happy. Not really manic depressive but it sometimes can feel that way. That passion will be a driving force for him one day. We just have to learn a little control with them. :)

Persistence. Another quality that will serve the spirited child one day. They will be problem solvers. They will not give up. They will persevere. However, at this point of time, it can be exhausting. Like to the point of feeling like I want to collapse. Child 4 has been like this since the day we met him. In fact, his foster mom's parting words of advice, "Don't be surprised when he screams out. When he wants something, he lets you know." Except she said it all in Spanish. And that is so true. We are currently working with him on not interrupting. But it is difficult. I try to ignore him if he interrupts to tell me something that could have waited. It is REALLY hard to ignore when he is in my lap, holding my cheeks, yelling at the top of his lungs. Okay, maybe a bit dramatic. But I will say that when he wants something, he will let us know. Over and over and over. The key of course is not giving in, and we rarely do. But that would be why I often collapse at night out of exhaustion. Because saying "no" 1000 times a day is a tiring experience.

Sensitivity. Both kiddos have shown this. (Really, we all have our "sensitive" issues. I cannot stand tags on my shirts or tight elastic.) One child is really sensitive to clothing. It is getting better with age, but I will say that I still think seriously before buying anything new. The other child has the most heightened sense of senses. He can spot an airplane that looks like a dot in the sky. Smells...oh my. There can be the only faintest of smell in the air and he perks up, "What is that? What do I smell?" I also think he tends to be rough and tumble because he is seeking that touch.

There is a story in the book about a father taking his spirited daughter to the movies. It was such an experience with all of her sensitivities. It was one of my favorite parts of the book. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. I told Mark all about it as we were driving somewhere. He was half listening (maybe because he was focused on driving). A few weeks later, Mark took the kids to the movies (a rare treat around here). When he came home, he shared that his experience with this child was not much different than the one in the book. And I wasn't surprised in the slightest.

Distractible/Perceptive. Try taking a walk with a spirited child. You will not get very far. Maybe not even out the door. The spirited child notices things and must stop to investigate them. Things that nobody else notices. Little details. Like a nest in the tree. Or the crushed crayon in the parking lot at school. (Happened today) And I will admit, when we are in a hurry, which happens a lot, it can be maddening. But it has also taught me to slow down and notice the little things in life.

Adaptable. Transitions are tough for the spirited child. In some ways, it is like they are "ultra focused". They want to finish that puzzle. Or that Lego house. And telling that child that right now is not the time to do it because it is now dinnertime is like telling him/her the world is coming to an end. Change is hard. (Remember that "persistence" factor earlier?)

The next few characteristics are considered "bonus" traits meaning they may not apply to ALL spirited children, but they are often a common feature among that group of kids.

Regularity. This is the only "quality" that does not apply to either of my spirited children. SOME children have a hard time establishing a regular pattern for eating, sleeping, etc. That isn't a problem for mine. Of course, I am pretty big on routine, so maybe I haven't given them much of a choice. :)

Energy. High. Really high. Not necessarily ADHD which often comes to mind. But their energy is more than your typical non-spirited child. Like other factors, it will eventually help these kids in their work, in school, in life. But for now, it can just be exhausting for the parents. It is, trust me.

First reaction. There usually isn't a first reaction. It is more of a non-reaction unless someone tries to force a reaction. The spirited kid may shut down when faced with a new situation. Temporarily (or at least in our house). Once they warm up, watch out, World!

Mood. This applies to one of mine more than another. It is the "serious" and "analytical" mood that can come across very sarcastic, very critical.

To a lot of people, this list would look mostly negative. And like I said, they can be challenges. But all of these characteristics can work in these children's favor too as they grow and learn.

The tough part as a parent is to help that happen.

And that will be part of my next post. Living with a spirited child AND how to be a friend to parents of a spirited child.

More soon!

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