If you have more than one child, you’re likely to have a high spirited one in the bunch. Here are a few tips for dealing with these delightful, rambunctious, sensitive and determined kids. Some of these strategies apply to all children, but are included here because they are even more important to keep in mind when you have a strong willed, sensitive and spirited child.
1. Highly spirited children get easily excited and easily disappointed. Whenever possible, let your child know your plans ahead of time. This gives them time to enjoy their excitement, but also to get used to things that disappoint them. For example, if you know they’re going to be sad when it’s time to leave the park, give them a five or ten minute warning so they have time to transition. This can help avoid the outbursts of surprise or disappointment that can occur when the child is expected to change tracks abruptly.
2. Let your child be as independent as possible, within clear and consistent parameters. This is beneficial for all kids, but spirited children in particular LOVE being independent and thrive on having responsibilities. Most spirited children also learn best through independent experiences and exploration than they do by just “being told” things.
3. Work soothing activities in your child’s routines – reading, stretching, daily bath, listening to classical music, etc. Spirited children live life intensely. This is one of their greatest strengths, but also makes it more difficult for them to relax on their own. They need to LEARN how to help themselves relax.
4. Give your child lots of outdoor time. This is a great way for them to release their energy and discover ways to occupy their strong sense of focus.
5. Encourage your child to learn as much as they can actively, through projects, demonstrations, experiments and exploration. If you homeschool your child, you can tailor their learning process to be as active and engaging as possible. If your child goes to school, give them active learning opportunities in the afternoons and on weekends.
6. Avoid power struggles. Parents should really avoid power struggles with ALL children, but high spirited, strong willed kids are the ones that NEVER give in.
7. Focus on their strengths. OK – high spirited kids can be more high strung and might seem too stubborn or explosive, but they also have incredible strengths. They are often creative, sensitive, attentive and good leaders. Avoid labeling your child as “stubborn” or “angry”. Focus more on helping them discover and share their strengths than on chiding them for their weaknesses. If your child brings out their strengths enough, they’ll crowd out their weaknesses.
8. Negotiate when possible.Strong willed children often argue using their reason and enjoy being right. There’s no harm in acknowledging when they are right or when what they propose is acceptable. Taking their input into account whenever possible, while saying no when needed, helps them establish a health self-esteem and reinforces their tendency to use logic.
9. Limit electronic stimuli (video games, TV, technology). Highly spirited kids already have a lot of energy – they don’t need more energy pulsing through their veins from electronic stimuli. Teach them how to use electronics for specific purposes, and, if TV is allowed in your house, allow them to watch it for a set duration, but discourage too much use of technology. Even on rainy days, avoid letting the TV run too long. Find active indoor things to do instead.
10. Allow your child to learn by making mistakes. Again, this is important for all kids, but some kids need to make more mistakes than others. Laid back children often have an easier time accepting advice, and this helps them avoid some mistakes by learning from others. Most high spirited children, however, have a knee-jerk reaction to try whatever they’re told not to (you know, stick out their tongue and touch a frozen pole after being told it’ll get stuck). But they learn from their mistakes too, so it doesn’t go to waste!