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Dealing with Spirited Children

If you have more than one child, there is likely to be a high-spirited one in the lot. Here are some good suggestions for how to deal with these delightful, rambunctious, sensitive, and determined kids. While some of these strategies apply to all children, they are especially important for parents with children who are strong-willed, sensitive, and spirited.

1. Highly spirited children get easily excited and easily disappointed. 

If you can, tell your child about your plans in advance, so they get excited, but also get used to things that might disappoint them. For example, if you know they will be sad when it’s time to go, give them a five- to a ten-minute warning so they can adjust. This can help prevent the unpleasant surprises or disappointment that can occur when children are expected to change tracks abruptly.

2. Let your child be as independent as possible, within clear and consistent parameters. 

Spirited children love to be independent and thrive on responsibility. Most spirited children also learn best through independent experiences and exploration rather than 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, making it harder for them to relax on their own. They need to learn how to help themselves relax on their own.

4. Give your child lots of outdoor time. 

This is a great way to get their energy out and help with their focus.

5. Encourage your child to learn as much as they can actively, through projects, demonstrations, experiments, and exploration. 

With homeschooling, you can adjust your child’s learning process so that it is active, interesting, and engaging. If your child goes to school, give them active learning opportunities on weekends and in the afternoons.

6. Avoid power struggles. 

Parents need to avoid power struggles with all children, but energetic, strong-willed children are the ones who will never give in.

7. Focus on their strengths. 

Kids with high spirits can be more fiery and stubborn or explosive, but they also have extraordinary strengths. Often they are creative, sensitive, attentive, and good leaders. Avoid labeling your child as “stubborn” or “angry”. Give more attention to helping them discover and share their strengths than chastising them for their weaknesses. If they bring out their strengths enough, they will crowd out the weaknesses.

8. Negotiate when possible.

Children with strong-willed personalities usually argue using their reason and enjoy being right. There is no harm in recognizing in advance when they’re right or when you’re right. If you use your reasoning skills regularly when addressing their input, it reinforces their tendency to use reasoning.

9. Limit electronic stimuli (video games, TV, technology). 

Highly spirited children already have a lot of energy – they don’t need more pulsing through their veins from electronic stimuli. Teach them how to use electronics for specific purposes, and if TV is permitted, let them watch it for a set amount of time, but forbid too much use. Even on rainy days, avoid letting the TV run too long. Instead, find indoor activities they can do.

10. Allow your child to learn by making mistakes. 

Again, this is important for all kids, but some children need to make more mistakes than others. Laidback children often are more willing to accept advice and learn from others’ mistakes. In general, however, high-spirited children tend to try whatever they are told not to (you know, stick out their tongue and touch a frozen pole after being told it’ll get stuck). Nevertheless, they also learn from this…