Parenting Your Spirited Child: What Gifts do you see in Your Child?
Sometimes it is difficult to see the gifts in spirited children. Before mobility and verbal communication sets in, it all seems loud and
She has an opinion ~ a voice. A very loud one at that, but this is a positive thing. She knows what she wants and when she wants it. She isn't afraid of voicing her opinion, even at such a young age.
She is very perceptive. If you watch her, she is taking in everything that is around her. Especially what people are doing and saying.
She is very compassionate and sensitive. If someone is hurt, she furrows her brow and makes a sad little whimper. She doesn't quite know what to do with this yet, but we love to see this. She is gentle with her dolls and animals she comes in contact with.
She is determined. Once she sets her mind onto something, it must get accomplished.
Spirited children are not going to let the world change them. They will change the world. So, they are ahead of the game already when it comes to peer pressure. They have an ability to think independently and stand for what they believe. These characteristics make for a very successful adult.
As parents we need to nourish the positive side of our spirited children so that they won't constantly feel that they are in a battle with us.
Strategies to help Olivia feel as though she is in 'control' and has a 'voice' even though ultimately we as parents are in control and have set limits, keeping her safety in mind first.
Calm Voice - who likes to be talked to in a stressed out, demanding tone? Olivia responds so much more positively if we talk to her in a calm respectful voice. She may only be 15 months old, but she is a human being. She deserves respect.
Choices - I am finding that giving Olivia choices is a good thing. If she wants something to drink and I know that she needs a bit more milk before the end of the day, I give her a choice. Not a choice of whether she wants milk, juice or water, but a choice of the colour of cup she gets her milk in. She gets to choose and have some control, but she still gets her calcium intake for the day. We both win and there is no battle.
Consistency - Olivia needs to know that we are consistent with her. That her Mama and Daddy are on the same page. This takes a lot of communication on Jason and my part, but it makes all of our lives easier.
Structure and Routine - Although Olivia doesn't do well with changes and new routines, once they are established she thrives on them. So, I try to keep it simple. For example, getting up from a nap used to be a crying mess for her. Now that I talk through what we do every time we get out of the crib, she does great. She's a happy camper. She knows that this is what happens: Get up from nap, pick up blanket and soother, go to the change table, change the diaper, put a bow in her hair and then go to the living room to cuddle.
Pick your Battles - Some battles are not worth fighting. So we have discovered that safety comes first For example meal time was a struggle. We have had to pick our battles. Our eating goal for Olivia was just to eat without screaming and if that meant moving food from her tray onto the table a zillion times, that was fine. With Mikail that was unacceptable at this same age but we weren't battling screaming or not eating. He was quiet and ate well, so to enforce keeping food on your plate was feasible. With Olivia that wasn't a battle worth fighting.
Distraction - Sometimes a simple distraction can help prevent some behaviors.
Basic Needs - We find that if we meet the basic needs of sleep, hunger and attention, Olivia is a much happier little girl. This holds true especially if it is a busy day or if we are traveling.
Some would say that parenting like this leads to permissive parenting. I may have even thought so myself as a single person 'knowing' how I would parent. But, with a bit of experience under my Mama belt, I disagree. In each of these areas the parent is the one who is in ultimate control by setting limits. Kids need appropriate limits in order for proper emotional development to take place. A great article I have read in this regard is written by Dr. Laura Markham entitled What's Wrong with Permissive Parenting? and goes into detail about what happens when parents don't set limits.