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Smart, Spirited Toddler - Just Temperament, Right?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

(x-posted from Toddlers)


Back story:  DS is 15 months old and has always been a high needs baby/spirited toddler.  I've read Dr. Sears books and Raising Your Spirited Child - the latter helped immensely, giving me tools to help with transitions (he needs the next day's events spelled out, for example, step by step - then I remind him what's going to happen that day, in the next few hours, in the next few minutes, over and over and over - but it helps alot).  He has trouble unpacking his day at night, stopping activities, slowing his body down and settling to sleep, but we've found a routine that helps, among other things.  He's always been extremely sensitive to crowds, noise, stress, etc. and we keep our outings short.


He is extremely persistent (he was never the baby that you could redirect to another toy - he would remember and INSIST on the one he had - as a toddler, ditto for activities and everything else), intense, SUPER active, and has always (since early infancy) been easily frustrated by his limitations, exploding like a volcano.  He still needs to nurse down to sleep and needs me next to him, even for naps (which I do, because it's crucial he gets rest), though this is sloooowly improving.  He is loud, wild, and a total chatterbox all day every day (loves doing flips, climbing, daredevil stuff).  


He has always been a highly alert baby since birth, hit all his developmental milestones very early, etc. (won't bore you with a list).  Suffice it to say, he is quite bright (was putting 2-3 word sentences together well before 12 months) and has recently become very interested in letters, and can identify a few (totally led by him, I don't initiate or push - he points and asks, or tells me what he thinks they are, finds more of the same on a page, etc.).  He can follow complex directions.  He figured out on his own very early that keys go in locks, how to turn things on and off, can stack several thin, cylindrical blocks on top of each other without help - things like that.  So, no motor/mental delays or anything.  He is, by turns, the most serious baby anyone has ever seen and the most happy, joyful, friendly lil guy.


I could go on and on - point being, he is just very, very, VERY.


As a baby, he was super sensitive to clothing and cried and cried every time we dressed him (in soft cotton - learning how to help dress himself helps).  He can't sleep with a blanket on, he screams if he's barefoot on sand at the beach (has to wear sandals even in water) and, recently, completely loses it (purple-faced terror screaming) if water touches him.  He can play with it in the sink (loves to pour from cup to cup) and even in the bathtub if he's only in it up to his ankles - but if the shower sprayer hits him with a drop (which occasionally happens because I have to bring him in the shower with me, to avoid a certain complete and total meltdown), he loses it and can't recover.  Ditto if I pour a cup of water over him to rinse him off (even if it's just his body).  Washing hands can be a battle.


I wanted to cross post this here just to see if anyone in this camp had a similar toddler.  I know, it's FAR too early to determine if he's gifted - I get it, so don't worry about that.  I just thought some of you might have similar stories to share or perhaps some insights.  


Thanks in advance!


post #2 of 9

Anyone have info or advice to share?

post #3 of 9

My youngest was/is spirited and really, it sounds like you are doing all the right things... routine, talking though upcoming events, identifying triggers, flexibility. I think it's very important that you make some time for yourself. I know there were days that the intensity and battles would overwhelm me. Between 2 and 3 were sooooooo hard for us. There were days he just wouldn't eat because we ran out of raisin-bran. I'd put him on a "time-out" on a stair and he'd be so mad at me he'd literally refuse to leave it and end up sleeping on the stair all night! Poor DH lugged that boy on every trail in Yosemite because he simply refused to walk... wouldn't take a single step because his shoes go dirty. In our case, preschool was a godsend. I never thought I'd send a child of mine to two years of preschool (totally playbased) but really, it was the very best thing for us. I needed a moment to regroup, DS needed the social outlet. He went 2 mornings a week the first year and 3 mornings the second. It calmed him, he started FINALLY sleeping through the night, got us in a nice routine and things were just better from then on. Of course, you need the right preschool... DS actually found his own preschool but that's a different story. Put it this way, we found the place that would help him line up his sock seams 3 times a day lol. At 4, we started occupational therapy for the sensitivities and an eating issue he had.... wow, that made a major difference in our lives! 


Parenting him has been a lot of trial and error. Many of his traits have been difficult to integrate into the "real world." He had to learn a lot of things "the hard way" because he simply wouldn't take our word for anything. However, at 11, he's really a fantastic kid, top student both academic and behaviorally, handles adult environments as a pro, has some great friends, very independent and competent, just lovable, funny... never thought he'd be my "easy" child at this point lol.


So my advice, take care of yourself. Having an intense child can wear you down. It's both exhilarating  and exhausting. It's easy to find yourself absorbing their moods... high when they are high, low when they are low. Try pull keep yourself out of their emotional turmoil (which can be hard when it's just so MUCH.) 

post #4 of 9

It sounds like you're doing a great job with him. And I certainly don't think lying down with a 15mo old to help him nap is at all out of the range of normal for MDC. I'm sure some mainstream parents would be surprised, but plenty of moms on MDC nurse their toddlers down for naps. 


He's still really little, even if he's ahead on his milestones, he's still just a wee guy. I'd say probably half the toddlers I've heard of would cry if water was poured over them. I don't think those things are _that_ unusual for 15 mo. The level of intensity of his crying sounds like it could be, but the things he's crying about don't sound that weird to me. Sand, water, getting dirty — all big triggers at this age. If he's still really upset about this when he's 4 or 5 or maybe 3 then you might want to look into Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Disorder. I think that's what Whatsnext is talking about when she says her DS started OT for the sensitivities. That is the standard treatment. You can also look at ways to create a sensory diet for him at home. "The Out of Sync Child" is a great book for this, but I think he's a little young to make a call on that right now.


Do you have a playgroup? It might help to talk to some other moms of toddlers. Maybe I just live in an area with a lot of quirky, intense kids, but what you're describing doesn't sound way out there to me. My dd1 was also very high needs (not so much spirited, but super high needs if that makes sense). A friend used to say when her dd was little that she had "lots of BIG feelings". I always loved that phrase. I think I would have thought that dd2 was high needs if we had her first because she had her own intensity (and loudness), but dd1 came first and dd2 paled in comparison. So, what you're describing doesn't sound too out of the realm of normal to me, but my kids were never the babies you could pass around the room or go put in the crib by themselves. 



Have you read Kurcinka's other book, "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles"? In it she talks a lot more about temperament both the child's and the parents'. I liked it better than "Your Spirited Child" although there is some overlap between the two. Both books are really targeted for school age kids, though, so you'll probably get more out of it later on. 


I'm kind of an outlier here on the Gifted board because my area is teeming with above average kids. There are lots of resources locally here, but I've been hanging out here on the board a little more recently because my dd2 is getting ready to start 3rd grade which is when they screen for the gifted programs. I'm not a big subscriber to the "over-excitablities" and "sensitivities" that are sometimes associated with gifties. I know lots of super well-adjusted, wonderful, kind gifted kids who don't suffer from those issues so I tend to think of those issues (and my dd1 has some issues, too, possibly 2E) as separate from giftedness. I'm sure they can occur concurrently just like blue eyes can, but IME I don't see those kinds of issues as happening any more in the gifted population in our area than they do in the rest of the kid population. 


So, try not to worry. Meet him where he is. Give him plenty of opportunities to get his ya-yas out. I bet he will be really physically active as he gets older and he may well be gifted, too.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you both so much for the support and advice!  I really appreciate it.  He is the only child I've ever had, and raising him has established our "new normal" - so I'm somewhat comfortable with these things.  I think broadening our social circle could help give me perspective - the toddlers we know are so different in so many ways, haha.  Our friends have the babies that they can leave at their mom's house for a weekend, that have always fallen asleep anywhere, that have clear schedules, etc. so they see his oddball quirks as something atrociously wrong - and as much as I've read and as well as I understand DS, that can still eat at me (especially when I see those comments bothering DH).


I know he's a bright kid, he has a great sense of humor, he's a delight to be around (most of the time).  We just have to work a bit harder at parenting him, I think, than most people do, to keep him comfortable and happy and not totally melting down - on the flip side, I do feel that in some ways our relationship with him is deeper because of it.  We try to understand him and help, so he trusts us.  I LOVE the "BIG feelings" quote - I may start using that one! winky.gif


He's already balancing on one foot (randomly started doing tree pose, no less!) and things like that, so I'm not suspicious of any motor delays or anything...I think you both are right...I think he is just a normal but sensitive kiddo!  I went ahead and checked out a book on the one book our library had on sensory issues - Sensational Kids - and it was helpful.  I think you are absolutely right in waiting to see, as he gets older, if these things become easier or not.  I don't think they are totally crippling him, mostly because we are learning work-a-rounds, but I have that "new mom" thing at play here - needing reassurance, making sure I don't miss something...


I did find from reading that book that while he is super sensitive to crowds, noises, stress, water, textures, etc. he also has alot of "sensory seeking" behaviors - he started a couple months ago asking to do flips and he'll do tons of them in a row (with DH's help) until you make him stop, he spins himself in circles all day long 'til he falls down, loves to be tossed around, lots of risky stunts.  He LOVES super strong and spicy foods (people are constantly bugging their eyes out at what he will eat - hot peppers, really dark chocolate, olives, etc. you name it).  He's always putting things in his mouth, talking non-stop, bouncing off the walls - but that's also just being a toddler, IMO!  I think it's just his own way of figuring out this new world.  In the meantime, I will be on the look-out for new tools to put in our toolbox...


Thank you again for your help!  It makes me feel alot better. smile.gif

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

PS - whatsnextmom - I was TOTALLY that kid who was obsessed (to the point of tears) with my sock seams (my mom called me "princess picky feet" thumb.gif) - and food textures - and a lot of other things.  So I see some of myself in his quirks, for sure - even if they aren't the exact same ones.

post #7 of 9

Hello Pickle, I have a similar toddler.  He's 12 months, so not quite your little one's age.  You've probably received the advice you needed, but I find it's nice to hear from others going through a similar situation as well.  The most recent thing we've experienced from your post was the sand, he wouldn't even walk on it with sandals on.  The only recent thing I've noticed I can do to calm him down quickly, redirect him when he's doing something he shouldn't, etc. is breastfeeding.  Anyway, I've read it's a method used with toddlers in Mongolia, ...basically you invite him for a nurse enthusiastically, as soon as they see them, their head perks up, grins and toddles straight over.  I saved the article, here it is...http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/ruth_kamnitzer.html, under the bit named 'The Lazy Mum's Secret Weapon'.  Obviously you wouldn't be able to use this method around guests, unless you're feeling very brave, but it seems to work in any situation.  orngbiggrin.gif   

post #8 of 9

My son is 18 months old and it's nice to see I'm not alone. I don't think my son is gifted, but I do think he is bright. He reached most of his milestones early, but since he was born he cried a lot. I always asked other mothers how they entertain their kids because mine is so hard. I had a ton of toys since birth because after 10 minutes being in the swing, on the activity mat, etc he would cry until he saw something new. I would read reviews on toys and people would say their kids would play in it for a very long time, best toy ever, their kid would fall asleep in them, etc. That was never the case with my son, a toy has never held his interest for more than 15 min. 


He also has separation issues, even when I'm just around the corner he has to come over to me and asked to be held. Now I think he just wants to see what I'm doing or do it too. He's always loved to be held even though he start walking at 9 months. Now that he's really good at walking/running/climbing I don't have to hold him as much. I have to take him out every morning just to give myself a break from having to entertain him.


He's never been a good sleeper. I read a lot of different sleep training books and tried every method and none of them work. I was so exhausted after running into his room for several months I gave up. Co-sleeping has worked the best and even now he still wakes up here and there during the night.


I see other kids who love to run around and play, but sometimes mine is so serious sometimes. He will just watch everyone else or pull me around everywhere with him. He's finally getting a little better not pulling me around in his play group. He's always been impatient and persistent, however, he does comprehend a lot and is kind and has a good sense of humor. I am hoping he is a high needs child because he is bright. If anyone has something I can refer to so I can better manage this that would be great.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Cheesenonion2!  I definitely use nursing to soothe or redirect whenever possible - it works some of the time, which is something, right? (oh, and I've so lost inhibitions on nursing in front of anyone at this point, haha)


meatball - I found the book Raising Your Spirited Child to be very helpful in understanding DS, plus it's full of great tips that have made a big difference.  I completely understand you on the swings,  toys, etc. - DS would be lucky to make it to 10 minutes, quite frankly!  He has always been quick to comprehend and very alert, so I guess he's thinking, been there, done that, move on the the next thing please! haha


We also have lots of separation issues (hence him following me into the shower - otherwise he screams crying until he can't breathe) that are sloooowly getting better (as in, he can hang with Daddy for a little bit), but I started working at home VERY part-time (less than 10 hrs/week) recently, and even that much has been a big problem for him.  It's really pitiful, he gets so upset - it makes me second guess the decision, frankly. greensad.gif Co-sleeping is also our saving grace! thumb.gif


Good luck, mama - hang in there! hug.gif  And kudos to you for knowing and doing what works best for your particular kiddo - I know how hard that can be.

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