How do you feel about the term "free-spirited child"?? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a huge issue with this term, and a lot of people think it's odd. It bothers me because I feel that it's widely misused, and where I live it seems to be mostly used by parents who don't want to bother either modeling appropriate behavior for their children or disciplining them. "Free-spirited child" in MY particular neck of the woods appears to mean "child I can't control so I've given up" or "nobody could possibly find this child annoying" when the kid is doing something like throwing fruit in a store. I am NOT NOT NOT attempting to attack anyone, nor is this directed at any particular person on this board or IRL-I just feel that around here the term has been a misnomer for so long that it now automatically grates on my nerves. So how do YOU feel about it??

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#2 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:01 PM
 
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To me "spirited child" is a euphemism for undisciplined brat.
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#3 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:10 PM
 
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Far as I know a free spirited child is a free spirit. They don't always follow the crowd. That being said, a child who is not discipiled at all and allowed to do destructive things in the guise of being a "free spirit" is not a free spirit.

I feel the term "free spirit" very much describes DD. And I can promise you she doesn't throw things at the supermarket or make a brat out of her self (well not much ). She just doesn't usually follow societies norms. She listens to her own music, wears her own style, and she treats everyone like they are her best friend until they do something to hurt her enough that she doesn't feel comfortable around them anymore.

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#4 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:14 PM
 
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I think they're mis-using the word "free-spirited." What they actually mean is "spirited". BTW, I don't think of "spirited" children as undisciplined brats. Some children truly have a hard time with certain things. An undisciplined, bratty child is not necessarily "spirited."
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#5 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:14 PM
 
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I think it beats the heck out of "strong-willed child" which around here at least is Dobson-speak for "They don't do what I want when I want, so I hit them."

I do hear where you're coming from, though. It does often seem like these sorts of labels are more like excuses. And if my kid threw fruit in the supermarket, we'd be out of there so fast, it would make her head spin. She would then be dizzy and free-spirited, LOL!

OTOH, I think it helps some parents to use a positive label like "spirited" when people around them are using negative labels.

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#6 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:33 PM
 
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I LOVE the term. I get a kick out of people telling me this about my dtr. mainly b/c I was the opposite as a kid. Let's see- she's danced naked in the yard with fairy wings on, gets naked to play in mud, see's magic and beauty everywhere, collects crayfish claws and stuffs them in her pocket and forgets about them (ewww), very adaptable, tons of imagination. I don't think anything negative when I hear the term.
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#7 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:41 PM
 
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I think it beats the heck out of "strong-willed child" which around here at least is Dobson-speak for "They don't do what I want when I want, so I hit them."
Or, similarly but even more chilling to me, "willful." That one makes me shudder for some reason. :

OP, I can see where you're coming from (although I do think it's unclear whether they mean "free spirit" or "spirited."). Certain words are just loaded and can carry a negative connotation if not used carefully.

I think using any label to describe someone's child can be dangerous -- I remember getting my new-mama hackles up when someone called my newborn DS "silly"!

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#8 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:43 PM
 
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Perhaps it's context.

If someone called their kid "free-spirited" while they were spinning around the yard wearing fairy wings, I'd smile and laugh.

If someone called their kid "free-spirited" while they were pelting patrons with fruit, I'd probably look at them like they had six heads and wonder why they were wasting time labeling their kid instead of parenting them.

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#9 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:45 PM
 
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A free-spirit to me is someone who doesn't follow the crowd and doesn't really care what other people think.

A spirited child is an intense child.

To me, they're very different things, though you could have a spirited free-spirit .

I've got a 'spirited' (aka 'difficult') child who is far from an undisciplined brat. BUT she's far more work to discipline than her brother ever was. Her emotional reactions are much more intense. She's more outwardly 'defiant'. Everything (joy, pain, disappointment) evokes a bigger reaction. She's just more exhausting.

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#10 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:45 PM
 
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My DD is the sweetest, nicest and best natured kid I've ever met...she's just got a sweet soul....that being said...

I TOTALLY think she is "free spirited"...she's got such a wild little attitude and a real zest for life...she's incredibly inquisitive and loves dancing, singing...movin' and shakin'. Her love for creatures and people cannot be contained...she's a free roamin' wild child and I love her so much.

SO...I know a lot of people use that term to try and say as politely as possible that they think someone has a nightmare of a kid....but I have met some really lovely children who were DEFINITELY free spirited little kids. I don't know what to make of it...maybe tis I who misuse the term....but I don't think, at least in my own head, that "free spirited" has to mean "unruly" or, at least not in a bad way! In my mind, free spirited is a good thing...I tend to think of myself (and many of the mamas I know here ) as free spirited!

Now....hearing someone say "That child is STRONG WILLED and needs to be taught some discipline" - makes me shudder big time. Children who live in homes like that, are BROKEN-spirited...and there is nothing more sad or unecessary than that.

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#11 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:49 PM
 
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Perhaps it's context.

If someone called their kid "free-spirited" while they were spinning around the yard wearing fairy wings, I'd smile and laugh.

If someone called their kid "free-spirited" while they were pelting patrons with fruit, I'd probably look at them like they had six heads and wonder why they were wasting time labeling their kid instead of parenting them.


Pelting perturbed patrons with papayas.

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#12 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 05:52 PM
 
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Pelting perturbed patrons with papayas.
Even better.

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#13 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:05 PM
 
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Can someone please refer me to a parenting guide for a 'free-spirited' child. This is how my almost 3 year old was described to me at a parent conference at his preschool. They also described him as delightful, loving etc. so am assuming its a positive, rather than negative term.
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#14 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:07 PM
 
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Raising Your Spirited Child

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#15 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:15 PM
 
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A free-spirit to me is someone who doesn't follow the crowd and doesn't really care what other people think.

A spirited child is an intense child.

To me, they're very different things, though you could have a spirited free-spirit .
All this.

DS1 is/was a free spirit, but he was never a spirited child.
DD1 is both.
I'm still not sure about ds2. He's a huge handful, but I don't think he's actually spirited.

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I've got a 'spirited' (aka 'difficult') child who is far from an undisciplined brat. BUT she's far more work to discipline than her brother ever was. Her emotional reactions are much more intense. She's more outwardly 'defiant'. Everything (joy, pain, disappointment) evokes a bigger reaction. She's just more exhausting.
All this. DD1 just drains me by being herself. Something like a minor spat with a neighbourhood friend will provoke a straight half hour of total meltdown. It's really tiring to deal with. She's actually not difficult to deal with, in many ways, but discipline is tricky, because she doesn't react to things quite the way I'd expect a lot of the time. (Things like "basic manner", for example...both my sons were using all the code words - please, thank you, etc. - pretty consistently by about age 2.5. DD1 is 6, and is still very resistant to using most of them. She has some kind of "thing" about it, and modeling hasn't done anything. It's taking a long time.) But, we haven't just given up, and there's no way throwing fruit would be tolerated! If we were out, we'd go home. If we were at home, the fruit would be taken away. The fact that she's so spirited makes it hard to cope with her behaviour sometimes...but that's not the same as just giving up.

ETA: I honestly don't think I've ever heard the term "free-spirited child" used in my hearing. People say "spirited child" or they say a "free spirit".

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#16 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:24 PM
 
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Or, similarly but even more chilling to me, "willful." That one makes me shudder for some reason. :

OP, I can see where you're coming from (although I do think it's unclear whether they mean "free spirit" or "spirited."). Certain words are just loaded and can carry a negative connotation if not used carefully.

I think using any label to describe someone's child can be dangerous -- I remember getting my new-mama hackles up when someone called my newborn DS "silly"!
"Willful" used as a pejorative makes me sad because "will" is generally used as a good thing. Free will, knowing my will, etc. I hear "willful" as "darnit, this kid has a mind of his/her own and shouldn't!"
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#17 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:25 PM
 
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You know, I've read about that book, but until now hadn't looked at it (read the opening pages on amazon)--mostly because the time it takes to parent my spirited kid swallows up all my reading time. But those opening pages hit several things that dd does pretty much all the time.

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I've got a 'spirited' (aka 'difficult') child who is far from an undisciplined brat. BUT she's far more work to discipline than her brother ever was. Her emotional reactions are much more intense. She's more outwardly 'defiant'. Everything (joy, pain, disappointment) evokes a bigger reaction. She's just more exhausting.
This is dd, especially lately.

I agree with Lynn that there's probably such a thing as a spirited free-spirit. I sometimes think that dd has the potential to be such a person--and for me the parenting balance is to find a way of nurturing all the positives of her personality (not stomping on them) while teaching her appropriate behavior. To her credit (not mine, really), she's never done anything like throwing fruit in a store. Tidying up the shelves and refusing to budge until it's done....well, that's another story.

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#18 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:28 PM
 
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My associations with that phrase are not positive, but I've only heard it used for adults. Most of the adults I know who refer to themselves as "free spirits" are the ones who are usually late, flakey, unreliable and use the free-spirit label as some sort of excuse for this behavior. :

So I'm kinda biased against it. I know others have different associations with this phrase.
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#19 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:29 PM
 
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To me "spirited child" is a euphemism for undisciplined brat.
I totally disagree with this. I am currently reading Raising Your Spirited Child because my DD is just "more". It has helped me immensely. Do I like the term, uh not really, but I think that my DD can and is well mannered most of the time, but her spirit is high, her energy is high. She is just more intense than many children I know, but I'm more intense than a lot of people too and I was the same way as a kid.

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#20 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:29 PM
 
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Barefootmama, I think I'm with you on this. I have negative associations with the phrase "free-spirited" only because I most often hear/read it from parents who are excusing their child's unpleasant or harmful behavior.

As in, "oh, my kid hit your kid...he's so free-spirited."
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#21 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:43 PM
 
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I totally disagree with this. I am currently reading Raising Your Spirited Child because my DD is just "more". It has helped me immensely. Do I like the term, uh not really, but I think that my DD can and is well mannered most of the time, but her spirit is high, her energy is high. She is just more intense than many children I know, but I'm more intense than a lot of people too and I was the same way as a kid.
Yeah, I've never liked the term spirited. If they're more intense, why not call it like it is, your intense child. At least it would be more accurate. I couldn't even tell you what 'spririted' means without at least 5 different meanings popping into my head. But intense, that's pretty clear.

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#22 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:50 PM
 
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I totally disagree with this. I am currently reading Raising Your Spirited Child because my DD is just "more". It has helped me immensely. Do I like the term, uh not really, but I think that my DD can and is well mannered most of the time, but her spirit is high, her energy is high. She is just more intense than many children I know, but I'm more intense than a lot of people too and I was the same way as a kid.
I'm not sure, but I think the poster you quoted may have just meant that's how the phrase is often used, not that she personally thinks that's what it means. I hear it used that way a lot too. Like people will say, "He's ... uh, how shall I put this ... a spirited child, if you know what I mean," trying not to outright say "brat." It's too bad that it has that connotation, because it's a nice word if taken at face value.

Although I gotta say the opposite bothers me too, when parents of spirited children say things like, "Oh well, I'd rather have my spirited child than a boring lump who isn't interested in anything," as though those are the only other kinds of children who exist.

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#23 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 06:53 PM
 
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The only time I've ever heard a mother refer to her child as "free spirited" is well, in reference to her child that was out of control 24/7. Granted I think this has less to do with the child and more to do with the mother who was under the impression that every human on the planet would be so enamored with her DS that they would overlook and smile lovingly at everything DS ever did and therefore felt no need to ever, ever, ever discipline unless DS was in danger. She'd step in if he was about to run into traffic, but would NOT even bat an eye if DS emptied the condiment/flatware area at the local farm cafe onto the ground. (I was there)

It was so bad I had to stop contact with them because MY DS was picking up "bad" behavior from this child who didn't know any better.

I tend to think the term has been adapted to refer to these types of situations when it really should belong to those children who just love life and want to spend their days happy rain/snow/shine/indooors/outdoors...just grateful to be alive and have parents that love them.

But yes, usually ity refersto the "unruly" type.
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#24 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 07:00 PM
 
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PERSONALLY, I don't think it's a bad term at all. I use it for my child, and he is VERY well behaved. Many people are actually shocked at how well he acts compared to other children his age-Don't get me wrong.. he has his tantrums! BUT he's just a VERY creative child with a huge imagination. He's just not your typical 2.5 year old. I see it as a compliment really.. My husband and I use it in more of the creative sense. His mind is very open, and the things he comes up with are just amazing. :
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#25 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 08:23 PM
 
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I've got a 'spirited' (aka 'difficult') child who is far from an undisciplined brat. BUT she's far more work to discipline than her brother ever was. Her emotional reactions are much more intense. She's more outwardly 'defiant'. Everything (joy, pain, disappointment) evokes a bigger reaction. She's just more exhausting.
I've got one of those too. When I hear "spirited" I think "oh, like DS."

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#26 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 08:41 PM
 
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I hate the term. I think it sounds like a label "so my child can get away with her/his behavior". Or "the kid nobody wants around".

I'm never impressed when a parent says "My spirited six yr old". I'd much prefer to hear "he's a handful" "she makes me work hard".
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#27 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 08:50 PM
 
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A friend's mom said this about me once, and then wouldn't let her child play with me.

: I wasn't being bad!

So that was a negative connotation. I think it can be used in a good way, though.
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#28 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 09:50 PM
 
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I find that phrase aesthetically pleasing (who wouldn't want to have freedom of the spirit?), but dissatisfying as a euphanism. If I'm describing characteristics, I like to be specific though. My DD is definitely intense. Oddly, instead of "free spirited" people who describe her very VERY strong sense of self and stubbornness tend to say "free thinker"...I actually agree with them. She is very much a thinking child. Unfortunately because she has a very strong sense of self that has always developed slightly ahead of her capacity for empathy and reason that can make her very challenging to parent.

There are some people who use spirited and I roll my eyes because they are definitely making excuses for inaction and their child's bratty behavior (I can hardly fault the child. I take responsibility for the situation too when my own children channel their inner brat, and when I allow mine out too). Then there are others that find that more comfortable to use because it allows them to express and seek others who face a challenging child to parent/discipline and don't want to use harsh language. I can respect that.

But as a general label, I think it's useless. It's not accurately descriptive, means vastly different things to different people. So if I wanted to be clear about describing my child, I would not use that term because I know I couldn't expect that anyone else would know what I was talking about.
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#29 of 43 Old 07-01-2009, 09:54 PM
 
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"Free-spirited" makes me think of Anne of Green Gables.

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#30 of 43 Old 07-02-2009, 01:54 AM
 
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"Free-spirited" makes me think of Anne of Green Gables.
Now THAT I love. But, "free spirited" (or rather just the term spirited) has taken on a new meaning. One that isn't nice or enviable anymore.

I actually think "free spirited" and "spirited" have slightly different meanings to me.
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