How do you know your child is spirited? - Mothering Forums

How do you know your child is spirited?

spatulagirl's Avatar spatulagirl (TS)
10:46 AM Liked: 74
#1 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 4,637
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I know a lot of people rave about that book "Raising Your Spirited Child" and have been thinking about getting it... but only if I know for sure it applies to my son.

So how do/did you know your child was spirited?

zealsmom's Avatar zealsmom
01:30 PM Liked: 14
#2 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 896
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hi spatulagirl,

You've got a hot topic here. Many people would probably have labelled our little one as spirited by now. He had all the behaviors/characterstics people describe as a baby and now as a young child. For us, it has been more about not entering into power struggles than finding a label. And spending time breathing, smiling etc.
Godd luck.
calgal007's Avatar calgal007
04:19 PM Liked: 0
#3 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 662
Joined: Nov 2001
All children are spirited, don't you think?

I noticed some mammas made it a point of pride to talk about how spirited their child is, like it's a competition. It's not.
monkey's mom's Avatar monkey's mom
04:35 PM Liked: 72
#4 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 2,922
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There are multiple questions in the book with 1-5 rating scales. It was very helpful to me to see where my son fell.

For example, re. Persistence:

If your child is involved in an activity and you tell her to stop, does she stop easily or fight to continue?

1--Easily stops. Can be redirected to participate in another activity quite easily. Will cry for a few minutes and then stop. Accepts "no" for an answer.

5--"Locks in." Sticks to her guns. Doesn't easily let go of an idea or activity. Locks in. Can cry for hours. Never takes "no" for an answer.

Then there are lots of good suggestions for how to repect your child's need to be persistent, how to work within that framework, how to look at it positively, how to deal if you are persistent also, and lots of tips and tools to deal with a persistent child.

I would suggest that you check it out of the library--do the quizzes and skim around--you should be able to quickly tell if you relate or not.

I am really liking the book, and would be happy to try to answer any of your questions. (i'm 3/4 of the way through it)
Nemmer's Avatar Nemmer
04:38 PM Liked: 11
#5 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 3,234
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You know, my son doesn't quite fit the "spirited" category, according to the book. BUT, I highly recommend the book anyway, regardless of whether or not your child is spirited. The author does a great job of identifying different personality traits found in most all people. "Spirited" children are often just more intense in their traits. She talks about how to identify traits in both your child and yourself, and gives helpful ideas for relating in areas where you match, and where you don't. Honestly, I can't recommend the book enough, for ALL parents. I've gotten several copies from to give as gifts, even.
Bearsmama's Avatar Bearsmama
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#6 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 4,628
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I would get the book. You can get a used copy pretty cheap on Amazon or or some other used book place. Also, if it doesn't apply, you can always pass it along to someone else.

The two words that seemed to sum up from birth(if I can really do that) my 2 yo is INTENSE & SENSITIVE. Also, very bright and verbal. After a myriad of posts descibing my son's behavior, a poster here suggested RYSC. It's one of only a few parenting books I refer to all the time.

It's certainly not a 'diagnosis' or anything like that. But it is a decscription that may help you parent your child in the way that he needs best. Hope this makes sense.
raleigh_mom's Avatar raleigh_mom
10:53 PM Liked: 0
#7 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 738
Joined: Jan 2004
Originally posted by calgal007
All children are spirited, don't you think?

I noticed some mammas made it a point of pride to talk about how spirited their child is, like it's a competition. It's not.
Of course all children are spirited, but this is a different kind of spirited. The author chose this name as a positive way to describe certain children who often have other adjectives applied to them that are not so nice. My daughter is a "spirited child". If you met her, she would probably drive you crazy after a few days. We will be homeschooling for a number of reasons, but I am sure in public school that many teachers would think she was trouble. All children have extreme emotions, but hers can really be "more". She is ver intense She also has real problems with transition, and has needed a whole lot of understanding to help her feel secure. For the first 3 years of life, she had to be touching me 70% of the time, or she was in tears. This book was a godsend to us. I always loved her, but now I feel like I UNDERSTAND her better. Why not just get a copy from the library first to see if it is for you? I think it has great ideas for parenting any child, but if yours is one of the ones she is addressing in particular, you'll probably know it right away when you read the book.

I think sometimes we like to talk abourt our "spirited" kids so positively is because others who are around them can be so negative. DD1 takes a HUGE amount of energy to deal with, but she is also a beautiful, clever, creative wonderful little girl.
Sleepymama's Avatar Sleepymama
11:03 PM Liked: 63
#8 of 26
02-19-2004 | Posts: 1,431
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I agree, the book has great tips for even easygoing kids. The author makes very loose categories of "easy" "spunky" and "spirited" and you rate your kid on a 1-5 scale in 5 different traits--intensity, persistence, sensitivity, slow-to-adapt, and distractibility/perception. There are "bonus" traits that not every spirited kid has, such as high energy, irregularity, negative mood, negative first reaction. My DS, only 14 months but very, very spirited, high needs or whatever you want to call it, scores very high in intensity, sensitivity, persistence, but not as high on the other two. he's very high energy and irregular though.

Anyway, of course it's not a competition!! But I've been around other babies/toddlers his age and it's like they are different beasts. This kid has taken 150% of my energy, time, patience, you name it since the day he was born! Holding 24/7 until very recently, won't sleep without being held, won't eat, hates cars, super sensitive to light, noise, foods, clothes, people, being confined in any way, everything! Started tantrums at about 8 months old, no joke. Gets frustrated so easily, and his switch flips from gleeful to shrieking in a nanosecond. Figuring out what he wants/needs day to day is impossible, I still never know what he wants most of the time. Never wakes up at the same time or naps at the same time, schedules? What's that?

But also so alert, people commented on how he was as alert as a 3 month old when he was only a couple of weeks old. Figured out how to put legos together at 10 months old. My mom says he's too smart for his own good, that is what makes him so frustrated! That's why we call him "captain chaos" LOL

My brother was spirited too, and I am only now understanding it after reading the book. I am also spirited (she asks you to take the test yourself to help you deal w/your spirited kids) but in a different way.

I think we like to talk about it positively because many days, it's hard to be positive at all, when they are just pushing every button you have. It is hard for me not to be resentful of people who have easygoing kids, so if I brag about his spiritedness it's only because I feel it's like a purple heart or something, I wear his spiritedness like a war wound sometimes.
chapulina's Avatar chapulina
12:25 AM Liked: 0
#9 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 219
Joined: Feb 2003
Hi Spatulagirl!

Agreeing with everyone else on Raising Your Spirited Child - awesome book. Also, I highly recommend The Highly Sensitive Child (sorry, can't remember the author - it is a woman) in understanding these type of children/individuals better.

Taking the liberty to speak for those of us with these type of children -we are not trying to compete for the my-child-is-more-difficult-than-yours award - just trying to get comfort/support/encouragement from any possible source. I frequently feel inferior when I'm around mothers who have more compliant children. Talking to mothers who have to cut the tags out of all the clothes their child wears, guard against over-stimulation, explain their child's odd mannerisms/behaviours to others, etc, etc , is a tremendous support for me.
Monica's Avatar Monica
05:28 AM Liked: 0
#10 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 446
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Find it and read it - then you will know if you child is "spirited." I posted a few weeks ago about how challenging my son is and how exhausted I am and how frustrated I feel with him. Someone recommended it to me and all I have to say is THANK YOU!!!!!!! It has really really changed how I interact with my son. I had previously read, How to Talk..., Children: the Challenge, Sears Discipline Book, read, listened to and took at Parent Effectiveness class, and many others all of which helped me figure out what I did not want to do as far as punishment, gave me some tools for communication but I was still feeling like we were screwing up with him. My son scored as very spirited, I haven't even read 1/4 the book and things are so much more peaceful around here. Not because his behavior or feelings have changed but because I have really seen that he is his personality and I am accepting that. I am learning tons about dh too
Benjismom's Avatar Benjismom
01:04 PM Liked: 0
#11 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 315
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Chiming in to say I love the book too. When my DS was a baby I couldn't believe anyone had more than one child! He was just that challenging and demanding of my time, energy, body, etc. It really helped to learn about temperament through RYSC and understand that my challenge as a mom is helping my son harness what is great about his temperament and manage the ways it can make his life more difficult. It's both helpful and hard that he is like me in many ways--intense, sensitive--when I'm seeing clearly I can draw on my own experiences to help him help himself but other times it just pushes my buttons and I don't do a great job.

What always amazes me is how spirited kids can be so different from one another. My sister has a very spirited DS, who is a year younger than my DS, and he scores 5 on different traits than my DS. So while my nephew is incredibly persistent, which can really drive you crazy, my DS is more easily distracted. My nephew has a much lower frudtration threshold and can tantrum for long periods while my son tends to have brief outbursts.

I agree that we are often reframing (can you tell my mom is a psychologist) our kids' temperaments, so what seems like chirpy positiveness may just be efforts to quiet those negative voices.

There are some other temperament books out there, but most are older than RYSC so it's a really good place to start.

Beth, Mom to Benji and Maggie
IfMamaAintHappy's Avatar IfMamaAintHappy
01:14 PM Liked: 0
#12 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 2,504
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When Grace was born, pretty much up until she turned 1, no one around me seemed to have ever had a child like Grace. Everyone's babies slept all the time, were easygoing, and may other things that were opposite of Grace. It may have just been the people I knew at the time, but no one seemed to understand the struggles I was having and the personbality Grace had. When we moved to Maryland in the middle of her second year, I met many more families who had at least one child like Grace. Two I remember vividly had daughters who were around 7, and when they would see Grace at her most colorful and extreme, they would laugh and tell me stories about their own child.

For me, I wanted to read this book because I felt like I needed validation that all babies were not lifeblood sucking non sleeping stimulation craving machines. And Grace fit every criteria but one on the main list, and afew of the bonus criteria too. She is sensitive to texture on her body and with food, she has never required a very age appropriate amount of sleep, she is beyond intense, she needs loads of one on one and loads of affection, as a baby you couldn't put her down , and I am only half joking when I say that for the first 9 months of her life all you saw was the back of her head... because she was latched on all the time!

As a 4 yr old, she is still extremely intense, extremely affection-seeking, very very bright, probably the most social-interaction-craving preschooler that ever lived, she is all about extremes. Everything is perfect and wonderful, and the next minute it's the end of the world. I have had a glimpse of the teenage years, and it is not pretty!!! LOL!

Raleighmom, do I know you? I seem to know a lot of raleigh area moms who come to mothering, from somewhere or another! Welcome to MDC. I see you've only got about 20 posts. I have a 4 yr old and a 14 month old, both girls. PM me if you'd like to get together sometime.
jeca's Avatar jeca
01:37 PM Liked: 5
#13 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 8,544
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I'm starting to wonder the same thing sbaout my 2 1/2 year old DD. But I didn't want to worry about it yet cause she is still so young.

BUT, she's just so INTENSE about everything. She NEVER backs down from anyone. She is by far my sweetest child but she's so emotional and won't stop at times.
Last night, she wnated milk. I tell her she has to eat first. She goes and get the milk, I tell her to put it back, she cries, I take it from her and puts it back, she cries louder. I try to feed her so she can have the milk, she refuses and cries more, runs and gets the milk again, I put it back, at this point she's just a mess,and won't eat. I try to comprise and pour her some milk let her have a little with her food. she takes a few sips then I try to give her some food on the spoon, she refuses and tries to down the entire glass, I gave up.
Everything is like that. I tell her no she never backs down she has to win. She doesn't always cry sometimes she'll just do it anyway. She's not bratty, she's just so intense about everything. I mean I am an emotional person but damn.
Sleepymama's Avatar Sleepymama
02:28 PM Liked: 63
#14 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 1,431
Joined: Oct 2003
Originally posted by ging-ging

I needed validation that all babies were not lifeblood sucking non sleeping stimulation craving machines.
LOL!!! Substitute stimulation craving with extra hyper stimulation sensitive and you have my DS!! Lifeblood sucking, that's a good description!
neveryoumindthere's Avatar neveryoumindthere
02:51 PM Liked: 14
#15 of 26
02-20-2004 | Posts: 3,914
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I mean I am an emotional person but damn.
that abt sums it up for dd...

oh and i just saw the previous post... ESPECIALLY the non sleeping part...its like my entire day consists of trying to get her to nap!!

i'm also reading RYSC and all i can say is 'wow'..the descriptions fit dd precisely..she scored 5 on most of the also is giving me insight to my little brother who is NO DOUBT a spirited extrovert...i swear sometimes i get tired just thinking abt him coming
raleigh_mom's Avatar raleigh_mom
12:11 AM Liked: 0
#16 of 26
02-21-2004 | Posts: 738
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Originally posted by jeca

Last night, she wnated milk. I tell her she has to eat first. She goes and get the milk, I tell her to put it back, she cries, I take it from her and puts it back, she cries louder. I try to feed her so she can have the milk, she refuses and cries more, runs and gets the milk again, I put it back, at this point she's just a mess,and won't eat. I try to comprise and pour her some milk let her have a little with her food. she takes a few sips then I try to give her some food on the spoon, she refuses and tries to down the entire glass, I gave up.
Everything is like that. I tell her no she never backs down she has to win. She doesn't always cry sometimes she'll just do it anyway. She's not bratty, she's just so intense about everything. I mean I am an emotional person but damn.
OMG, I am laughing so hard! This is dinner at our house! Actually, I just do a lot of compromising. Tonight she had a big sippy of water, and a small one of juice. When she has snack, she has to have 3 of everything "because I'm three years old". So I break cookies, etc in 1/2 to make more pieces and that works, too.
lauren's Avatar lauren
02:09 AM Liked: 12070
#17 of 26
02-21-2004 | Posts: 6,780
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I don't think I knew I had a spirited child until my 2nd came along and I realized that everything didn't have to be so INTENSE! I think if a mom is asking the question about her spirited child, she already knows s/he is different!!

Yes, all kids are spirited, and it's not a competition. Many, many of the typical parenting strategies DO NOT WORK for spirited children, so it can save parents a lot of energy and heartache if they recognize their child's temperament early on, and use effective ways of relating to them and gaining cooperation.

With both a spirited and a typical temperament child in my home, I can say that the strategies and ways of relating are completely different!
Heavenly's Avatar Heavenly
04:42 PM Liked: 49
#18 of 26
02-21-2004 | Posts: 4,743
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IMO when your child is truly spirited you WILL know! My son is just... nuts! LOL He is so intense, he fits all the characteristics. People keep telling me is ADHD but I think he is just very spirited. its a great book even if you're child isn't spirited.
jeca's Avatar jeca
04:59 PM Liked: 5
#19 of 26
02-21-2004 | Posts: 8,544
Joined: Sep 2002
So does spirited mean hyper? cause she's not hyper at all. Just so damn emotionally intense about everything. Maybe it is just a power struggle but with everyone about everything?
*LoveBugMama*'s Avatar *LoveBugMama*
06:21 AM Liked: 14
#20 of 26
02-22-2004 | Posts: 1,532
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Jeca: My understanding is that a spirited child OFTEN is very active, but not always.

I have read the book once, but will read it again, starting today. I am a Norwegian, so I like to read English books atleast 2 times, so I am sure I get it all!

My son is definately spirited, but not "hyper". He scores very high in several of the categories. And most of all he is sensitive.

darlindeliasmom's Avatar darlindeliasmom
01:28 PM Liked: 0
#21 of 26
02-22-2004 | Posts: 1,170
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Like many of you, I thought that I couldn't POSSIBLY really know at 2.5 yrs that she was spirited; I read the book then, but at the time I was deluding myself that her behaviors were normal toddler stuff...
After all, she had been the EASIEST baby, I said./ Never cried, blah blah blah. Only in retrospect, or after hearing other moms talk, did I realize that 1) she was literally physically attached to me her entire babyhood. 2) she was intense--intensely curious, intensely interested in everyone and everything, intense in her seeking for the breast or other skin contact, which she still craves (she used to stick her legs inside my pajama bottoms while cosleeping so she could feel my skin against her feet--all the waistbands of my pajamas were worn out by the time she was 2!). 3) she was perceptive and quite clear in her likes and dislikes.

Now that I have had years of friends pointing out that they have NEVER known a child like her, and seeing her intense, sensitive reactions to new situations over and over, I've reread the book, and darn if everyone else wasn't right: She is a spirited child--not hyper, just busy and engaged. EXTREMELY change-averse. Dramatic, persistent, senstiive.
It's a challenge and a joy to watch her come into her own. She has definitely made us as parents. I would have been too authoritarian, my way or the highway; dh would have been a doormat. Neither approach has a chance with this kid. We HAD to learn good parenting skills to help guide her without damaging herself or us!!

Good luck to the OP as she learns the ins and outs of her little guy's ways.
jeca's Avatar jeca
02:39 PM Liked: 5
#22 of 26
02-22-2004 | Posts: 8,544
Joined: Sep 2002
Yo mamas have convinced me to check out the book,. I'm gonna look for it on ebay.
monkey's mom's Avatar monkey's mom
03:38 PM Liked: 72
#23 of 26
02-22-2004 | Posts: 2,922
Joined: Jul 2003
Spirited does not mean hyper. Though some spirited kids are (or high energy). Mine is not.

He's also not irregular like many--he is VERY regimented and has been since day one. Poops at the same time, eats at the same time, etc. He becomes very upset if his schedule gets tampered with--at 2 he's getting more flexible (thank god!).

He is HIGHLY persistant and very perceptive. And, like someone else said, it's hard to spend any amount of time with other kids and not see the difference.
spatulagirl's Avatar spatulagirl (TS)
10:22 AM Liked: 74
#24 of 26
02-23-2004 | Posts: 4,637
Joined: Feb 2002

Thanks ladies for all the insight. Like someone said, if you are asking if your child is spirited more than likely they are!

Sounds like my ds to a T. He is definitely intense, emotional, dramatic-drama queen. I sometimes wonder what I have been doing wrong when I see other people's children so content and easygoing. That is so not Hunter. We keep hoping this next baby will be "calmer"... since he was born Hunter has been keeping me on my toes.

We live overseas so the library doesn't have it... but based on everyone's recommendations I will order it for sure! I am really looking forward to this book!
normajean's Avatar normajean
02:51 AM Liked: 0
#25 of 26
02-24-2004 | Posts: 1,599
Joined: Oct 2003
A lot of what I read in the book sounds like DSI (sensory integration disorder) which can be "treated" in large part with occupational therapy (there are no meds widely used to treat it, mostly stimuli practice sessions). I think if you have a child with these characteristics, and you feel there is "more to it" than just personality difficulties, it might be beneficial to look into this. Its kinof a new dx, but its often mis dx'ed as things like Autism, ADHD, Bipolar. Its not something that requires meds, and the kids (and parents) of a true DSI child are a lot happier with therapy.

I think there are a few approaches--living with it, or if you feel their "spiritedness" is interfereing with thier life quality investigating the possibility that there may be a problem that is more than personality.

My son is definately spirited and willful, and he's definately not DSI. But there are children I know whose parents refer to them as "spirited" who fit every characteristic of DSI. If its to the point where you feel the child is suffering or unable to function socially because of it, thats when I would look into Occupational Therapy or other treatments. That is just one specific example.

Other parents label their kids as spirited when its really more of a personality conflict between the parent and child--the kid is just so different from the parent that they parent can't even comprehend their behavior and personality.

I guess what I'm trying to say is there is a spectrum between

normal----------------spirited---------significant difference that causes impairment, whether DSI or something else there is a lot of overlap in the "symptoms". Anytime you select one label to describe a child, you are limiting the possibility that there is something else the child may be needing that could help the child. If you are going to label your kids at all, make sure the label is the best fitting one or you may be selling your kid short.
MaShroom's Avatar MaShroom
04:54 PM Liked: 0
#26 of 26
02-24-2004 | Posts: 1,519
Joined: Jan 2003
how do you know when your child is spirited?

when you have running shoes with holes worn in them but you're not a runner.

when you know what it feels like when your head is about to start melting off your shoulders and dripping on the floor from too much activity, questions and figuring out how to creatively compromise.

when you know what it is like to live with the tasmanian devil.

oh i could go on...:LOL

sorry, the title of the thread just made me chuckle.

my spirited children are quite a challenge but i can't imagine them any other way. my first child was quite mellow and easy going then along came lenny and squiggy... but they're just so cool though. i just ride the river of chaos because there is nothing else i can do.:LOL
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