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So, what is a "spirited" child, exactly?

10530 Views 9 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  LadyMarmalade
Just curious. I mean, I'm pretty sure my kids can be labeled spirited children. But then again, so could most of the kids in our ap playgroup. Actually, when I think about all the kids I've ever met under the age of 6, they all seem pretty spirited to me. Tantrums, running away, impatient, easily excitable, easily saddened, screaming for no apparent reason. These are the things that come to my mind when I here the term. Aren't these all just regular toddler things? So how does one decide that their child is officially "spirited" and then what does one do about it?

Tell me why a spirited child is different from a not-spirited child.
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I was just thinking of this today.

I took a quiz for ds1 and dd. Both scored as spirited. I was kinda shocked. But then I took the test myself......I am severly spirited

I don't exactly get what that means though. I have adult ADD and alot of those traits and the spirited trait are similar...

But I don't think all kids who are spirited had I am confused
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My first child is very spirited. That book Raising Your Spirited Child has a checklist and a quiz. It's hard to define in a few sentences. Abi was high needs from birth. Where most kids are energetic and love life, she was a little extra in all areas. Extra emotional, extra daring, extra intense. I describe her as my little firecracker. It's been a rough 4 years, but she's finally settling down. Although she told me off yesterday at the library in front of everyone.

I took her to a child psychologist because I was concerned that she was not outgrowing this. She was tested over several weeks through observation and play. She appeared at times to have ADD but she didn't. She just chose to act that way at times, but could focus very well when she wanted to. She appeared to be bipolar at times, too, even had autistic sympoms, but it was mostly by choice that she would tune people out completely, not respond, go into her own world. Then she would turn right around and come out again.

In the end she was referred to an OT and dx with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and she has allergies to environmental stuff (dust, pollen, etc) and that was affecting her behavior. My dh was the same way with his early childhood years. According to MIL Abi is in many ways a carbon copy of him. He outgrew it over time, with peer pressure and maturity playing a role. Abi is starting to also.
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Well, no offense to the OP or anyone else on this thread, but my opinion is if you have to ask yourself if your child is spirited, then he/she probably isn't.

I knew from the first week of my spirited ds1's life that he was very different. As a baby, his spiritedness manifested itself in the need for CONSTANT movement. Even as a very young baby (I'm talking like 2-3 months old) he was not content for more than a few mintues unless we were walking around showing him things or stimulating him in some way. He was rarely content despite slinging, bf'ing on demand, co-sleeping, etc.

He's now three and still has a whole array of spirited behaviors, although he is a wonderful, bright and loving little boy. As Darshani said, he is *most* intense.

Tantrums, running away, impatient, easily excitable, easily saddened, screaming for no apparent reason. These are the things that come to my mind when I here the term. Aren't these all just regular toddler things?
Sure they are, it's just that spirited kids seem to have all of these things in extreme quantities and it would be impossible to pick a spirited kid out in a crowd (as in your example, OP) because using my spirited kid as an example, he is *extremely* well behaved in public. As a matter of fact, physically speaking, he is a calm child--he doesn't 'bounce off the walls' with energy and he isn't agressive--he is more mentally challenging, always wanting and needing more attention.

Gotta go...
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Ayyi yi... Agree that it is so apparent to you if you have one. My 10yo dd rarely slept as a babe. Even as a nb from the hosp she only slept 20-30min at a time and never in more than a 3hr stretch til after 18mo. She was a head-banger until she could talk proficiently (which meant 10-12word complex sentences by her 2nd bday). She would bang her head on cement, concrete, wood, whatever. At age 4yo she would have a 4hr meltdown because dh made an orange juice w/ seltzer water and put the water in first. DD had to have the OJ go in first. Or a different 4hr meltdown b/c a sandwich was cut in squares instead of triangles.

The pain is very genuine to this child. The insult is very real. I don't know whats insulting about seltzer water going in the glass first, but my dd *feels* it. She feels everything very intensely.

I always dreamed of homeschooling my children. Then dd was born. Yikes. Even though she has trouble blending in with other children and has some sensory overload issues-- having her home where she is bored is even worse for her. The structure of the school day is actually very good for her. Yes we have behavior issue conversations with her teachers. Thankfully she's brilliant
so she is at least on grade level. Actually way above, but thats part of the problem. DD is as gifted and intellectually advanced as she is emtionally behind. Its a tough combination.

3yo-5yo were the worst years for her spirited self. Once she learned to read at 5yo we at least had a "place" where she could find solace and comfort herself. It was never a punishment to ask her to read. We very much suggested reading as a place where she could calm herself and find joy. Thankfully she did find joy through reading and continues to love reading very complex books to this day.

I think a truly "spirited" child is hard-wired in a different way. Its neither good nor bad, just different. Parenting them is so very different from a non-spirited child (and I have 3 non-spirited children who take less of my emotional energy combined than my 1 spirited child alone). A normal child has a tantrum of 15-30mins and then can be distracted and brought back around. A spirited child might be in the tantrum for hours.

I also agree w/ pp who indicated underlying health issues can make the situation worse. DD has mild asthma and some environmental allergies, and yet until she was really diagnosed at 5yo (I was suspicious since she had been a toddler) and started being treated, I do think a general physical not feeling well played a role. I think sensory integration issues are pretty common for spirited kids.

Some people don't believe in spirited kids as a category. Thats ok. I know what it means because I live with it daily and know the tension and also incredible joy that my spirited dd brings us.
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DD is as gifted and intellectually advanced as she is emtionally behind. Its a tough combination.
Yep, that's my ds1 exactly!!!

I suppose if you didn't have a spirited child, all children from time to time might appear to be spirited. All children, even the most mellow have spirited moments, but for the truly spirited ones, the spirited moments outnumber the mellow ones 10:1, or heck, even 100:1.
It was evident from birth that Echo was spirited. When she was a day old and the nurse was demonstrating giving her a bath she started SCREAMING with the first drop of water and never took a breath or let up the scream until it was done. She turned completely blue and was kicking and punching and the nurse just handed her to me and said "you've got a live one here!" I didn't know that not all babies responded that way. For the next 3 months she was literally attatched to me in the sling--Thank God for the sling! She nursed every hour and a half at least around the clock. And the intensity of her screaming if I put her down at all-- even if she were asleep, trully startled people. As long as she was in the sling and i was talking to her and givig a sort of running comentary of everything going on she was quiet, happy content, so thats what I did. She was all I knew of babies so I just listened to her and tried to meet her needs. She was definately high needs But I didn't quiite realize for a few months really how much more intense about EVERYTHING she was than most babies. Then she became mobile....
It's true that trying to describe spiritedness is difficult, but it is so recognizable if you are living with it. I am and was very spirited as well though, and my mom too. And we all have sisters who are not. After Echo's intensity I was honestly afraid that there was someting wrong with Saffron because she was and is so comparatively mellow. Sure she yells and cries and has the occasional tantrum, but never the body wracking, totally consuming seemingly never ending, horrible meltdowns that her sister has experienced and which I can clearly remember having as a child. It's trully like your body is going to erupt into a billion shards of glass and shatter. But everything has that intensity, not just negative emotions. Passion, persistence, joy, love, longing, sadness, happiness, silliness are all just totally physically overwhelmingly intense.
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Thanks all for your input. I always just assumed my first born was spirited too. We've made some changes around here to help her mellow a bit. First and foremost was no more t.v. An occasional video is fine. But t.v. just leads to a tantrum for us. Another changes was our diets. Nothing with corn syrup, food dyes, or preservatives. Mostly organic. This seems to have helped too. Oh, and having her on a basic schedule really helps her too. Like meals at a certain time. Playgroup at a certain time. Bedtime at the same time every night with the same routine every night. And she loves when I just sit down next her during her little sister's nap and just chat with her. She just LOVES that. She's 4 1/2 by the way.
Echo is 4 1/2 too and we have made all of the exact same changes you've described. They have evolved over the years, but when we aren't as diligent about her diet/schedule/video viewing----ie)grandma is here
It gets really ugly fast. Even Grandma is actually starting to believe us about it!
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