Sep 9 10
by cara
at 9:07 PM
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Life With A Spirited Child-New Series!

This is the first post in a series of upcoming posts about Life With a Spirited Child.  In this series, I plan to cover:

  • the characteristics of a spirited child
  • rethinking the labels we place on our children
  • when spirited kids grow up
  • spirited children and medical issues
  • how your own temperament affects your interactions with your spirited child
  • extrovert or introvert?  (hint:  a spirited child can be EITHER)
  • tips on dealing with each of your spirited child’s characteristics
  • trouble spots and the importance of planning ahead (bedtime, mealtime, getting dressed)

It was another flour-all-over-the-downstairs-when-I-turn-my-back-for-one-minute kind of morning.  After the flour incident (you’d think we both would have learned our lesson LAST time that happened!) there was the running away and hiding Mommy’s hairbrush while Mommy is yelling “STOP!  HALT!  FREEZE!  BRING IT BACK RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW!” (Do those words have any effect at your house?  They don’t seem to work here.)  Putting a plastic bottle cap in his mouth and breathing in deeply.  Jumping on Daddy’s head to wake him up (poor, poor Picky Apple…I can’t imagine being woken up like that) and ripping the sheets off Daddy’s toes to hammer on them with a wooden hammer.  The need for constant physical contact in the form of bumping, climbing, hitting, head butting (once again, while I was applying eyeliner).  The nonstop talking talking talking.  The screaming-as-though-being-tortured and limp noodle act making it impossible for me to brush his teeth.  And there was also the spitting water all over the coffee table just to see what happens.  And that was all before 8:30am.

I’ve got a spirited child.

Some days I handle it better than others.

Today was not one of those days.

Since his dramatic entrance into the world (a story I still haven’t shared here), The Littlest Apple has been marching to the beat of a different (faster, louder) drum.  An entire drum line, perhaps.  According to The Picky Apple it’s more like Animal from The Muppets.

That’s fairly accurate, I’d say.

Once I realized that The Littlest Apple had his own tune, I felt alone (and I still do occasionally).  Being The Littlest Apple’s mother was SO different from the motherhood experience I envisioned.  None of my friends kids acted like this.  What was wrong with my kid?  What was wrong with me?  The answer: nothing.  He’s just a spirited child. (And it turns out that I’m spirited too!  More on that later!)

What does it mean to be a spirited child, anyway?

Well, the main word that defines the spirited child is MORE.  Children that are MORE intense, persistent, sensitive, energetic and perceptive.  As Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says in her book Raising Your Spirited Child (my most favorite go to resource for parents of spirited children!), “Spirited kids are the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls.  Other kids bounce three feet off the ground.  Every bounce for a spirited child hits the ceiling.”

It’s not always that easy to “define” a spirited child, since each of them is unique.  In my next post I’ll go in to more detail about the specific characteristics of a spirited child.

Anyone that has spent 5-10 minutes (sometimes less) with The Littlest Apple could easily label him as “spirited.”  He’s got energy and enthusiasm and demands attention is such a way that is hard to ignore. (Many kids are spirited in a more introverted way…through their perceptiveness and sensitivities.  Those are less obvious to the casual observer.)

Over the weekend, I took The Littlest Apple on a long walk in a stroller to a nearby park.  It was a pleasant morning, and there were many people out walking and jogging.  The Littlest Apple greeted each and every one of them.  But he didn’t just say “hi” or give a little wave.  No way.  That’s not his style.  You see, he was pretending to be a monkey.  So he made LOUD monkey noises (or was it barking like a dog?  There has been a lot of that lately, too.  Either way, it was an animal!) and leaned out of the stroller toward the person and waved enthusiastically with both hands.  Over and over and over.  He must have done it about 20 times.  Some people were charmed and said hi back.  And quite a few didn’t know how to react to my NG-tube-wearing monkey boy and moved on as quickly as possible.

Life with a spirited child is never dull!

Being a parent of a spirited child can be awesome or awful, depending on the day.  There are some really high highs when your spirited child amazes you with his memory, ability to understand other people’s emotions, creative imagination,  attention to detail, and his deep and long lasting affection.  But there will also be some dreadful lows when your child is screaming for 45 minutes because you cut his watermelon into bite size pieces instead of giving him a wedge.  Or when you have to tell him for the 500th time to get down from the table.  Or clean flour up off the floor (AGAIN) because you turned your back for one minute.

Is any of this sounding familiar?  I sincerely hope that you’ll stick around to read this series, whether you’ve got a spirited child, were a spirited child yourself, or just want to read more funny anecdotes about MY spirited child.  Stay tuned for my post next week on the characteristics of spirited children!

Do you have a spirited child?  Were YOU a spirited child?

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From motherhood

  1. cyndi permalink

    Thank you for writing about this. I can’t wait to see the characteristics, as I am very sure my Mr 2 is a spirited child. He is the kind of child who is always noticed and always remembered, mostly for good! Looking forward to reading more.

    Cyndi from New Zealand

  2. Courtney permalink

    I know how you feel. Having twins with dramatic personality differences make some days wonderful and some days horrible! Girl, I love the littlest apple!

  3. johanna burwell permalink

    New to your blog. Wow! I can definitely relate. You just described my 2.5 year old son’s behavior.

  4. I read that book when my daughter was about 4. In some ways she was very much like your son…always wanting to jump higher, swing higher, spin faster, run faster, fall harder. When she was in second grade one of my best friends told me about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and her one sentence changed my life and the life of my daughter. Many children who are spirited are that way because their bodys need more sensory input. Other children seek less. My daughter has both traits. She seeks the physical active agressive contact with her world but at the same time could not stand to have her hair brushed, could not wear tags in clothes, would not brush her teeth, and had a very hard time with a noisy cafeteria and assemblies.

    I read Raising Sensory Smart Children, Sensational Kids and a few other books on SPD. I laughed as I recognized my spirited child, then I cried because it took 7 years for me to figure her out. We never sought a formal diagnosis since I made many of the modifications on my own and they worked. We cut her hair, bought her an electric toothbrush, gave her stress balls to squeeze, bought ear plugs for the cafeteria, etc. At 10 she is finally able to wear jeans, although tags and socks are still a big deal. She will always run fast, jump high and fall hard but now she is more aware to see the danger in some of the things she does and how they can affect others around her. She may never wear a turtleneck and that is okay!

    I hope I am not overstepping, but I would recommend these books to anyone who has a spirited child.


  5. Cyndi-I think the characteristics are some of the most interesting things to read about. It was such an eye opener to see the characteristics not only in my son, but myself as well. Stay tuned for that post next week!

    Courtney-I can’t imagine what it is like to deal with children that are so different. One spirited and one that’s not…or both spirited, but in different ways…one that’s an extrovert and one that’s an introvert. I have ZERO experience on this topic, but I guess you just have to parent them according to their personalities to some extent, right? That sounds exhausting!

    Johanna-Welcome to The Picky Apple and thanks for commenting!

    Jessica- Thank you so much for your comment, and you are absolutely NOT overstepping. I’ve had other parents mention Sensory Processing Disorder to me before, and I’ve got The Out of Sync Child Has Fun on my nightstand (the sequel to The Out of Sync Child). I’m going to talk about SPD and ADD/ADHD in relation to spirited children in my upcoming post on medical issues, because it does seem that there can be some overlap in all of this. I’m so glad that you were able to find some answers and things that worked for your daughter!

  6. I loved this and am really looking forward to your post next week! My son and the littlest apple seem to have a lot in common 🙂

  7. Andrea Gaines permalink

    Cara, thank you for taking the time to talk about this. You are going to touch so many parents who struggle with this and feel like they are doing this alone.

    I feel for you and the flour situation. When Julia (my oldest) was about 3, she got into some baby powder I had in her room and decided to put it into the box fan that was ON and proceeded to watch the powder fly all over her room, into her toy box that was full of toys of course and all over her linoleum flooring we had in her room. Trying to clean baby powder off of hard flooring is a pain much less trying to get all the powder out of her toy box and stuffed animals. And of course I couldn’t let her “help” me clean up her mess because she had Asthma and that wouldn’t have been a good combination.
    I am looking forward to your future posts in this series. 🙂 Thanks again for all you do! BTW, how did school go for the Little Apple this week?

  8. Sydney- Thanks! Your son and mine DO have a lot in common….except my guy broke 3 of his front teeth instead of his arm. Hope your little one is on the mend and doing well!

    Andrea- This was another thing (like gastroparesis and tube feedings) that I felt COMPLETELY in the dark about. Where to turn? Any support groups? Books to read? Unlike gastroparesis, there has been quite a bit written about the topic of spirited children.

    Your story about Julia had me laughing because it sounds JUST LIKE something The Littlest Apple would do. And as always, it is so much funnier when it happens to someone else. (Although I am able to see the humor in many of The Littlest Apple’s mayhem in retrospect.)

    School for The Littlest Apple is going well. I may post more about it next week. LOVE the school. First day he did great. Today he was screaming and clinging and had to be pulled off of me to go to class. It was heartbreaking and I can’t wait to go pick him up this afternoon!

  9. Jessie permalink

    This is great! Thanks so much for sharing. Our 17month old son it defiantly “Spirited”! It’s good to know that I’m not the only mom out their with a child that seems over whelming. I totally understand the flour we had that happen twice in the last two weeks. You’d think I’d learn. LOL

  10. Carrie permalink

    I think we are kinderd spirits! 🙂

    I too have a spirited child. You are right, some days are beyon great and others I wish I could erase. I’m glad to hear yours screams like he is being torturted too. Not that I am happy for you, just happy that someone else goes through it too. All of my friends think it’s just an act to get one over on me.

    I loved Mary Sheedy Kurchinka’s book. I am currently reading ScreemFree Parenting and so far I like it. Sometimes I just don’t know how to release (I’m spirited too), I think this book will help me direct my emotions better.

  11. Vicky permalink

    I am a mom of a 9y/o spirited girl. I sympathize with the flour…mine used to always get into my make up, no matter where I put it she found it the 30 secs I happened to not be looking. Ugh…my bedroom reeked for weeks after she go a hold of a bottle of perfume. Oh and hair washing, you would have thought you were cutting her ears off she would scream so much. As she has matured things have slowly and slightly gotten better. People don’t really get it when I describe the things she does, “oh all kids do that,” and that is probably be true but she does it like multiplied by 100. She was diagnosed with ADHD, but I do see symptoms of other tendencies in her as well (weird feeling clothes and issues with food textures like those found in SPD or defiance issues) which isn’t uncommon from what I understand.
    Am in spirited? hmm…I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it before.

  12. My son is 15 months old and while he is still very young i can see singns that he is going to be a spirited child with every new milestone. He has 8 other cousins (from 9 months to 7 years) and none of my siblings or in-laws have ever heard a scream like his. It’s ear piercing and glass shattering and he does it when he’s just giddy with delight! Then when he gets mad he groans, sticks his arms out while making fists, gets all red faced and shakes–his whole body just shakes. Is this normal? Has anyone else seen this? He’s progressing ‘normally’ with speech and recognition and mobility but man oh man he’s an active little guy. What are some good activities i can do with him at this age?
    By the way, for all you moms who need a good laugh, if you have a couple minutes, you have to check out these videos for real mommies. My families company put them together and they are hillarious.

  13. Megan,

    My son does the whole-body-shake too, at random times (usually when he’s excited), and it often scares me a little.

    As for activities for that age, I’d say lots of time exploring outside, throwing, rolling balls, climbing on stuff. MAYBE a sand/water table if he’s not putting sand in his mouth (though mine still is, and he’s 3). You could also start to introduce some art activities.

  14. Tania permalink

    Hi, so glad I’ve found your blog. My 5 year old son is very spirited and has also been diagnosed with some sensory processing issues – sensory seeker, tactile defensive etc. I’m going through a low patch at the moment (exhaustion) so it’s so good to find some kindred spirits. My son is highly interactive. I’ve had the flour type episodes but I also get a lot of dismantling. 5 mins on the phone and I can turn around and find the bath panel off and the skirts off the floor cupboards in the kitchen, the coffee table taken apart etc! He’s my only child so sometimes I find my radar not noticing some behaviour that is quite normal to me. My mum pointed out to me the other day that most children don’t go and stand on the window sill after lunch and wrap themselves up in the curtains. Good Luck to you all! Tania

  15. This is interesting, having a child with abilites like this.

  16. My son has ADHD and I know how frustrating it can be to get
    help and support.Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is becoming one of
    the most diagnosed disorders among children and even adults these days. 

  17. Jenn permalink

    Oh my, i am so unbelievably relieved and happy to have found your blog. My son just turned 4 and my husband and i have known since a very early age that he is spirited. I am a stay at home mom and he is an only child. I cannot express how much i love my time with him,he amazes me repeatedly everyday but sometimes i feel very, very alone. This past week was a challenging week, rough time at a playgroup, rough time at a store, etc. I feel like every time i try to talk with a friend or another Mom, that they just think that i’m over reacting, or that he is “allowed” to behave a certain way. It’s very isolating. Thank you for sharing your story and information, it helps so much to know that there are other Moms and parents out there that experience similar things.

  18. Sami permalink

    You can email me anytime! I have a 3 yr old spirited son and a new baby! I always feel alone would love to have another mom with a spirited kid as a p the ledge.en pal 😉 We could talk each other off the ledge.

  19. Sami permalink

    *pen pal

  20. Sequoia permalink

    Thanks for making me laugh! Our spirited son is 3 and I never know what he will do when we are out in the world. It’s a lonely place, people just don’t understand and they judge us. They say ‘I’m not being firm enough, I need to hit him, I raised him wrong, I let him rule me’ and so on. Then I get ‘he has behavioral problems, and I’ve never seen a kid behave that way before’. So thanks again!

  21. Sammi permalink

    I’m so happy i found your article! i have a 13 month old and i believe he is spirited becuz someone had mentioned it to me after babysitting him for an hour! after reading the characteristics of a spirited child im almost 99% sure hes spirited !

  22. amphomma permalink

    After reading this and another of your posts about spirited children, I recognize my nearly 4-year old daughter in pretty much all the descriptions! I am at this moment emotionally and mentally spent after a day that included both awesome and awful. Some moments I handled well; others not so well. I took about two hours after the kids went to bed to think, pray, read, write, and even sob. I had never really looked into how to pinpoint Little A’s personality, but this truly fits her to a “t”. It is encouraging to read others’ similar experiences, to know that there are others who understand why we had to go back into a clothing store yesterday because we hadn’t exited the store “correctly” the first time, or why my little girl left her favorite restaurant screaming at the top of her powerful lungs because she was convinced she could reach the paper towels by herself in the restroom. On the other hand, I am amazed and thrilled by her courage combined with physical giftedness and brightness and energy that are spurring her on to try gymnastics and ballet with skill beyond her years. I pray I can keep loving her unconditionally, give her a safe place to be “her”, and guide her well. Thank you for posting; I look forward to reading more!
    –Alison (and now I’m thinking about my 8-year old son, too, and considering just how many of those characteristics he has, too–no wonder today was so tiring!)

  23. Mel permalink

    I mean NO disrespect at all, but I think you should give Mary Sheedy Kurcinka credit in each of your posts about spirited children…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Life With a Spirited Child-The Characteristics | The Picky Apple
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