Surviving with a Spirited Child
How to help your child manage his or her "spirited" behavior and what you can do to diffuse problems or avoid them
The Temperament Challenge
To help us understand the temperament traits, Kurcinka asks parents to take a survey, scoring for their children and then themselves. Here are those nine traits, what it would mean to be on the high—or difficult—end of the scale for each, and some techniques experts recommend for dealing with each trait.
Intensity: Kids with high intensity react in extremes, sometimes even in positive situations like a special occasion. Lots of tantrums over seemingly little things indicate high intensity. Repetitive motion activities like swinging, jumping rope, or doing jumping jacks are often helpful calming techniques. If your child loved to nurse constantly or suck on a pacifier as an infant, then chewing gum or drinking from a sippy cup or straw could help relieve tension.
Energy: High-energy kids have a physical need to run and jump frequently. Without enough physical outlets, a high-energy child will exert that energy in inappropriate ways or at inappropriate times.
Adaptability: To a child who is slow to adapt, any changes in schedule or routine are a problem. These kids need extra time to get used to things, and they may never feel comfortable in some situations. Just acknowledging this will help.
First reaction: Children with strong negative first reactions to new situations will refuse to try new foods, new activities, or play with new friends. They don’t do this to be stubborn, but rather they simply feel like they can’t. Creating smooth daily transitions and a gradual approach to trying new things can help alleviate stress.
Persistence: The persistent child digs in and will not back down in an argument. She repeats questions or demands endlessly. Using a calm, firm voice instead of yelling when giving directions helps keep tension lower, and adjusting expectations and weighing the needs of both you and your child can help you “pick your battles.”
Regularity: If your child is regular, he or she generally eats, sleeps, and eliminates at regular times. An irregular child doesn’t get hungry at set times and can stay up late with little problem. A very regular child will get whiny if meals aren’t regular and he or she needs more sleep, so bedtimes are very important.
Sensitivity: The highly sensitive child reacts negatively to certain sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. Clothing may seem itchy or ill fitting. The smells of some food may make her gag. Bright lights could make her nervous and irritable. Don’t think of it as indulgent to buy only one kind of socks or limit shopping time in bright stores.
Perceptiveness: A perceptive child pays great attention to his surroundings and becomes distracted easily. This is the child who stops to look at a bug on the ground when you’re in a hurry to get to the bus stop. So, anticipate. Grant this child extra time to do things and give cues like using eye contact or a touch on the shoulder to help him stay focused on your directions.
Mood: This is the tendency of all people to either be happy-go-lucky or grumpy and blue. Mood is often affected by all the other traits.
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