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
Rethinking Energy Overload
High energy is an issue that Shafritz deals with in raising her own daughter. “When she was little, we had to move or remove furniture because she’d climb all over everything,” Shafritz says, adding that once she understood her daughter’s temperament and energy needs, these changes made sense. “Learning about what made her tick made things so much easier. Now she still has energy, but she uses it to get things done.”
A common example of a high-energy child is one who can’t sit still in a restaurant. Some would say the parent needs to “make” the child sit there for an hour or more and eat a meal. It’s something they have to learn how to do. Right?
Neville disagrees. “Kids are who they are and don’t have a lot of ability [at a young age] to change,” she says. “We’re used to saying that the kid has to be different. But when we know about temperament, the parent can do the work of modifying, adjusting, and lowering expectations for behavior.”
If your child can’t seem to sit still in a restaurant, you need to think ahead. “Planning for success means being aware that this child is vulnerable,” says Kurcinka. Parents may try bringing an assortment of quiet things like coloring books, puzzles, and small toys for the child. It may be necessary to take the child out for a walk or a drive while the food is being prepared. Sometimes calling ahead with an order is possible, so that wait time at the table is reduced. If it’s still too much of a challenge, then getting take-out and eating at home may be a better choice.
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