Is is too much of an exaggeration to say this book saved my life?
I have had this book recommended to me by several people but had never read it because I didn't think my kids were "spirited". secretly needed to talk with other parents who understood what is was like to live with a child who could scream for 45 minutes because his toast had been cut in triangles when he was expecting rectangles." That has happened several times in our house so, when I read that, I knew this book was for me. I think mostly you have to learn what is best for your own child by trial and error, but this book helped me recognize that a child isn't trying to drive me crazy because she won't wear certain clothes or goes on and on about the scent at the hair place-- she is just extremely sensitive, more so than I am, and now I recognize that. It did help me recognize a pattern in her tantrums so hopefully I can do a little more prevention.
I did glean one or two helpful things from the book, the most useful of which has been her instruction not to use "Please" when issuing directives and to use as few words of possible (i.e. Not "Please get in your seat now so we can go" but "Seat.
Think about ht e spirited children you know. Do they sound like the million-dollar words created by advertising companies, words that can make you wish you could have even more children who are spirited? Page 32 Its easy for a child to build a healthy since of self-esteem when the words used to describe him are the ones like creative, curious, and zestful. Words that create positive images wrap our kids in a protective armor, giving them the strength they need to make the behavior changes that actually turn the inappropriate behavior into acceptable actions. In other words, kids who like themselves, behave themselves. Page 32 Once children have learned to respond to the cues their bodies are sending them and understand time-out as a healthy opportunity to deal with their stress, they can call for one themselves. This is especially true if you have created a sign with the words I need a hug, or I need your attention on it that they can hand to a parent when time-out alone isnt enough to pull the game plan back together. Even three-year-olds can begin to appreciate the power of words instead of tantrums to get their needs met. Page 139 Spirited kids are our future politicians, lawyers, salespeople, and agents of change. If we dont want to spend our time arguing with them every day, we have to be sure our basic ground rules are very clear. Spirited kids test every single rule. Page 165 CHECK STIMULATION LEVELS I always tell parents in my classes that if they ever feel as if they are the only parents in the world with a sensitive spirited child, they should drop everything and head for the largest, noisiest, most congested store in their area. There they will find spirited kids dropping like little bombs: two down in aisle one; three in aisle four (the candy shelf); and six in aisle seven (the toy department). Pp180-1 Remember introverts only like to share feelings after theyve had a chance to think about them. Let them know youre available when theyre ready to talk, but give them the time and space they need to think through their emotions before you expect them to share them. Page 188 Sensitivity combines with intensity to make spirited kids very tenderhearted. Page 188 Choosing the right words is critical to winning your childs cooperation. If you want your child to do something and dont wish to debate it, be sure your message is a clear direction: Its time for bed, You may play in the yard, Its time to leave, Wash your hands before eating, and The rule is you must wear shoes in school. Make sure you are not unintentionally blurring your direction by adding the words please or okay or even raising your voice at the end of your statement as though asking a question, when there really isnt any choice. Page 205 If you dont want to be hit, bitten, whined at, hung on, or disgusted, you have to teach your children how to get your attention. I want attention, I need a hug, or Please listen to me. page 216 *use words *establish a routine * allow time *forewarning is critical *allow time for closure *limit the number of transitions *help them deal with disappointment pp216-229 You can help take the sting out of disappointments by playing what if with them. Kids dont become anxious when they feel in control. While all children will respond this way, your spirited child picks it up like a top-of-the-line vacuum. Page 272 Ask your kids if they know what the rules in your house are for tantrums. If they dont know, sit down and talk about them, but choose your discussion time wisely. If your spirited child is an infant or toddler, know what your rules are and say them out loud so your child will begin to learn them. At our house the rules for tantrums look like this: Its all right to cry and throw yourself on the bed. This is not bedtime, this is sleep time the moment you want you child to actually be sound asleep Now think about your child. So if you want your child to be asleep by 8:30, that means bedtime needs to be at 7:30 or 7:45 PM at the latest. Spirited kids dont. (***AND I LEARNED THIS LESSON QUICKLY!) Page 326 UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INTROVERTS AND EXTROVERTS Oftentimes when I talk with parents who are worried about their childs social skills, I realize the real issue is understanding the differences between introverts and extroverts. If you are an extroverted parent, you may worry that your introverted child doesnt have friends because he is not eager to invite other children over to play. Remember, Introverts enjoy and need time alone. But you dont know and you stand there praying that she will be successful, that she will enjoy school, make friends, and bring a smile rather than a frown to her teachers face. Spirited kids can prosper in school. In a school where this occurs, you can see, feel, and hear things that let you know spirit blooms here.
It was a relief for me to read this book, having been accused of having an A.D.D, ADHD, full on hypo child, to being ostracised at play group, gym tots, little kickers soccer etc it made me realise that I was getting my son to par take in activities that would over stimulate him as he was unable to take control of his emotions.
As I continued, what stood out, even beyond the helpful advice and tips for handling the intense traits of a spirited child, was her positive perspective. That's where she breaks down her definition of "spirited" into separate temperamental components and what they look like, and then how to respond in a positive way.
My one hesitation about the book--and this is a small one--is that the process of talking about emotions, finding the "yes," arranging routines and settings to maximize your child's potential for success, feels very time and resource-consuming, and I also worry that it communicates to your child that there is going to be a lot of time/space/negotiation dedicated to them in the future in the world. But the whole idea of reading a five-hundred page book about how to patiently negotiate with your child sets up the fact that Kurcinka expects that you will treat child-rearing as one of the major centers of your life, and I worry about the child who learns that they are the center of household life and then goes out into the world to discover that no one else feels that way. I suspect that Kurcinka would say that when we narrate emotional management and highlight collaborative problem-solving, we give the child the tools to handle those threatening or difficult situations on their own.
I'm a "mellow" person, and so was Hannah, so when "spunky" Megan and "spirited" Ellie came into our family, I just didn't know how to deal with their needs (and they really are needs, not just whims.) One of the best parts was about Introverts and Extroverts, and how some people need to be around other people to "refuel" (me and the other kids) and some people need to be alone to "refuel" (Jerem and Ellie!) Very educating!
There are parts of the book that don't apply to us, which I think would be the case for many parents. Overall, though, I found this book to be one that spoke to me about a kid like mine in ways I found positive and reassuring.
Licensed as a parent educator and early childhood teacher, she has pioneered efforts to bring topics such as temperament, neurobiology, the importance of sleep, and emotion coaching into homes, schools, medical practices, and businesses.