A spirited child

In March my little boy wrote a birthday message for me.  I was quite teary reading it.  He has been a challenging child to manage since he was about 3 and so we've had a pretty intense, hard relationship.

For about two years I felt very overwhelmed by him.  He was very demanding - would fall apart about pretty much everything not going the way he wanted it to.  I basically withdrew from committing myself to any regular activities for two years because he would usually have a meltdown, cry and I'd have to leave.   Walking to school and back most days involved him crying at some point because he didn't want to go back and forth (fair enough, it's pretty tiring!).  And I've only just recently realised that I wouldn't do grocery shopping in the day - would wait until the evenings to dash out to the supermarket.  It was a lot of public humiliation for me with a lot of long tantrums and sadness at home.  I felt like a deep failure as a mother - and I'm sure that many around me would have wondered what exactly I was doing wrong.

What helped me get through that stage of life?  Lots of different things.  But I wanted to share a book with you that made a huge difference to how I thought about my son and how I spoke about him.

The book is called 'Raising your spirited child' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  Recommended to me by a friend who has an intense child too, I remember being blown away by how this book was describing my child!  Which in itself was reassuring. 'I'm not alone, I'm not the only one with a child like this - other people have kids like mine'. 

What I remember in particular about this book is that it gave me a language to use to describe my son.  I wouldn't be negative about him when he was around, but when I spoke about how hard he was with other adults, I was very negative.  I would say that he was hopeless, he was too sensitive, he couldn't cope with anything.

But Kurcinka gives a list of words to use that exchange the negative language for positive.  It seems so basic but it affected how I thought about him.  I started to understand through reading this book, that he's just a really sensitive kid, who feels things strongly, gets tired out by socialising, doesn't cope with change and unpredictability.  It helped me actually understand his personality type.

And made me look for the positive instead of being weighed down by the negative.  He's very clever and creative - sure he has very complicated designs in his head that can't really be made with a cornflake box and some sticky tape - but there's lots of potential!  He loves Lego because he can express his creativity.  He's forced me to be more considerate of my children when I plan my life - I can't just do what I want and expect that the kids will just fall into line.  I've learnt a lot about all the holes in the footpath and electricity poles through all his questions!  

To be honest, he's still quite full on.  He's a fourth child who should probably be an only child.  But I've learnt a lot about him - what works for him and what doesn't.  Being patient and calm when he's having a meltdown is crucial.  Getting angry and frustrated with him makes him get more upset.  Since babies don't come with instruction manuals you kind of have to write your own - and for some kids that manual is harder to write than others.


Pip said…
I LOVE this book - it saved my relationship with my second child and helped me understand the first better. What I love is the idea to teach your child those descriptive words so that they can verbalise the emotions inside.

Only when I had my third child did I realise that not all kids were pushing into 'spirited' territory. My third one was so easy going and not particularly intense or particularly sensitive, or persistant.

Her other book is excellent too, but I've loaned it out and can't remember the name of it.
Pip said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cath said…
Thanks for this recommendation Jenny. I NEED this book!

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