Customer Reviews: Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic
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on April 26, 2007
I read maybe 15 pages of this book before bursting into tears of relief. At 16 months old, my son has never been easygoing or mellow, but as he entered toddlerhood, I felt like I was failing as a mom because I couldn't control him. I didn't understand why other kids napped for hours, slept through the night at 6 months old, and adjusted quickly to new experiences, while my son still wakes up several times a night, rarely naps for more than an hour a day, and shrieked in rage when he had to start wearing shoes or when he didn't like how his socks felt. Other books recommended a stern, inflexible parenting approach that just resulted in MORE meltdowns, MORE stress, and MORE frustration. Did I mention that "cry it out" was an unmitigated disaster in our house?

Finally, this book validated him, and my husband and me. He's not "bad", we're not failing as parents. He's just more intense, more perceptive, and more sensitive. It takes different strategies for us to be successful and calm than for parents of more relaxed children, but the book really focuses on how to do that, how to help our child be successful with daily life. There are many different levels to any given "spirited child", so this book's scope is not limited to a high-energy kid. Introverts vs. extroverts, energy levels, sensitivity, and so much more are covered in depth. This is not a book about excusing poor behavior, though. The parent is absolutely still the one in charge and still has to work with the child to ensure that they can be spirited and still be productive, safe, and enjoyable members of their family.

If you feel like you're constantly battling it out with your child, that you've lost control, and/or that your child is running you ragged, I highly recommend this book. Oh, you'll probably learn a few things about yourself, as well.
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This was a must read for me, the father of a 5-year-old spirited child. A therapist told me my daughter was "spirited" or "willful." And then she mentioned some books. Had she not told me my daughter was spirited, I would have never known to get this book. The biggest benefit is that the book made me less angry at my daughter who I learned is spirited from birth, genetics, hard-wiring, not an act of will. In fact, about 10 percent of children are spirited. Parents who go to group therapy in this book describe their constant exhaustion from raising a spirited child. One spirited child is like having 7 "normal" children apparently. It was therapeutic just to read this and not feel so alone and guilty for feeling like a failed parent.

The parents interviewed in Kurcinka's book corroborate all the characteristics my daughter has: bossy, picky, persistent, argumentative (never ending, sending you down a dead end of arguments), exasperating, needy, controlling, stubborn, never admitting wrongdoing . . . I could go on, but you get my point. Such children exhaust and frustrate their parents. Knowing this isn't an act of will gave me more patience and understanding. I also learned that because spirited children are so perceptive, it's important for the mother and father to have an attitude of getting along with one another. My wife and I benefited from this as well. Tension between us translates into our daughter's behavior worsening. We also learned not to label our daughter with all the above characteristics as that will actually make her traits worse. For every negative trait, there is a positive side to it. In fact, spirited children grow up to be intelligent high achievers.

Needless to say, being stern, strict, or angry doesn't motivate the child.You'll have to learn more patient strategies outlined in this book. A new edition comes out soon. I'm sure I'll get it.
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on April 21, 2010
For years I've tried to make the glares, comments, and criticism from strangers, friends, and family about my child's behaviour roll off my back. Separation anxiety, sleeplessness, fear of pooping, public meltdowns, violent tantrums (ever been clocked by a three-year-old girl? Ouch.), needing to be held and carried constantly, seemingly excessive nursing, preferring to be naked, forgetting to eat, refusing to sit still. I've stood my ground about not crying it out, about not pushing to toilet train her (FYI: one day she just decided to wear panties and that was it), not forcing her to eat at the dinner table, and insisting on the family bed.

Sound familiar to you? It's been a lonely haul, it's tried my relationships -- but, finally, after reading this book I've realized that I'm not alone, my daughter is not all that unusual (falls well within the range of normal, is the term used in the book), and trusting my instincts about what my kiddo needed is the best thing for her. Raising Your Spirited Child celebrates our challenging kids and offers parents affirmation and hope.

The book teaches you to view seemingly negative traits in a positive way: stubborn is determined. Annoying is persistent. Kids who dawdle are perceptive. Introverted or extroverted are not good or bad, they just "are", and it's hardwired. And if you didn't have an inkling yourself: spirited kids are often ahead of the curve. More articulate. More imaginative. More fun (along with being more of a pain in the tush ;) )

For those reviewers who found few concrete steps to take with your spirited child, I would agree: there is no specific to-do list included in the book. Instead, the suggestions are interspersed throughout the book and tend to be more touchy-feely and qualitative; listen, understand, anticipate, have patience. "Tried and true" discipline is ineffective and often makes matters worse -- be creative and flexible. Reward charts are pointless -- the kid needs to decide for herself and no external motivation will help. I would recommend the Spirited Child workbook; there's also a similar PDF available at southaustinapi dot org under Topic Handouts.

For nursing moms who wonder "When will it ever end??" -- the author doesn't go into weaning methods. Other sources I've turned to (LLL, Attachment Parenting, KellyMom) all confirm that breastfed spirited kids, if not forcibly weaned (mom goes on vacation, inlaws move in to help dad) will continue to nurse well beyond three years. It's simply the easiest way to soothe your kid, and try your best to ignore the criticism from society, family, and friends. It's exhausting, and nursing a 3yo in a bathroom stall sucks, but you aren't alone. Knowing that has been enough for me.

Also, I recommend always having some of the following in your bag: mini size playdoh, mini size blow bubbles, a small slinky, or crayons and a notepad; and to not be embarrassed about ditching your grocery cart or doing a silly dance (seriously, just do a silly dance or pull Groucho glasses out of your purse) and getting your about-to-meltdown kid out of the store asap. Being prepared and not worrying about what other people think has helped me diffuse many meltdowns. Oh, and reread the book again and again. And again.
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on March 11, 2015
I know this book is not new and there are probably tons of reviews on it but when I tell people about it I get the same response I had, "Oh that book. I've heard of that book. I think I may even have it. So you think I should read it?". YES!!!!! It's a hokey title and no one wants to admit their kid is "spirited" or difficult or whatever you want to call it, but this was such an eye opener. My five year old daughter fits the temperament profile described in this book perfectly. It helped me see her in such a different light. I had been doing a lot of the things Kurcinka recommends already but also got new ideas and new understanding. My kid IS intense, persistent, perceptive, sensitive and slow to transition. The recovery room nurse who handed her to me after my c-section even said "this child is going to have difficulty with transitions" if you can believe that. I feel much more accepting of my child's nature, I see why she does what she does and I have more tools to help her and help me get through the days. Every page was an "aha" moment. Now I am reading the "Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles" book by this author. It says a lot of the stuff i have read in other books, and even quotes and references them but it says them in much more accessible form and I feel like I get it. Love you Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, wherever you are!!!
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on July 31, 2007
This was a total eye opener when I originally purchased this book 10 years ago! (My son was 2 and my daughter was a newborn!)I've since recommended it and loaned it out so many times that my copy didn't come back the last time! (And I can't remember who has it now!) I both laughed & cried while reading it and I finished it in 1 night (newborn-remember?)It really helped both my husband and me see what WE were doing differently--not necessarily "wrong", just not RIGHT for our son--and WE made changes. (Note to the person who wrote "this book had no tips we could use": read it again & remember you're the parent who needs to guide the child.) We realized simple things--we shouldn't have taken him on numerous errands at the end of his day or WE paid for it (our son doesn't handle ANY change well and he still doesn't--he's 12 now!) We've had to teach HIM how to handle difficult situations. I'm now going to read it again to help with the preteen years for both of my children!
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on December 16, 2014
Okay if you are reading this, then you have or know a child who I'm sure you love dearly but can drive you a little crazy sometimes. My son has a very strong personality and can be a challenge to parent in some ways, and this book helped me SO much. It outlines not only the child's personality but the parent's as well, so you learn a lot about where everyone is coming from. This book taught me to accept his personality, but not the negative behavior. It's been a while since I've read it, I'm actually going to read it again because I found it helped me really parent more positively. Really recommend!
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on November 25, 2014
Well I knew this one was tougher than my other kids. But luckily, I came across this book and it has helped a ton. I read and then re-read. It has helped me see that the spirit of this one is just ok and it helps me focus on not buying into the challenge. It's principles have brought us some serenity.
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on November 26, 2014
This book is awesome! Had my first daughter to the "T." I felt like they used my spritied daughter to write the book. Help me more than anything with understanding why she had certain reactions to certain things and also helped me channel my frustrations instead of blowing up. Now this little gal is so unbelieveable. So glad I read this!
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on August 30, 2013
All in all, this book helped me to realized that my ultra-stubborn, energetic daughter is just like thousands of other kids. Once I began to understand it's just the way she's wired, I felt better and began to relax and learned how to plan to avoid blow-ups. The number of tantrums reduced. She's happier and so am I.
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on January 26, 2013
I looked this title up for a young mother struggling with this issue. I read it when my first daughter was about 4 or 5 and I was at my wit's end. She will be 21 this May. It was a tremendous help and I decided to add a review mainly because of a few of the negative ones. The biggest boon to me at the time was the recognition that I was quite spirited myself and that this was actually a major part of the problem. I found that working on managing my own "spirited-ness" went a long way toward dealing with my daughter effectively. Although it was a challenge, sometimes daily, it was worth all the work. My daughter is now a beautiful young woman who went away to college at 17, paying her own way from savings she earned teaching violin/fiddle starting at about 14 and working summers in an office. Her musical gifts have carried her to Europe twice and she continues to go to school full-time and work full-time at a disaster relief/flood recovery organization. She works at inner city shelters, mainly with displaced children. I guess I just wanted to balance out some of the negative comments that put the emphasis on behavior modification of children that don't fit neatly into convenient, well-behaved pigeon holes. Although the mutual respect and love that my daughter and I share was indeed hard won, I wouldn't trade a single day of the journey and I am still thankful to have discovered this book just when I needed the encouragement most.
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