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Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic Paperback – April 1, 1998
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Recently, temperament traits have come to the forefront of child development theory. In Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's first contribution is to redefine the "difficult child" as the "spirited" child, a child that is, as she says, MORE. Many people are leery about books that are too quick to "type" kids, but Kurcinka, a parent of a spirited child herself and a parent educator for 20 years, doesn't fall into that trap. Instead, she provides tools to understanding your own temperament as well as your child's. When you understand your temperamental matches--and your mismatches--you can better understand, work, live, socialize, and enjoy spirit in your child. By reframing challenging temperamental qualities in a positive way, and by giving readers specific tools to work with these qualities, Kurcinka has provided a book that will help all parents, especially the parents of spirited children, understand and better parent their children.
From Publishers Weekly
Kurcinka's now-classic guide to raising children who are "more"—more intense, more sensitive, more persistent, etc.—gets a greatest-hits treatment in this brief audio version read by the author, a teacher and parent educator. The abridgement can be abrupt at times; in the effort to condense a 300-page book to a three hours, many memorable and useful examples, illustrations and anecdotes have been excised in favor of general principles and descriptions of the basic traits common to spirited children. Helpfully, though, each CD is imprinted with track titles and time signatures, a great boon to parents who want to retrieve specific information quickly. Kurcinka's voice can sometimes be a problem; it tends to trail off to such a low end-of-sentence volume that listeners may have to strain to catch what she is saying. Kurcinka never really achieves a deep or comfortable vocal resonance even at the best of times, though she does exhibit a quiet dramatic intensity despite the brittle, high tones. In all, it's difficult to justify the additional $10 this audio costs over the far meatier trade paperback version, which offers considerably more bang for the buck. HarperCollins paperback. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I'm so grateful for the tools and mindset that this book gave me. I felt punished every day for over a year. "Why did I have to get this child? I don't want this one. Take him back, please!" I also had terrible postpartum depression at the time, which made everything worse than it already was, plus my son had one of the five worst cases of colic I've ever heard of, and I've heard a LOT of stories of people trying to sympathize but being unable to even imagine the hell we went through in our son's first year.
(By the way, we feel like our son's nature contributed to the colic and other first-year problems, which is part of why the book has been able to help. He was persistent and knew exactly what he wanted, but he couldn't express it. His body is irregular but needed some degree of regularity imposed so he would sleep at all. He is very sensitive to how much sleep he gets. He is energetic and intense and could scream for three hours straight without falling asleep. He didn't know how to cope with big emotions in a little body, so he screamed more. But now he is two years old and really a joy.)
Now, we have a wonderful, curious, passionate, loving, interesting, smart, adorable little two-year-old.
The most helpful things were these:
1) The book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child saved our lives first. It got our son sleeping AT ALL and then sleeping on a predictable schedule, which we all desperately needed. After he was rested, we could finally start working on other things.
2) Sign language. We started signing before he was even 8 months old, and it helped immensely. Our son is very spirited and knows EXACTLY what he wants. It was absolutely crucial that we were able to communicate with him to figure out what he wanted.
3) This book.
A) As I was pulling out of my postpartum depression, it was crucial that I reframe my thinking about my son. I loved the early chapter on using positive labels for our kids - determined instead of inflexible, curious rather than dragging his feet, spirited instead of hellish (yes, I did say that one), energetic instead of drives me crazy, and so forth.
B) The chapter on tantrums has helped immensely. He just turned two, which is when many people see tantrums. Not with a spirited child! Anyone with a spirited child knows that the "tantrums" -- the incessant screaming for three hours, the strength of a four year old when your infant hits you in anger -- start at birth. For months, several times a day, I have been using the author's suggestions for tantrums. Not only are her specific strategies helpful (hold him, talk him through it, name the emotions for him, tell him he doesn't have to deal with the emotions on his own) but also the mindset she describes. I don't know how many times I've told myself lines from the book:
--"He will be a WONDERFUL adult. This trait is difficult to parent, but it will make a wonderful adult and friend later."
--"This isn't a personal attack. He is overwhelmed with his intense emotions and needs me to teach him how to cope. He's not trying to punish me."
--"My child is in a spillover tantrum. I don't need to go there, too."
--"Stop and think, listen, talk to him. What part of his nature has just been threatened?"
C) Feeling less alone was wonderful. I hate it when the old ladies nod their heads and are like, "Yes, kids are difficult," and smile. My grandmas said that until they were around my son for more than two hours straight. Then they said, "Oh my goodness, does he EVER stop moving? No wonder you have him in daycare! You would physically break down and have no energy left if you tried to follow him everywhere." I love reading this book and being like, "No, my kid isn't a freak. He's just more spirited and energetic than most people can imagine, so when they say those trite, idiotic phrases, I can just let it go. They are talking about a different kind of child. My child is like five of their children. I can let it go."
All in all, I am SO GRATEFUL that the author wrote this book. It has really saved us.
And now, as he is turning two years old, he is better than ever. I promise, it's possible! I LOVE my passionate, intense, loving, curious little guy! He reminds me of myself and his dad (we were both spirited children). Our beginning was absolute hell, but with good tools, including this book, he has gotten better and better. On good days, I can't imagine a more perfect, wonderful child. Mary is right - we ARE the lucky ones! I can't imagine having a dull, uninterested, passive child.
Of course, on bad days, I want to drive to my parents' house and leave him there for a week. But we have tools now to work through it, and we're doing alright. Life is so much better now.
(p.s. do not feel guilty if you need to put your energetic, social child into daycare. I remind myself, "I take care of myself and do what I need while he's at daycare so that when he gets home, I can be the mom I want to be. Because he is in daycare and I am able to do my self-care, our interactions are positive mostly. If I were watching him at home all day, we would never have a single positive interaction in a day. Daycare supports his curious, energetic, social, sensitive nature.)
I read books about attachment parenting and how to get children to sleep but the techniques simply didn't work for us and the whole thing left me feeling like a terrible mother. I felt horribly guilty (not to mention exhausted). At the point where I thought I couldn't last one more day, a friend recommended this book.
At the risk of sounding overly emotional - I have to say that this book saved my sanity. Kurcinka understands that for certain kids, the standard techniques simply don't work. Some kids are so intense and strong-willed that you can't put them in a crib and let them "cry it out." This book helped me accept my daughter for who she is and to work with her instead of against her.
This is a great book for parents of intense children but it's also a good book for parents of more mellow kids. Most parents will be able to see their kids in one or more of her categories and will get some good ideas on how to work with their children's temperaments.