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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.
"A well-written, comprehensive, and above all loving and positive approach to understanding that oh-so challenging child." -- -- Evonne Weinhaus and Karen Friedman, authors of Stop Struggling with Your Child and Stop Struggling with Your Teen
"The book will prove to be a real lifesaver." -- -- Louise Bates Ames, author and association director, Gessell Institute of Human
"This book is a major work on temperament and parenting that should be in every family library." -- -- Nancy Melvin, associate dean for graduate programs and research, Arizona State University College of Nursing
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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.)
This book is the bible of parenting a Spirited Child, and it was the first step for me in my own journey to become the type of parent I envisioned. If you have been frustrated and failing to find answers, this book is probably for you. This helped me to an even better relationship with my child, better parenting, and relief, overall. Click purchase!