This post is the final part of my series on raising spirited children. To read the first six parts, click on the following links:
- Part One – ADHD or Spirited?
- Part Two – Spirited Children part 2: Positive Labeling
- Part Three – Spirited Child Part Three – Understanding Temperaments
- Part Four – Spirited Kids Part Four – Sleep
- Part Five – Eating Habits of the Spirited Child
- Part Six – Disciplining the Spirited Child
So far we have learned how to recognize that ADHD is over-diagnosed, spirited children are normal, how positive labeling is so important to establishing good relationships with spirited children, the temperaments common to spirited children, tips for sleepless nights, ideas for picky eaters, and methods for successful discipline. What is left?
In the notes I wrote while reading Raising Your Spirited Child and The Difficult Child, I noticed a theme developing about preventing difficult behavior, and creating a foundation for a happy and healthy, functional family. I’m mostly happy with how things are going in our own household, although as any parent knows there are new challenges to address every day. Yet I do like to be inspired to reach higher. I know where my faults are (on one effective discipline survey, half of my answers suggested I used ineffective discipline techniques), and I’m learning to pinpoint specific behaviors in my children that need to be refined instead of getting overwhelmed by three children with unending needs.
One point I disagreed with in The Difficult Child is that they seemed to think that if there is a spirited child in the family, the parents, and the entire family, are likely to be strained and pitted against each other. Although Papa and I are sometimes at a loss for solutions to one (or more) of our children’s behaviors, we do not feel our family is “strained”. It is not easy at all, but we are a team, and together we will work through any challenges that raising three spirited children will bring up.
To help parents plan for success, The Difficult Child offered one activity to get them started. It is a bit time consuming, but if you are still stumped for answers over how your child’s temperament is affecting their behavior, it may be worth your time. First, list your child’s difficult behaviors. For example, he is resistive, stubborn, or selfish. List everything you can think of that really bothers you and be as specific as possible. Then write down examples of how s/he expresses those behaviors. For example, she is demanding – she wants to be the center of attention. Include the settings where these behaviors typically occur.
Once you have this exhaustive list, narrow it down to those behaviors which you feel are very important to improve. For example, those behaviors resulting in harm to herself or others. Be sure to include your spouse in this activity because you each may have different feelings about what is most important, and as a family it will be most effective if you are on the same page in deciding what behaviors to work on first.
Next, you make a “temperamental profile”, in which you categorize the difficulty of each temperament; very difficult, moderately difficult, and slightly difficult. For a review of the ten temperaments click here. In the final step, do your best to link the temperament traits to the problem behaviors so you can recognize where they are coming from. This final step will help you to determine the best methods of discipline for each behavior. Keep in mind that some behaviors may require a change of environment, stimulation, or prevention techniques. For a review of discipline methods click here.
Raising Your Spirited Child offered a more simple, four step plan called “The POWER Approach”. Predict the temperament traits they have and how they might affect their reactions to a situation. Organize the setting so your child can be successful in a setting or location (e.g. what activities can be brought along to help? Is there a hideaway for introverts?). Work together to help him manage his intensity, help her find “yes”, to enforce rules, and get their attention. Make sure they know the agenda, what to expect, and consider how they might feel in a particular situation. Enjoy the rewards! Be sure to talk with your child about the things s/he has done well, give them encouragement for their progress!
Planning for success also means encouraging good behavior, not just discouraging bad behavior. If you’re going to empty a child of selfishness, you must at the same time fill her up with kindness. If you want to discipline rudeness, you must also teach manners. This is the discipline method taught by Charlotte Mason who said,
“This is the law of habit, which holds good as much in doing kindnesses as in playing the piano. Both habits come by practice; and that is why it is so important not to miss a chance of doing the thing we mean to do well” (Vol. 4, Book 1, p. 208)
For those discouraged by the work ahead of them, she also says:
“For let this be borne in mind, whatever ugly quality disfigures the child, he is but as a garden overgrown with weeds: the more prolific the weeds, more fertile the soil; he has within him every possibility of beauty of life and character. Get rid of the weeds and foster the flowers” (Vol. 2, p. 87)