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You know the type: The kid who zooms around the playground, and is inconsolable when it's time to leave. She's ultra-aware of strong smells, bright lights or loud noises or focused on a single desire (be it chocolate milk or TV time), and unwilling (or unable) to just let it go. Then there's the general boucing off the walls, screaming, and relentless kinetic energy. Any of this sound familiar? If so (and many kids fit this description as least some of the time), you've got a "spirited" child. Here are three tips to help:
Stick with a routine. Spirited kids do best when they know what's expected of them, says Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Raising Your Spirited Child, and having a plan minimizes power struggles. Psychologist Linda Budd agrees. "Children need sameness," says Budd. "With an active alert or spirited child, if they don't have that sameness, they think they are in charge." If your child brushes his teeth before he gets dressed every day, he'll come to expect that schedule, so adhering to it will make the day go more easily. When you do need to make changes, Kurcinka suggests saving them for the weekend -- rather than trying something new when you're trying to get your kid ready for school or out the door.
Give them a heads-up. Give your child lots of notice before transitioning, Kurcinka suggests. "Before you go to the park, say, 'When there's five minutes left I'll tell you that you have five more times to go down the slide, and then we're going to leave.'" That way, there are no surprises, and leaving will be easier both of you.
Let's get physical. Fill your child's day with tactile activities: waterplay, sculpting Play-Doh, drawing, back scratches. Spirited children also love repetitive motion, like jumping, swinging and pedaling and heavy work -- lifting, pulling, pushing, digging. Kurcinka says that such exercise creates soothing agents in the body, calming the distracting, buzzing energy. Yes, this translates into more work for you, but the payoff is a more chilled-out child.
For more tips on dealing with your spirited child, click here!