Have you ever had those moments when you are in a crowd of other parents and their children and you wonder why your child is the only one going off the rails? I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me over the very busy course of raising my two wonderfully unique boys. Even last night at soccer practice (they are on the same team), why were they the only ones goofing off during basic drills?
Through the years two things have shaped how I have coped with parenting these lively boys. The first is that each year, my boys mature and with this maturity, comes the ability to reason with them. This makes a huge difference. It doesn’t mean they automatically listen to me, but they are able to ‘hear’ what I’m saying and sometimes it makes an impact. The other aspect that has helped, is my own level of acceptance with each of them. This acceptance started years ago when my oldest was a toddler. He was so completely the opposite of what I expected as a baby and a toddler, I easily got frustrated with him. We would go toe to toe every day. If you’ve ever gone toe to toe with a toddler, you know that no one ends up winning in that equation. One morning I had a huge aha moment. As I was mentally bracing myself as I walked up the stairs to go get my then toddler son, I realized, of course he is going to be resistant and combative. On some level he knew I wasn’t happy with who he was so he would show his frustration with me over and over in very dramatic ways. I thought that maybe if I ‘met him where he’s at’, and walked in the room with an open heart, maybe he would open his heart a little, too. It took a long time and a renewed, daily commitment from me to let him be himself. Some days were good, some days were still awful and some days were down-right awesome. I held tight to the awesome to get me through the awful.
One book that helped me change my world-view of my oldest is ‘Raising Your Spirited Child‘ by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Her descriptions of spirited children were spot-on. There are five characteristics that are common to spirited children. They are intensity, persistence, sensitivity, perceptiveness, and level of adaptability. In the next coming weeks I will highlight each of these characteristics and give you examples of how they showed up in one or both my children.
Unfortunately, there will never be a magic wand to transform our kids into who we think they should be or how they should act. Instead, if we open our hearts a tiny bit, we may find that they are perfect as they are and quite possibly, better than we ever dreamed possible.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent
Kurcinka, M.S. Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense-Sensitive-Perceptive- Persistent-Energetic (Revised Edition). 2006 New York, New York. HarpersCollins Publishers Inc.