Friday, September 23, 2011

Being Spirited Is NOT An Excuse To Be A Meanie

I have been waiting to get to this section of the book - The part where Kurcinka actually discusses the poor behaviour that can not be excused by being 'spirited'.

Here at The Beetle Shack we have applied the techniques found in 'Raising Your Spirited Child', including finding your yes, being consistent, keeping your cool  and walking the two way street with amazing results, mostly for Dave and I.  We are more patient, more flexible, much more relaxed and have a greater understating and thus more compassion for our strong willed little dude. But what to do when he continues to thump every kid he wants to play with.

Don't be afraid to stop them! Author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka humorously states that 'being spirited is not a licence to be a jerk' She goes on to say

Understanding spirited children helps us to see their strengths and figure out how to work with them, and how to teach them to behave appropriately without destroying their spirit. But its not an excuse for poor behaviour. It is not an exception from the rules. We can accept the active child, understand that he has the need to move, and provide him with opportunities to stand and work, or to pass out the supplies to other students, but we still stop him from poking other students.
When our  child is flooding the bathroom, throwing cereal around the kitchen, hitting his sister, telling us that he hates us, he has to be stopped. Its our job to do it even if we are tired. To stop misbehaviour, we have to go after him, bend down, touch him, and say "stop," not harshly, not loudly but firmly. Then you redirect him to another activity, or teach him the words you want him to use.
It must be  very clear to our spirited children that when they break our rules, we will stop them every time
 She goes on to discuss consequences and finding the balance when disciplining your spirited child.

Whilst talking about Zephs behaviour with Jodi and Daniel (over icy cold birthday beers), they observed that his more aggressive actions were an attempt to 'play' with Che Che. Daniel graciously called it a form of 'experimentation'- feeling his way, finding out what works, what reactions he gets and how far he can push the limits. This comment was was the catalyst for a shift in thinking for Dave and I and the opening of a new dialogue for the Young Man.

We are now focusing on teaching him how to appropriately say 'hi' other kids, to ask 'what is your name' and 'can i play with you' (thanks mum, hot tips!) rather than the standard introductory wallop to the back of the head.

Either way, wallop or not- I love this kid crazy. 


  1. that's so true. often actions like 'hitting his sister, telling us he hates us..' are out of frustration for not being able to communicate what they actually want to say. so in that light, giving him suggestions of words to say and introductions to make playing with others easier for him. having observed a lot of young children's behaviour in my previous job the hardest part is teaching young ones to compromise - an essential part of playing together. some children are so shy that first you have to teach them to interact - so he's already past that! i think it's so good you're so aware of his needs and such an observant mumma. my younger brother echoed some of these behaviours (in a different way) at a much older age. and we learned it was because he was frustrated and unable to communicate to us how he was feeling. sorry for this essay of a comment! xo

  2. beautifully said Em. He will only benefit from your awareness, guidance and discipline and no doubt his little friendships will blossom x

  3. Ok girl! Give me the name and author of this book! I have a very spirited girl and a 'on his way to spirited' boy!
    You're a grand mother, you are you are.

  4. This book sounds ace!
    I think you're an ace mum and I have no doubt your spirited little man knows he is lucky to have you.

    One of my girls says Hi and then picks kids up for a cuddle (even if we don't know them)
    That's her way of asking if they want to play. And while it might be cute that she wants to cuddle very kid in town, not all of them want to be cuddled and picked up by a complete stranger - its so hard to tell her not to do it - she gets heartbroken "Why wouldn't they want a cuddle mum?"
    SO I can totally relate to your mum's tips, because we have to talk about these all the time.

    Oh, it fun to see pics of your lovely neighbours too!

  5. Thanks for great advice. Mostly Eva is pretty good, she is super energetic and cannot sit still but generally plays (by herself) pretty well. I do find though that if kids don't want to play with her, or she is being too overbearing then she hits them, pulls hair and total frustration and rejection. I think I really need to teach her an appropriate response rather than yelling at her to stop hitting!!

  6. Every child - Spirited or inspirited? - needs firm boundaries and modeling on their life. He will do fine. x

  7. Sorry I shouldn't laugh, I know. But the standard introductory wallop just tickled my fancy. Kellie xx

  8. Hmmm interesting food for thought Em...but more importantly, look how freaking colour coordinated everyone is! Have a rad weekend. xx

  9. On your posts and recommendation I have bought the book. Wow such an eye opener. I think BOTH my boys are spirited in different ways. Charlie uber sensitive, loud, picky etc etc. Rufus is the child who cant control his body... needs to explode by jumping running and roaring (but I think alot of this is a testosterone surge that boys get when they hit 4 years). Yes, I am changing my attitudes in how I address the behaviours. Take yesterday.. Charlie had a fit, screaming and crying because the top I put ion him didn't feel right. Instead of getting cross I said ... 'wow Charlie I didnt realise your skins was that sensitive, let me get you a better top'.... and he instantly calmed down. Brilliant! Thanks Em for showing me this book! Lou xx

  10. Oh and BTW... I love the fact that Jodi, Che and Zeph are all colour matching... makes a cool photo! Lou xxx

  11. Good advice from the ever sensible Jodi and Daniel. I wish I had an ounce of their calmness... I have a feeling that Louis is going to be spirited (like the fact that he bites me - I think that is a little inkling...). Have a lovely weekend - say hi to the Central C for me; some days I really miss that place!

  12. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog! That book sounds fab. I was a teacher of small children for 13 years and found that children use lots of different ways to communicate and that "spirited" behaviour was generally kids exploring ways of getting what they wanted/needed. They weren't trying to be "horrible", just weren't clear on the appropriate way to do/get what they wanted/needed. One thing that always worked for me was distinguishing the child from their behaviour "I love you, but I don't like what you're doing!" I love what the author said, she sounds like a fab lady! Em x

  13. LOL, My boy comes to me with tender hugs that turn very quickly into rib crushers, he takes my face in his hands to give me a kiss that as I approach his lips press firmly inwards to make me look like Nemo and he gets so excited on piggy backs he head butts me!!....They are still learning the art of affection me thinks, Bless xx

  14. This is a great advice to parents who has a hard time handling their spirited children. Nice! :)

    Btw, the photos are lovely.

    Much love from the SABO SKIRT girls!

  15. hehe cute... at least teach him to warn his victims "Hi, I'm Zeph...this is gonna hurt!".

  16. What a great book for me to add to my reading list. High spirited children are a challenge! I really like this post!

  17. oh gosh i heard so much about you guys from Tim and has been following you since. oh how i wish i live close by to be surrounded by very creative people like yourself and jodi!

  18. Your young man reminds me of my brother. And he grew up to be a loving daddy and vet. I think you're on the right track, just keep loving the kid in front of you.

  19. I can completely relate to this. My 16 month old "spirited" daughter has just started face-palming other kids as her way of saying "hello". I know that at the moment she is simply trying to communicate. We are trying our best to tell her to stop and this encourage her to wave and say hello. I can only hope that we a little persistence she will learn.


Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em