Defiant, strong-willed, persistent, LOUD. Parenting a spirited child can be a bit like looking after a wild animal. It’s head-spinning and frustrating, but it’s also pretty entertaining. Below, some of the classic signs you’ve got a kid with spirit.
1. They will never ever give up. Like ever.
The spirited child is the one stepping out the door with three overstuffed handbags. Why? Just because. They’re the ones who will only wear shorts in winter. The ones who insist on building an elaborate three-level space ship out of the lounge-room chairs. They know what they want, and most of the time all you can do is stand aside, because they do determination really, really well.
As a parent, this can give you the unsettling feeling that you have zero control over your two-year-old. But really, the defiance and persistence you see now, are the very qualities that will supercharge your kid out in the big wide world. Leaders are born right? We can only hope.
2. There is no off button
Did your child kick their daytime nap at age one? I’m also guessing they have a strong disregard for 7 o’clock bedtime, and a predilection for 5am wake ups. And it’s just because they have stuff to do.
This is so hard for parents. Not only do we have to throw away the nap schedule and strict bedtimes with spirited kids, we also have to accept that our children genuinely have a hard time winding down. They don’t have the standard off-buttons, and can usually be found banging away in their bedrooms until late, working on their latest lego masterpiece.
3. People hear you coming
You might feel compelled to apologise to your neighbours, because spirited kids are loud. Oh so loud. As the introverted adult in charge, this can grind you down, but your kid is just intent on being heard. And there are big advantages to that. They’ll never get lost in the classroom. They’ll never let an injustice go. They are the big, fierce, fabulous personalities in the playground. We just have to teach them about that wonderful thing called their ‘inside’ voice.
4. Other parents give you well-meaning advice
What works for other people’s children just doesn’t work with yours. Reward charts, naughty corners, timeouts … you gave up on those a long time ago. This is when other parents will feed you lots of well-meaning advice, and all you can do is nod. You know that your guy is walking to his own tune most of the time, and really, you’re doing your best just trying to keep up.
5. They are ruled by their emotions
Can your child go from zero to 100 in a heartbeat? Do they laugh hysterically one minute and then crumble into a little pool of self-pity the next? Classic. While most children have difficulty regulating their emotions, spirited kids are totally ruled by their emotions. Hard on you, but it’s this very quality that also makes them unspeakably fun to be around.
They’re the ones shouting the loudest at the birthday party and swinging from the trees. And seeing them live so fully in the moment is a reminder that these kids live at high speed.
6. Change is challenging
Unfortunately though, when you live at high speed, it’s hard changing gears, and you might have noticed your child has a really hard time dropping what they’re doing and going with your schedule.
No matter how many warnings you give, the wilful child will try to fight you the whole way. So let’s just face it, things take longer. There’s a lot more explaining. A lot more bribing. And a lot more negotiating. You get better at it (and unfortunately so do they).
7. Other kids gravitate towards them
The flipside to all the the noise and chaos and endless stubborn tantrums? Spirited kids are pretty popular. Other children are drawn to their energy and sense of fun, and this gift for friendship is something you can’t buy or teach or learn. So while it’s hard work staking your claim of parental power, rest assured that your feisty little wild child is just getting ready to take on the world.