We’re living day to day in a relationship with our spirited children. We want it to be a good relationship. We feel the responsibility to lead them well, and we can.
First, We Must Know Ourselves.
Give yourself grace and space to understand yourself, to make mistakes, and try again. If you can not do it for yourself, how can you offer it to your spirited child?
Are you spirited? How do you interact with your world, and the spirited child you are in a relationship with? Take time to recognize if there are similar patterns between you and your spirited child. You might be prone to escalate in the very same places as he is. How did the world respond to you, especially those you trusted most to protect you? How might this be affecting your response today to your spirited child? Maybe you aren’t spirited, and his intensity shuts you down in entirely different ways. Recognizing these brings excellent insight into your relationship with your spirited child.
Second, We Need to be Intentional in Recognizing Our Spirited Children’s Patterns.
Start keeping a record of the circumstances surrounding outbursts between you and your spirited child. Write it down even. This gives you the opportunity to look back and recognize any patterns. When you understand the patterns, you can be prepared to meet your spirited child in advance and more effectively practice responding when her spirit, and maybe yours too, still boils over.
What Are Some Patterns You May Begin to Recognize?
Believe it or not, our strong-headed, thick-skinned spirited children are sensitive.
Not only do they feel their emotions intensely, but often spirited children are particularly sensitive to stimuli as well. They share this with children from hard places and other children (and adults for that matter) who struggle with sensory processing sensitivity.
Their surroundings might simply be: Too Loud. Too Bright. Too colorful. Filled with Too Strong a Scent. Too Crowded.
It will be helpful to plan your days around this when possible. Have you already done this errand and that? Your spirited child might not have the energy today for one more. It’s a humbling, challenging transition, but it is so worth it. Perhaps start your day where it is most important while your child can compose herself. Adjust your routine according to her sleep and meal schedule as you are able. Bring along a snack to avoid those sugar crashes can go a long way. Offering an incentive or an activity, as simple as stickers, coloring, or her favorite pal to snuggle, to pass her time also helps her to help you.
Your spirited child may need an outlet for these sensory needs or an excess of energy. Plan this into his days for him.
Your spirited child might feel the need to finish what she starts or for time to adjust to a transition. Providing a countdown to a transition will serve you and your spirited child well. Being aware of when she is beginning something and helping her to process what she will have time to finish before your departure also serves you both well.
Don’t Forget to Check-in With Your Spirited Child.
Without a doubt, you have places to be and things to do. Your child is his own being, conscious of his own interests and priorities. Remember this mutual respect. It is not surrendering your position of authority, but leading well to equip them to follow.
Thank your child for his choices that are helpful to you.
Apologize to your child for circumstances she expresses are difficult for her.
We shouldn’t expect to always get it right, but we can make a practice of it. It is as simple as, “I hear that you are hungry now. I am sorry that there is no snack for you now. As soon as we are home, I will get you this snack.” Or “After you’ve eaten dinner, which is in 15 minutes, you can choose this or this.” Or “Here are two choices you can have while you wait 15 minutes for me to finish dinner.”
Hearing our children in these ways has helped our children to hear us in our home.
Spirited children thrive in consistent environments with the space to explore. Keep at it, and watch your relationship with your spirited child grow.
Some resources that have been helpful to us are:
Karyn Purvis’s work concerning connection and sensory processing sensitivity is life-changing. You can also access her insight by searching for her on YouTube.