Blog  /  Grace, Parenting, Toddlers  /  Spirited Children :: A Blessing (or a Curse?!)

spirited children

Upon taking her first breath, my little Nora was ALL energy.  Even at the age of 3 months, I can remember laying Nora under her playmat where she would spend the next 5-10 minutes moving every single part of her body 100 miles an hour, as if she was training to run an Olympic marathon (or a 100 meter sprint rather).

{Help for the visual learner – feel free to check out this video that a friend of mine took when Nora was 4 months old. }

Of course Nora (oh sweet Nora) hasn’t slowed down one bit over the past three years.  Not. One. Bit. Not only is her physical strength and endurance like none I’ve ever seen before, but her emotional energy is the same.  ”Nora is the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls.  Other kids bounce three feet off the ground.  Every bounce for Nora hits the ceiling.”  Italics mine. (Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Raising Your Spirited Child)

Oftentimes I find myself wondering if I drank too much coffee when Nora was in utero.  Or could her energy/spunk/emotional rollercoster-ness be something that I’VE created… or worse yet, a curse?! I’m constantly questioning what I’m doing wrong in my mothering of my little spark plug.

Can anyone else relate?!

Although I’m tempted to allow my thoughts the opportunity to spiral downhill into a sea of discouragement when it comes to parenting Nora, God so often reminds me of Dr. Kimmel’s words in Grace Based Parenting

“To talk about grace, sing about grace, and have our children memorize verses about grace – but not give them specific gifts of grace – is to undermine God’s work of grace in their hearts.  Grace not only means that God loves them even through they are sinners, but that He loves them uniquely and specially.” (p. 141)

God loves Nora (and your spirited child) JUST. THE. WAY. THEY. ARE.

Our kids don’t have to all look like or even act like every other kid.

Ahhhh.  Isn’t that freeing?! 

When my focus is on Nora’s outer appearance and actions, I’m in for a world of disappointment.  But when I chose to focus on her inner self (what God cares about the most), I am more easily able to embrace who God created her to be.

Now I’m not claiming to be an expert in raising Spirited Children, but I will say that I’ve learned a lot over the past three years. Below you’ll find a few things that have helped (and continue to help) me to embrace Nora’s uniqueness as a true blessing from God ::

1. CELEBRATE.

Celebrate the person that GOD has created in your little one!  He knew exactly what He was doing when He created Nora and when He created your little one. And to Him – it all works together perfectly – for His glory.

Praise God!

2. DON’T COMPARE

Comparison is a killjoy. It will steal every ounce of contentment in your heart and leave you feeling empty.  Every time.  You can count on it.

Surround yourself with friends who will speak truth into your life when you start to play the comparison game and who will treasure your child for who they are.  These friends for me have helped me tremendously when I start to fall into the mental trap of focusing on my “have-nots.”

3. YOU’RE NOT ALONE

When you’re in the thick of it, it’s tempting to feel like you’re the only one raising a spirited child.  Well – you’re not!  According to research, 10 to 15 percent of all children living in this country fit the description of a spirited child.  That means there are lots of parents who understand what you’re going through.  Your child is not an oddity.  You are not the world’s worst parent.  You are not alone.

Let’s all take a sigh of relief together after that one.  “Ahh……”

4. NORMAL BUT DIFFERENT

Each child is unique to God.   But let’s be honest with ourselves, some are more “normal” than others.  And in Nora’s case it’s been important for me to embrace the idea that she’s normal but different.  And different is good.

Giving her the freedom to be different, as Dr. Kimmel discusses in Grace Based Parenting, is one of the key objectives we have in our home.  Nora doesn’t have to be like any other kid that we know, because she isn’t anyone else.  She’s Nora, normal but different.  And EXACTLY who God created her to be.

Do you have a spirited child?  If so, what are some tips that you can share with me (and our readers) about raising your spirited child?  I’d love to hear from you.  Comment below.

 

Stephanie Flies

Steph Flies is the Social Media Director for Family Matters, Director of City Moms Blog Network and the Co-founder of Scottsdale Moms Blog. She is mamma to Nora (July 2009) and Elsie (May 2011) and wife of Alan. She’s a recovering legalist and loves learning how to create an atmosphere of grace in her home.

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Comments

  1. Stacy says:

    Oh, girl. I feel ya. I really do. My second born came out of the womb determined to be fabulously unique. When she was 3, I wld lose my mind over some of the outfits she wld insist on wearing. The striped tights, plaid shorts and snow boots – all at the same time? I was sure it wld be the death of me. :)

    I love your advice here. It’s spot on! I learned to celebrate who she is. I realized when I made her wear something that I thought was “better”, little by little I was breaking her spirit and that is the last thing I wanted to do.

    The one piece of advice I wld add is something I was terribly guilty of. Do not apologize for your child’s personality. I was constantly saying “you’ll have to excuse her outfit, she dressed herself.” Or, “I’m sorry, she’s my quirky one.” Poor behavior must be addressed, but I had to stop making her feel embarrassed for things that were my issues and not hers.

    Thanks for this post! You will find that your sweet spirited one will teach you to embrace who God created YOU to be as well.

  2. Stephanie Flies says:

    Thanks for this wisdom Stacy! I too struggle with apologizing for Nora’s personality. But you’re right, it’s nothing I need to apologize for – she’s EXACTLY who God created her to be. It’s time I stop apologizing and start celebrating all of the great things she’ll do with all of that spunk!

  3. Great article, Steph. The bonus – or constant challenge, depending on the day :) , is that spirited kids have a way of forcing us as parents to decide what are mountains and what are molehills. I am thankful my spirited kids have pushed me, their “grown-up” spirited mother, to understand how to be a grace giver like nothing else has. I’m still learning, but it’s totally worth it! Count me as a Mom cheering you on the sidelines, Steph – you can do this!

    1. Stephanie Flies says:

      Thanks Karina! I can use all of the cheerleaders I can get!

  4. Brad says:

    We’re members of the spirited child club, too. Our oldest daughter, now 10, began exhibiting her spirited personality the moment she arrived. Here’s one example: the day she turned 2 she learned to get out of her crib, and that night she refused to stay in it. Determined to win that battle, we put her back in her crib more times than I can count, and the battle went on literally all night. We eventually closed her door, at which point she decided to ram it repeatedly with one of her sit-on toys. Once we took that away, she found other ways to exert herself, like emptying her dresser and throwing the entire contents into her crib — then moving a chair to access everything in her closet to continue her relocation program. I think she was up the entire night (as was I so that I could monitor things). It took about 3 nights for this to subside. Little did we know at the time that this episode was not to be a unique approach to life and authority. I remember when she was 4, sometimes she would get up a 1am and stay up for hours reading books. Nowadays, it is battles over trying to get her to not overdo it on the trampoline when it is 115 degrees outside. And on it goes. She is energetic (always), spirited, and – yes – special. Most days it is easy to have the “special” overshadowed by the “spirited”, so thanks for the encouragement today! But among the positives, we see a girl that is really gifted academically and athletically. We do get scared at times because she is so hard to shepherd, but we also catch glimpses of how special God has made her to be and can dream about how He might one day use her to do great things. So… thank you, Father, for the gift of our amazing spirited daughter, and thank you, Stephanie, for the encouragement & perspective today.

    1. Stephanie Flies says:

      Thanks Brad for the encouragement! I especially loved when you mentioned that you dream about how He might one day use your spirited daughter. We too love to dream about all of the great ways God is going to use Nora. One day all of these things about her are going to make sense and we’ll see God’s greater plan in all of it.

  5. Tracy Carson says:

    I needed this today. I didn’t think our son could be our spirited child because he is so shy but when he is comfortable socially then he is most certainly spirited and it was so troubling to me. I just didn’t know how to reign him in. Now I realize that I don’t have to…and shouldn’t. Thanks for the great reminder!

    1. Stephanie Flies says:

      Tracy – you’re totally right! Sometimes people have spirited children and they are unsure b/c they don’t look like this spirited child and that spirited child. There are all sorts of dimensions of spirited children. But regardless of what dimensions our little one’s have, they were all known by God before they made their entrance into this world, and for that very reason, He is worthy of praise!

  6. Julie says:

    Thank you for writing this. Mine is a very spirited 8 year old. Can relate on many levels. Thank you for your wisdom.

  7. Leah Courson says:

    Thank u for this; I really, really needed it. I just woke up b/c I couldnt sleep as has been the past few nites. See my live in boyfriend has just moved out on me & my very spirited 3yr old son. I have been devastated, & my son is upset as well. Anyways I figured I’d check my emails & Facebook. On my FB was an inspirational msg from my aunt w/a link to this site & this article. And God made sure that I would get to see & read this b/c usually my phone (not a smartphone) wont let me see all of an article. See my Noah is a wonderful, but very high spirited child. He is so high spirited that @ times I have found myself losing my patience w/him, & more times than I can count, saying that I think he needs medication already! And my now ex bf, he was hard on Noah as well, to a point that even tho Noah loved him he was intimitated by him. But this article shows me that he doesnt need meds, hes a perfect, spirited child thats just needs room to be himself! So thank u b/c it has really opened my eyes, & my heart!

    1. Stephanie Flies says:

      So happy my story could encourage you! Will be praying for you and Noah!

  8. Beth Lopez says:

    Just wanted to say thanks, Stephanie, for the post, and to all those who commented. I feel encouraged. I was feeling down today about my spirited 5 year old boy. I needed to read this!

  9. kelly says:

    LOVE this post! And while I don’t have a spirited child, I have a highly emotional son, and I think that many of your points can apply to any child with more distinctive personalities. Your four points are totally relevant to my husband and I parenting our sensitive son, and embracing who God has made him to be, encouraging his strengths, helping him understand who he is and how to manage his emotions in a healthy way, and always speaking positively in front of him. Sometimes I feel like other people talk about his sensitive nature in front of him in a negative way and I’m really trying to minimize that (without being rude!) and instead, LOVE his sensitivity and let him know he is capable, strong and incredibly loved.
    Thanks for this!

    1. Stephanie Flies says:

      Great! Kelly – how amazing would it be if we were to spend more time LOVING our children’s unique qualities then being discouraged by them? Praying that all of these little people mentioned in the comments above would know ultimately how much they are valued and loved by the Almighty One!

  10. Erin says:

    Loved this article! Especially after training on temperament yesterday (I am a Child Development Specialist). I have that “feisty” or “spirited” child for sure! Upon picking her up from childcare yesterday I said, “Oh my feisty child” and her caregiver DISAGREED with me! I was in shock! She actually described her as calm…ummm WOW! Were we talking about the same child?! Something that helps me (or I like to think so) is giving choices. Because the spirited child is so headstrong they thrive on that and being a little bit in control and having a say so in what they do. Thanks for this :-)

  11. Sabrina Waters says:

    I loved this. I remember the doctor commenting on how active my daughter was, before she was even born! She just entered K and is doing fantastic at school, bouncing off the walls when she gets home though. She has so many strengths, taught herself to read, excels at gross motor activities and sports. Yes, it is a challenge to parent her at times but I wouldn’t change her for anything. I think her high-energy self will go on to do amazing things. Praying to nuture all of these things in her.

  12. Denise Fenters says:

    WOW! All great to read about. We also have a very spirited child, he is now 13 and is very ACTIVE and just like all these articles was very active from birth! He is up everyday around 6am but, when he stops, HE STOPS COLD! Watching him grow over these last 13 years has been a great joy (maybe not sometimes) but, it really has. Don’t be discouraged. We really thought (and actually medicated him per our dr’s advice) that to medicate him was to do him (and us) a favor. However, now, he is very athletic and excels at football, basketball, soccer, etc. etc. and the list goes on….he is truly a gift and we treasure him every day. Thank you God for giving us this Gift and may we never cease to praise you for this Gift and this blessing!

  13. Kris says:

    I have one, now 15. He is our 4th, and I was in my late 30′s when I had him. We used to say (in jest) that if he had been first, he’d have been an only!

    You need to allow the energy, nurture them (if they’ll let you!) and help them channel it productively. It’s harder when you, the parent, are programmed differently. But it’s worth the effort!

    Having a high energy child later in life has kept me young!

  14. Tracy says:

    Just looking for some advice on how to harness that energy or if there is a way to tone it down a little sometimes. My son is now 8 and now that he is bigger and stronger I find it hard to even play around with him cuz just a little energy from me sets off fireworks for him. An example would be if we turn on some music and just dance around with his younger siblings included it never lasts long because he gets out of hand very quickly. Or another example would be playing tag, instead of just touching someone he plows into them knocking them over. Am I supposed to discipline him for playing too rough? I find it sad and confusing that every time we start to have a little fun it’s always him that ends up getting into trouble. I have tried just giving him some warnings But they don’t usually work anyways. I just wish we could have “free fun” without any reprimands!! Any advice?

  15. This article brings back so many memories. I remember when my spirited boy was a toddler and he was our third. He had so much energy and curiosity that trouble was never far away. If he would have been our first, he would have been last child. We lost him one time and we found him on our fort in the back yard and when we found him he said “I’m thinking my happy thoughts!” and we thought he was going to pull a Peter Pan.