You probably realized not long after birth that your child was spirited or high needs. However sometimes, as in my case, if you expected baby parenting to be difficult or thought that most babies cry that much or need holding all the time you might not be sure if your child is truly high needs. A longitudinal study was begun in 1956 by Dr. Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, and Herbert Birch. This study followed 133 subjects from infancy to adulthood and was able to define nine temperamental traits. These traits include: Intensity, persistence, sensitivity, perceptiveness, adaptability, regularity, energy, first reaction and mood. High needs, or spirited children have been said to simply be "more". They are more intense, more persistence, more sensitive and so on. Many have a negative first response and do not appreciate surprises. Their moods and emotions tend to be extreme.
Many parents of spirited children feel at a loss when it comes to discipline. How is it possible to show a child who is more headstrong than others how to behave appropriately? How can this be done without damaging their vibrant personality? It is essential to have peace in the home for the health of each family member but what can be done to help life with a spirited child become more peaceful?
When it comes to discipline being positive and proactive is key. If you have a child who does not like to stop playing when it is time to eat, sleep or move to another activity then you need to take into account how it feels to suddenly be interrupted from one activity that you enjoy in order to move abruptly to one that you do not like. Give your child warning. Let him or her know that in 10 minutes they will have to stop playing and move to another activity. Remind him or her in 5 minutes that he or she has five more minutes to play. If time is needed to clean up then let the child know that in 2 minutes he or she will be expected to clean up. And if your child refuses to change activities when it is time, don't yell, don't spank, don't threaten but instead simply remove them from the activity and help them go to the next thing. Most spirited children prefer to do things themselves. If they realize you are serious, after a few times of being "helped" they will do it on their own-as long as they have been giving a warning of transition.
When your high needs child is bouncing off of the walls and annoying everyone in sight, give them something to do. In my experience, when my spirited son is bothering his younger brother or literally running to and fro inside the house it means he is bored. Boredom is the spirited child's worst enemy. Remember that spirited children are more alert and their bodies are busier than most. Get out the play-doh, read a book, set up the paints, let them play outside, or if you are involved in an activity in which they can help then, by all means, let them help! My spirited son loves to help me cook. I find it troublesome and it slows me down, but that's something I have to get over. He is learning valuable lessons about adult work and will soon be old enough to help me in the kitchen without any problems. But first I must give him the chance to learn.
Keep in mind that to discipline a child means to teach a child, not to punish a child. Boundaries are important for children to know. Highly spirited children might not be aware that they are crossing boundaries and acting in a socially inappropriate way. It is your job as a parent to teach the correct way to behave but not to punish them for behaving in a way that is hard wired in their brain. With maturity and time, the spirited child who is disciplined correctly will blossom into a vibrant and productive adult with a magnetism and shine that is apparent to all who meet him or her.
Published by Laura Ballard
I am an intern in Marriage and Family Therapy and working toward licensure in MFT and PC. I have a BS in psychology and sociology. View profile
- Building Self-Esteem in Children: A Guide for ParentsPoor achievement in school, smoking, underage drinking, drug use, reckless driving, teen pregnancy, violent behavior more often than not, these same problems are directly linked to how our children feel about t...
- Discipline Your Children!Many of us today simply do not discipline our children. These children grow up to be criminals and also they may end up being lost for eternity in Hell unless GOD miraculously i...
Memorial Day Voices
Which Memorial Day family activity is your favorite?
- High needs children often do not like suprises.
- Spirited children are often described as being "more" than their peers or siblings.
- A peaceful home is necessary for the health of each family member.