If your child is often difficult, chances are you have a Strong-Willed Child. Spirited kids can be different, but like everything in life, different can be good!
Everyone has had that moment, or several before we became parents. We saw kids in the store throwing temper tantrums… and we judged. There were kids being mean on the playground… and we judged. More then once we cringed at a kid talking back to their parents… and we judged. Because we never knew what a spirited child even was.
“My kid will never be like that. That mom shouldn’t let her kids treat her that way. Look at her just ignoring that temper tantrum and not doing a dang thing about it! The kid needs a time-out. That little girl needs a spanking. The little boy needs to be scolded.”
We all knew how to be parents before we became parents right? Because it’s all about how you raised them, about teaching them respect and consequences. Anything else and it’s just bad parenting. Because every kid is the same, right?
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Along came Abby
I spent years as a Nanny, I worked at a daycare, I even became a Pediatric RN. I’m by no means an expert at parenting. But after all, I watched Nanny 911, so I knew what I was doing, right? Haha WRONG!
Everything I knew about kids, and about raising them a certain way, flew out the door the day my daughter came into my life. When for the first time ever, I saw how much nature overpowered nurture. From the second she could give me her opinion, she did! And the moment she knew how to pick something up and throw it… she never stopped.
That moment of clarity came one day when she was really young. It had been a rough morning and I vented about how ‘difficult’ she was to a close friend. She looked at me and said, “She’s not difficult, she’s Spirited!” I laughed when I first heard that phrase, thinking it was a joke. Until I started to realize oh it’s a real thing baby!
There are countless books and articles all about the ‘spirited’ child. I had never heard of this term before and all of a sudden it’s like a bright light shining on me. Every detail described my daughter, every personality trait was there. And every reason why normal discipline didn’t work… made me almost break down in tears.
I wasn’t a bad parent. She wasn’t a bad kid. We were just doing this all wrong.
So what is a Spirited Child (Strong-Willed)?
- Have you ever had those moments where you think, I’m doing everything every other mom suggested and it’s not working!
- Is your first kid sweet and calm and your second kid out of control… and you are stumped at how they could be so different? After all, you raised them the same way!
- When you are fighting with your child, do you feel like sometimes you are talking to an adult with the way they argue back?
If you answered yes to ANY of these… Congratulations! You have a spirited child. Now, what does that mean? Here are the most common traits of the Spirited Child:
1 – Spirited Kids are Super Early to rise
Little kids wake up early, but as they grow they start to sleep in later and later until they are about school age when getting them up in the morning can be really tough. Not the spirited child. They wake up EARLY their whole lives.
You’ll be lucky if they ever sleep past 6 am. If I can get my daughter to 7 am, it’s a good day! And don’t even bother trying to keep them up late at night in hopes that they sleep in. A spirited child can stat up until midnight and STILL wake up at 6 am the next morning. Best to just put them to sleep early!
2 – Spirited Kids have crazy perseverance
What a spirited kid wants, they want. And there will never be a way to tell them no. When they have their minds set on something, you need to just sit back and let it happen. Having a spirited child means letting them learn things on their own a lot… and making mistakes the same way.
3 – Spirited Children wake in the night
My daughter is 9 years old. She has yet to sleep through the night. Spirited kids wake up anywhere from 12-3am each and every night. For my daughter, it’s 1 am. Right around 1 am every night of her life, she wakes up.
As a baby, I could hand her a bottle and she would go right back to sleep. As a toddler, I would be able to redirect her back to her bed. And now at 9 years old, she still wakes up. Sometimes she sneaks in my room just to give me a kiss, but mostly she has learned how to just stay in bed and go back to sleep (after a bathroom run and a drink of water).
Don’t be too afraid and don’t fight it. For years I tried to get her to sleep through the night. When I realized it was a losing battle, I just found ways to work around it.
4 – Spirited Kids have large emotions
You may have noticed your child has HUGE emotional outbursts. You can usually see them coming and you know there is just no stopping it.
However, they also love hard too. Spirited kids have large emotions when it comes to their hearts. You will never be loved more, you will never get more snuggles or kisses as you would from a strong-willed child. Embrace that.
5 – Spirited Kids want to do it all
This can also work in positive or negative ways. When given a certain task, they will do it until it is 100% done. And they will want to do it all themselves. Spirited kids can often be big helpers around the house because of this characteristic.
But it can also be tough when you are trying to get out the door and they need to dress themselves, do their own hair, make their own breakfast… Be patient. It can seem tough at first, but these kids will be taking care of themselves before you know it. Faster than most kids their age.
6 – They Don’t transition well
Spirited kids are really focused on what they are doing. So when its time to put something away and focus on a different task, they have a really hard time doing that. This is often when meltdowns occur. If you ever question why your child throws a tantrum because you said its time to read a book when they were just playing with a puzzle…. you have spirited kid.
7 – Spirited Kids Need a schedule
Do you want peace in your home? Give your spirited child a schedule. They LOVE routines and schedules. They thrive on it. The more structured you can make their day, the better their reactions to anything will be.
8 – Spirited Children are always on the go
Their little bodies are crazy active. I’m not a medical professional but if you asked me, I think a spirited child has a naturally higher metabolism then most kids. They are usually petite, extremely active, and have a hard time sitting still.
Even sitting at a meal can be a challenge. The best thing you can do for your high energy kid is to keep them busy. Sports, activities, even household chores, and games. They love being kept busy.
9 – Every year feels like their teen years
My daughter has had the attitude of a 16-year-old since she could talk or walk. I joke all the time that she’s getting it all out of her system now so that by the time she is an actual teenager, it’ll be out of her system and she will be sweet and calm… haha yeah right!
But seriously, because they are emotional and intelligent, its like you have a teen living in your house long before you ever actually do.
10 – Spirited kids are perfectionists
If my daughter is doing her homework and messes up, she gets pisssssed. Not because she messed up that math problem, but because now her paper looks messy. And she wants to start over on NEW paper.
Spirited kids not only need to do everything themselves, but they also need to do it perfectly. They may go through a lot of paper when learning to draw because they often rip it up and start over at the tiniest mistake.
11 – They are dramatic and intense
Everything my daughter sees or hears affects her. She overanalyzes every look a kid gives her and needs to talk about every situation that happened at school and WHy it happened. But she can also be like this at home.
Accidentally bump into a spirited child? They will most likely fling themselves to the ground and cry out that you hurt them… on purpose!
12 – Spirited kids are Sensitive to the touch
We went through a stage where socks were hard to wear because the seam by her toes bothered her. Every morning before school was met with trying on at least 8 pairs of socks to see which one bothered here the least. And often we would be driving to school when she would suddenly fling her shoes and socks off and say she couldn’t take it anymore.
A lot of materials will bother a spirited child. Tags on clothes need to be cut off, the itchy material makes them freak out. Spirited kids are very sensitive to the touch.
13 – Spirited children are perceptive
Don’t ever try to hide anything from a spirited kid. They can tell when you don’t like another adult (asn ask you 100 questions about it), they can easily tell when you have had a bad day or are frustrated. Spirited kids pick up a lot more around them than most kids their age do. Be prepared to talk to them about almost anything… they have a lot of questions!
14 – they Don’t do change well
Much like having a routine, spirited kids have a difficult time with change. If you want to try to go on a trip or have dinner at a friends house… your best bet is to give your child as much notice as you can. talk to them early about what you are going to do and your expectations on their behavior, and you will have a more cooperative kid.
15 -Spirited kids often have anxiety and negative thoughts
It often hurts my heart to see my daughter constantly think that everyone hates her, that everyone is looking at her funny, or that people are talking about her. This usually isn’t the case, but with spirited kids, they can be very sensitive and think certain things are about them.
They also ask so many questions, you will wonder what the deal is. Why do we ask 100 questions about what our day at school is going to be like? Because kids don’t like change, so they often get anxious about what they are going to experience. Each and every day.
Does your child display any characteristics of a Spirited Kid?
If you went through this list and checked off the majority, or even half, of these traits… then you definitely have a spirited child. Don’t be afraid! Being able to pinpoint their spirited child personality can be a game changer in your home.
Now that you know you have a spirited (or strong-willed) child, it becomes a whole lot easier to help them and learn how to parent them the right way. So everyone can have peace in your home, reduce the tantrums, and have a more easy going child.
What helped our family the most was starting to implement Positive Parenting. This book was a game changer in our house and helps you to not only understand what positive parenting is but why your child is the way they are.
Another great read is this book about spirited kids.
* And don’t forget to check out more of my Spirited kid series: