Since the time Andrew was born, I knew had loads of energy and was quite high needs. He once screamed for the entire (hour-long) car ride home when most babies would have eventually given up and fallen asleep. We have probably had to leave stores, restaurants and outings more in the last month than most people ever will. Andrew doesn't respond to "no" or distract easily to a new task as I have seen other kids his age do. He is also a mover- walked around 10 months and has been running ever since. He has a delightfully curious nature- he wants to touch everything all the time and see how it works.
Now, I have found there is actually a term for kids like him- "spirited" and I have begun delving into a book called "Raising your Spirited Child."
Basically, spirited children share the same characteristics of their peers- just more of each. They have huge extremes. Andrew go from being the happiest, sweetest little boy giving "kisses" on minute to flailing on the ground, screaming the next. Typical discipline techniques to not work on these spirited kids- which can be quite frustrating. It is both the best and the worst.
Mary Sheedy, the author of the book describes "spirited children" into five major categories. Andrew fit into every one.
1) Intensity- Their reactions are always powerful
- This is the category Andrew actually had the least amount of points in, because he is not necessarily loud and screaming all the time.
However, Andrew's tantrums are loud and his emotions seem to explode. Today, informed him we needed to get out of the car to bring groceries into the house. This was not on his agenda and he preferred to sit in the car for the moment. I could just feel the fit starting as I told him again- and sure enough. It came. His intensity is not always in the form of a tantrum though. He also shrieked with joy earlier as he propelled down a slide at the park.
One way to help the intensity is to use techniques like humor to stop them. So allowing Andrew to throw a fit for several moments, I started tickling him and laughing. He eventually settled down and we tried one of his other "settle down" favorites- washing his hands. Water, in general, helps to calm him down a lot...
2) Persistence- They don't give up or give in easily
Overall, this is an excellent trait for people to have. We all need to learn about not giving up and sticking with things when they are tough. This is not, however, always a great attribute when dealing with a toddler...and Andrew scored the highest here.
If he wants something and his mind is set, it is incredibly difficult to distract Andrew. He remembers things from weeks ago, doesn't take "no" for an answer and attempts to keep going until he gets what he wants. This is great when he attempts new skills- last week, we kept trying and trying to climb up a slide (as he saw some big boys doing) and didn't stop until he figured it out!
It can also be exasperating. I have heard other parents remark that when they give their kids a firm "no" or use time-out, etc. their kids eventually give up. Not Andrew. Yesterday, he wanted some Chapstick and I put a bit on his lips and then hid it in a drawer. This was apparently not good enough. He wanted to also hold it. I told him "no" and went to fold some laundry. When I turned around- he was standing on his tiptoes to reach another tube of chapstick Adam had left on the counter last week. The little bugger actually remembered this!
3) Sensitivity- Strong reactions to noise, crowds or even irritating clothes
This one was made obvious a few days ago when we ventured out to the Children's Museum. The other times we went were weekday mornings, when it was relatively quiet and Andrew had a fabulous time- particularly at the water station. I (stupidly) didn't even think that the environment might be a tad different on a Sunday afternoon.
Let's just say, I had anxiety and wanted to leave. Andrew was getting frustrated about the lack of personal space and began grabbing at other kids hair and faces. We left and had a much better time just walking around the city and stopping at Starbucks.
4) Perceptiveness- Noticing anything and everything
I really don't think this characteristic is a frustrating one...unless you are in a hurry to go somewhere! As they get older, these kids can appear distracted and to not be listening.
Since Andrew is a toddler, I am not sure how well any of them listen yet, but I have observed him noticing things I miss. Today, we walked by a lady and Andrew said "hi" and then started yelling "daddy." I was very confused, as this woman obviously looked nothing like Adam. He kept insisting and pointing at her shirt- a Seahawk emblem pictured on the front. Adam always wears a Seahawk hat. Smart little guy.
5) Adaptability- transitions and changes are stressful for these guys
Andrew has a pretty set schedule and if things are not in the order he expects, he can become quite upset. A little girl he always sees at daycare was not there the other day and they informed me he cried for about 20 minutes. He likes his meals, naps and bedtime at the same time each day- and is not really what you would call "flexible."
So, while it may sound silly to decline a birthday invite or get together during naptime- with him, it is really not worth it or fun to go. We have learned this and just hope his new sister is a bit more flexible with her schedule!
I have just started getting into the parts of this book where it addresses how to handle your "spirited" child and so far, many of the strategies have helped. Spirited children are smart and it is nice to focus on the fact that he is wonderfully sweet and intelligent than to become exhausted when he is really showing off his "spirit."