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Behavior of the Spirited Child


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The spirited child is MORE of everything.  These children are more persistent, intense, sensitive, energetic, perceptive, and serious than other children.  They are often uncomfortable with change and struggle with transitions.

These intense, spirited children can be difficult for a parent and teacher to tame without breaking their spirit.  It is helpful to understand that their behavior is a form of communication.  Negative behavior might mean they are overstimulated or don’t know how to communicate what is bothering them.  Traditional forms of discipline typically don’t work with spirited children.  The most effective way to parent or teach these children is to use positive reinforcement.  Look for ways to motivate them and encourage them, to build their self-confidence.  If they get overstimulated at transition time, offer a five-minute warning so they know what to expect, this will allow them to process change.  If they are having trouble concentrating in the classroom, look for sensory issues such as florescent lighting or noise in the room that might be causing them discomfort.  Provide the child with a quiet area in their bedroom or in the classroom, such as a carpet square with pillows, to give them sensory breaks to calm themselves.  This will also help to teach them self-regulation. 

The way you speak to the child is imperative.  Try to put a positive spin on things.  Rather than say, “Please clean up your mess.”  Rephrase it with, “Please put away your dishes in the sink.”  If the child is being bossy say, “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way. Despite your strong feelings, I expect you to ask politely.”  Be clear with your expectations.

If the child act outs and has a meltdown, it is best to stay calm and not overreact yourself.  Don’t make a bad situation worse.  Keep a calm voice and model the appropriate behavior you want the child to learn.  Practice or role playing is a good way to show the child a better way to respond to a situation. 

Spirited children are willful.  They will be persistent and push until they get what they want.  The child will be the most successful in the classroom if the teacher gets to know them and works with their temperament.  If the child gets the positive attention they crave, they will be less likely to react negatively.

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