Sunday, April 29, 2007

a new bible

It's called Raising Your Spirited Child: a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic. It's written by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka who lives and teaches here in the Twin Cities.

I cried through the first two chapters. I'm not even sure I can explain why because it's complicated. I felt validated. I felt a burden being lifted. I felt understood. I felt regret for not having read this book years ago when I think it would have helped me so, so much. I felt that in spite of not having read it, I have not frigged things up too royally. I've actually learned some of these techniques for raising spirited children the hard way, through experience.

When I started reading this book, I began to realize how much I've let other people's judgements of my child-rearing get to me. A stranger once yelled in my face, "What kind of mother are you?!" Another, after witnessing a Marcus tantrum, snidely whispered (loudly) to her friend, "Can you say, spoiled?" Throughout the years, many people at church have said things along the lines of, "Watching you with your children during sacrament meeting exhausts me." One told me this just a few months ago. People have given me shocked and disapproving looks when I let my children do dangerous things at parks, like climb to great heights.

Sorry, I got side-tracked. I could babble incoherently about this book and this topic if I let myself. I will try to be articulate.

Whether it be from other's comments on my parenting or my own observations and analysis, I have often felt like a failure as a parent. I've read a few parenting books and tried to apply their ideas only to be disappointed by the results. What has worked for other people doesn't seem to work for me or my children.

I have only read the first five chapters of this book, but there have been lots of light bulb moments. I scored each of my children's temperaments on the spirited scale, and all four fell squarely into the spirited category. I rated them on nine traits. All of my children, for example, scored a 4 or 5 out of 5 on "intensity." A "5" would be "never just cries--wails or explodes; a living staircase of emotion, up one minute, down the next; and every reaction is deep and powerful." The other eight traits are persistence, sensitivity, perceptiveness, adaptability, regularity, energy, first reaction, and mood. Most children will score high in one or more of these, but according to Kurckinka, only about 10 percent of the population would score high enough to qualify as "spirited," a term she coined.

And guess who outscored all of my children? Yes, it was me. It seems that I am a "spirited parent." (J is the only unspirited one around here. :-) He scores very high in energy, but fairly low on the other traits.) No wonder I often feel completely sucked dry at the end of a day with my children. I do have abundant energy, but I use a lot of it to keep myself under control!

What I like so much about this book is Kurcinka's positive spin on people who are "spirited." Why call a child "stubborn" when you can say "persistent?" Why "wild" when you can say "energetic?" How about "picky" vs. "selective" or "loud and obnoxious" vs. "enthusiastic and zestful?" Reading this made me feel so much better about myself and my children. Yes, I had realized that these traits can be very positive, but I hadn't thought much about the importance of always referring to my children's spirited traits in a positive way. How many times have I said, "Don't be so picky!" or "You are the loudest thing on God's green earth?" Pointing out to children that they are "selective" or "zestful" helps them develop a positive self-image, and it is crucial to teaching them how to manage themselves, a sometimes overwhelming task for the spirited child.

The book does not simply name "naughty" something new and palatable, it aims to help parents of spirited children train their children to remain calm and collected when faced with a new situation or whatever else could potentially set them off.

The friend who recommended this book to me says she's read it at least five times. Only one of her three children is "spirited." It seems that many families mentioned in the book so far have also only been blessed with one spirited child. I hope there is something in there about what to do with several!


sippinghotchocolate said...

by the sounds of things i think i would be the spirited one in our household too. it's hard to not ignore what other people say about one's children. i'm the same way. if so and so said that i was a cow i wouldn't care a hoot, but say something nasty about my children then they're dead meat!

i haven't read the book but i know we have one spirited child. she takes after me.

ave said...

I'm glad that I talked with you the other day about this book. I think I will read it. I think Lmx fits the spirited discription to some degree. Just today at church I wondered, why can't he ever whisper? Other children his age whisper, sit reverently and color etc. Each week for us is a battleof nerves at church. JW and I often look at each other in wonderment and think "Where did he come from?" I wouldn't consider myself spirited according to the book, but I am ultra sensitive and prone at times to hyper activity. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Karen ~ said...

Have this book, LOVE this book. Now I need to go re-read this book.

Glad you found it, it's a goodie.