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Parents can be spirited, too!

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 16 November 2021

What makes a child's behaviors challenging? Discover how parents are part of the equation, and how changing our perception can go a long way in guiding our child.

Q: It's not only children who can be referred to as spirited?

DR. KURCINKA: Parents who read my book say that they learn as much about themselves and their spouses as their children. It applies to everyone. We all have a temperament. We all have an arousal system. We all have to learn how to calm ourselves.

We see spiritedness in babies, and we also see it in grandparents.

Q: I have learned from your book that I am especially sensitive to sensory experiences, and I notice this affects how I parent in certain situations.

DR. KURCINKA: That's why spiritedness takes into account your own temperament. If you go into a grocery store, you're immediate in sensory overload and will be less sensitive to your children, especially if one of your children has inherited your sensitivity. It's best if you don't skip naptime and all go to the grocery store: You won't make it out! 

Q: When you're in the moment with a seemingly challenging child, it's easy to forget that parents are part of the equation.

DR. KURCINKA: It's what Chess and Thomas [child psychiatrists and temperament researchers] call "goodness of fit." Say you have a high-energy child and you're a high-energy parent. You're probably not going to notice any difference. Now, what if that high-energy child had a low-energy parent? That's when high energy becomes a problem.

Not only does temperament help you understand and give you practical strategies to teach and cope, but you also see that because of this child, your life is richer and your child ahs led you to see and do things you never would have done without him.


This is Part 2 in a 3-part series with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, EdD, author of Raising Your Spirited Child. In Part 1, we learned what it means for a child to be spirited. In Part 3, we'll learn what to do when our child's behaviors go beyond spiritedness into a possible behavior disorder.


Negative labels change how we view our child