Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic

Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic

by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka


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The spirited child—often called "difficult" or "strong-willed"—
can easily overwhelm parents, leaving them feeling frustrated and inadequate. Spirited kids are, in fact, simply "more"—by temperament, they are more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and uncomfortable with change than the average child. Through vivid examples and a refreshingly positive viewpoint, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka offers parents emotional support and proven strategies for handling their spirited child. Raising Your Spirited Child will help you:

Understand your child's—and your own—temperamental traitsPlan for success with a simple four-step programDiscover the power of positive—rather than negative—labelsCope with tantrums and blowups when they do occurDevelop strategies for handling mealtimes, bedtimes, holidays, school and many other situations

Filled with personal insight and authorative advice, Raising Your Spirited Child can help make parenting the joy it should be, rather than the trial it can be.

Author Biography:
Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, M.A., is bestselling author of Raising Your Spirited Child. She is a nationally and internationally noted family educator providing training for parents and professionals who serve them through small group discussions and private consultations. Kucinka has more than twenty years' experience as a pioneer and award-winning educator in Minnesota's Early Childhood Family Education Program and is the founder of the Spirited Child and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles workshops. She lives with her family in Eagan, Minnesota.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060923280
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/04/1998
Pages: 292
Product dimensions: 5.34(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Ed.D., is the director of ParentChildHelp. She is an award-winning lecturer and parent educator. Dr. Kurcinka provides private consultations and workshops nationally and internationally for parents and for professionals serving families and children. She is also the bestselling author of Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook, Sleepless in America, and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


An opportunity to fall in love, fodder for frustration, source
of anxiety, and an unending puzzle--this is my spirited

-- Diane, the mother of two

The word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive, and uncomfortable with change than other children. All children possess these characteristics, but spirited kids possess them with a depth and range not available to other children. Spirited kids are the Super Ball in a room full of rubber balls. Other kids bounce three feet off the ground. Every bounce for a spirited child hits the ceiling.

It's difficult to describe what it is like to be the parent of a spirited child. The answer keeps changing; it depends on the day, even the moment. How does one describe the experience of sliding from joy to exasperation in seconds, ten times a day. How does one explain the "sense" at eight in the morning that this will be a good day or a dreadful one.

The good ones couldn't be better. A warm snuggle and sloppy kiss awaken you. He captures you with his funny antics as he stands in front of the dog, a glob of peanut butter clinging to a knife hidden in the palm of his hand, and asks, "Is Susie a rotten sister?" The dog listens attentively. The hand moves just slightly up and down like a magical wand. The dog's nose follows the scent, appearing to nod in agreement. You can't help laughing.

Profound statements roll from his mouth, much too mature and intellectual for a child of his age. Heremembers experiences you've long since forgotten and drags you to the window to watch the raindrops, falling like diamonds from the sky. On the good days being the parent of a spirited child is astounding, dumbfounding, wonderful, funny, interesting, and interspersed with moments of brilliance.

The dreadful days are another story. On those days you're not sure you can face another twenty-four hours with him. It's hard to feel good as a parent when you can't even get his socks on, when every word you've said to him has been a reprimand, when the innocent act of serving tuna casserole instead of the expected tacos incites a riot, when you realize you've left more public places in a huff with your child in five years than most parents do in a lifetime.

You feel weary, drained, and much too old for this even if you were only in your twenties when your child was born. It's hard to love a kid who keeps you up at night and embarrasses you in shopping centers.

On the bad days being the parent of a spirited child is confusing, frustrating, taxing, challenging, and guilt inducing. You may wonder if you are the only parent with a kid like this, scared of what is to come in the teen years if you don't figure out what to do now, in the early years.


You might have known since pregnancy that this child was different from other kids, normal but different. She might have kicked so hard during pregnancy that you couldn't sleep from six months on. Or it might not have been until birth, when the nurses in the nursery shook their heads in dismay and wished you luck. It could have been years later. At first you might have thought all kids were like this. Your "awakening" might have come with the birth of a second child--one who slept through the family gatherings instead of screaming and let you dress her in a frilly dress instead of ripping at the lace. Or it could have been the birth of your sister-in-law's child, the one who could be laid down anywhere and promptly went to sleep. Your sister-in-law proudly beamed as though she had done something right, while your child continued to fume and fuss, causing all the eyes in the room to turn to you, silently accusing, "What's wrong with yours?" Your intuition has fought the stares and the indictments brought against you, knowing, believing that this child was tougher to parent, but not quite sure if you were right, and if you were, you didn't know why.


You probably haven't heard the term spirited children before. That's because it's mine. In 1979 when my son, Joshua, was born there weren't any spirited child classes or books. In fact the only information I could find that described a kid like him used words such as difficult, strong willed, stubborn, mother killer, or Dennis the Menace. It was the "good" days that made me search for a better word to describe him. On those days I realized that this kid who could drive me crazy possessed personality traits that were actually strengths when they were understood and well guided.

My Webster's dictionary defines spirited as: lively, creative, keen, eager, full of energy and courage, and having a strong assertive personality. Spirited--it feels good, sounds good, communicates the exciting potential of these kids, yet honestly captures the challenge faced by their parents. When we choose to see our children as spirited, we give them and ourselves hope. It pulls our focus to their strengths rather than their weaknesses, not as another label but as a tool for understanding.


Each spirited child is unique, yet there exists distinct characteristics in which more is very apparent. Not all spirited children will possess all of the following five characteristics, but each will exhibit enough of them to make her stand out in a crowd.

Raising Your Spirited Child. Copyright © by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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