University of Illinois Extension
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Coping with the "Spirited" Child

Children who are highly active present a unique challenge for their parents. These children are often labeled as energetic, difficult, active, busy, wild. Even though they try a parents' patience, they have lots of positive qualities. They can be creative, strong-willed, very capable, and have great imaginations- qualities that will be beneficial as an adult.

It is very unlikely that a parent can change their child's temperament. Energy level is inborn. As the child gets older, his behavior should become less disruptive. The older they get, the better able they are to direct their energy into an activity.

Life with a spirited child can be made easier. Here are a few hints:

  • Think safety at all times. Keep an eye on the child at all times. Childproof your home.
  • Have a regular routine. These children benefit from set bedtimes and regular mealtimes.
  • Provide the right environment for the child. Have the child go to a small family day care home rather than a day care center. They do best in a quiet, homelike atmosphere. Have toys that let them use their large muscles. Give them lots of time outdoors.
  • Keep the child involved. Have them help chop vegetables, set the table, wash dishes. When they are kept involved in an activity, they can be entertained for a long time.
  • Recognize your child's limits. Watch for clues and step in before your child gets out of hand.
  • Know your own temperament. If you are energetic too, you can cause your child to become overstimulated. Try to remain calm yourself so your child will stay calm.
  • Have your child get lots of sleep. They may act like they don't need sleep, but in fact, they need as much, if not more, than others. Allow for a full hour of quiet time before bed so they have an easier time falling to sleep. Put them to bed the same time each evening. An early bed time is helpful to the parents as well as the child.