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parenting a “spirited” child

Picking a Halloween costume. Much to Mommy’s dismay, Raggedy Ann is not the winner.

Although I realize I handily place myself into a parenting cliche with this next observation, I’m going to say it anyway: Vivi is a special kid. I know, I know, I went there. I even nerdily bolded the text. Go ahead and call me a trite mother. But it’s true, she is special! Ever since she turned to me at eighteen months old after a lengthy car trip and said “Oh my goodness, that was long!,” I knew I was in for a parenting experience I wasn’t quite expecting. The child knew about 150 words (counting what she knew in Spanish too) and spoke in 5-word sentences by the time the doctor told me at her check-up that she should know “about three to five words.”

Here’s a round-up of cute videos of her learning to talk and sing:

Since I went through a sizable gap in posting videos while I was pregnant with Charlie, I’ll post another I just came across, in which Vivi explains poop when she was 2 years, 4 months

Speaking of videos, I apologize for not posting any lately, but it seems my computer (and only my computer) rejects the Flip video camera now. It just won’t recognize it at all when I plug it in, which means I’m missing lots of chances to take new video. Gotta fix that ASAP, I know.

Back to my Vivi tales. As a toddler, Vivi was cautious at first around strangers, but “first” was always probably only about 5 minutes at the most before she was sitting in their lap and asking them to play with her. It wasn’t until having a truly shy child (Charlotte) that I realize Vivi is just about the most precocious, outgoing child I’ve met.

Well, come to that, I suppose it was both having Charlotte and maybe also the time at three years old that she sang “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” into a microphone in front of a large church gymnasium full of strangers. What a ham. Last week she told a new adult acquaintance within minutes of greeting him that her daddy got her a bike with training wheels and that they were “the fastest wheels in the whole town.” Ha! Where does she come up with those lines?

As for her affection, Vivi was not a cuddly baby at all. She was go-go-go 24/7 from birth, and one could only describe her infant posture as “muscular.” As a toddler she matured into a very affectionate child, wanting to sit with and hug all of her friends and family frequently. I adore her loving demeanor and hope she stays that way forever.

Recently, however, her outgoing nature is manifesting itself in a loving but not necessarily entirely lovable manner. Beginning at my family reunion this summer, I noticed she is aggressive in her cuddling with adults. For example, rather than just sit on a lap, she bounces and grabs the adult’s face with her hands and makes loud, one syllable noises. I avoid using the word annoying because she is such a sweet and good natured kid.

It’s the kind of behavior that approaches downright obnoxious and begs an interjection on my part. Understandably, none of our friends or family want to discipline or parent her, so they politely try to distract her from the behavior and get her talking about something else. I’ve explained about “nice touch” and how it’s okay to hug and tell a person you’ve missed them and love them, but it’s not okay to grab their face and spit on it (yup, I literally had to tell her that). But this is a kid who will not easily be derailed from her course.

If I didn’t know better, I would say she’s vying for attention from a new baby. But since we haven’t had any major life events lately, I’m at a loss as to what is causing the shift. Vivi is approaching four and a half, and she starts pre-K in a few days, a fact that she proudly shares with the postman or whoever else asks. I have a feeling some of these issues will work themselves out, as phases generally do. Is this normal “end of summer” behavior?

In the meantime we are searching for ways to bridge the gap. I’m consulting my copy of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 for parenting ideas; the two common mistakes they discuss, too much talking and too much emotion, both ring true for us at times. I also placed Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic into my library queue, and I hope it offers some assistance. I would love to hear from you as well. Has anyone else out there been through a similar experience with an intense, spirited child? Do share!

I love having a kid who enjoys dress-up as much as I do! 

Editor’s note: This post is part of Seasonal Celebration Sunday and The Homestead Barn Hop