I have been blessed with two very spirited children. Some might call them stubborn, strong-willed, demanding and loud.
But I prefer the word spirited.
I have been reading the book Raising Your Spirited Child recently, and it has been so amazingly helpful for me in thinking about how I am parenting and raising these two little people who can bring me such overwhelming joy, and be such a huge pain in the butt, all within about 2.5 seconds.
When I first started reading this book, I read the introduction, and cried. I cried because I felt like I had finally found a book that seemed to understand my children, and understand where I was coming from as a mom trying to raise these children. And I cried with the realization that I have not one, but two spirited children, and they are only 20 months apart in age.
In the second chapter of the book, the author talks about the labels we use for our kids, and the way that they affect our perspective and perception of our kids and their behavior. Basically, how the words that we use to describe our children have an impact on the way that we think about them. And so, how important it is to use positive and affirming labels, instead of negative ones, for our kids.
I love that the author has decided to use the term spirited for children that are often labeled difficult, stubborn, strong-willed, manipulative, etc. What a perfect example of turning negative labels into a positive one.
And she describes spirited children as ones who are “more”. More intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic – basically everything that my kids are. It’s not that any of these characteristics are bad, it’s just that spirited children have are more of them, and that makes them different, and also more challenging to parent.
I cannot begin to tell you the impact that changing the way that I describe my children — as spirited instead of many of those negative labels — has changed the way that I view them and relate to them on a regular basis.
Now, this definitely does not mean that I am a perfect parent, or that somehow they have turned into perfect children. We still have what feels like more than our share of challenges on a daily basis.
But, I really believe that the way I choose to respond to these challenges, and to my children in general, has changed for the better. And I think many parents could benefit from looking at some typical labels we might use with our kids, and trying to come up with more positive alternatives.
Here are a few examples to get us started:
Instead of: loud… enthusiastic
We can choose to use positive labels when we think about our children, speak to them, and even talk to others about them. The labels won’t only affect our perception of our children, but the way they feel about themselves, and the way other people view them. Our kids deserve for us to focus on their strengths and abilities, and not on their weaknesses.
Here is a great list of positive words to help encourage you in replacing negative labels with positive ones:
ambitious, artistic, attentive, authentic, brave, bright, brilliant, caring, cheerful, clever, compassionate, committed, confident, considerate, courageous, courteous, creative, curious, delightful, dependable, determined, devoted, eloquent, encouraging, entertaining, enthusiastic, exploring, expressive, faithful, friendly, funny, generous, genuine, genius, gentle, giving, gracious, helpful, honest, hopeful, humorous, intelligent, interesting, joyful, kind, loving, loyal, motivated, neat, noble, optimistic, original, outgoing, outstanding, patient, peaceful, persistent, positive, quality, reliable, remarkable, resourceful, respectful, responsible, selfless, sensitive, sincere, smart, sociable, spontaneous, steadfast, strong, thankful, trustworthy, truthful, understanding, unique, unwavering, upbeat, valuable, vibrant, zestful*
How do you describe your children? Could using positive labels have an affect on how you view the difficult aspects of your child’s personality or behavior?
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*List adapted from alphamom.com