Raising a Spirited Child: Personality vs Discipline

Before I had kids I thought I would be a great discipliner of my children. I would say NO and they would have a great fear and respect for me and immediately listen and obey. HAHAHA. Oh boy, I was soooo wrong. Now when I tell Jude NO he looks at me and laughs. I thought that maybe my stern face wasn’t scary enough but then I remembered I look like my dad and everyone that sees my dad immediately trembles. (That’s just how he looks, he’s really a nice guy.)
What is it about disciplining your own child that can be so difficult?

As Jude’s personality started to develop Joe and I realized that we were in for a ride. While both Joe and I are very laid-back, introverted people Jude is the complete opposite. He demands attention and has never met a stranger. He is the quintessential “spirited” child.

For awhile Joe and I struggled to wrangle this crazy child as we learned which discipline techniques do and do not work for him. We are finally starting to make advances with him but this journey has been challenging. Challenging to the point where I dreaded the thought of taking him out in public. I was convinced we didn’t get invited to events because of Jude. I began to compare myself to other mothers and compare Jude to their children. I would secretly pray that moms with easy going children would be “blessed” with a “spirited” child so they would understand how I felt. I felt that every time we went somewhere people were judging me and assuming that my wild child was the result of not enough discipline. (I felt like I was being judged because before I had kids I was a judge.) I cried and prayed and asked God why. Why was I blessed with a “spirited” child? 

I decided that he needed MORE discipline and STRONGER punishments but the more I pushed, the harder he pushed back. After several months of complete turmoil I wanted to call it quits. I threw in the towel and declared that was his personality and there was NOTHING we could do about it. But I knew in my heart that he needed to be discipline, he longed for it and I needed to find that secret formula that worked for him. So I decided to do wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. I decided to play opposite day. I met his tantrums with soft quiet voices. I tried to speak peacefully even when I was enraged. I got down on his level, made him look me in the eye and spoke loving words of discipline to him and his reaction was astounding. He was calmed and receptive to my quietness. Before I’d been trying to strong-arm him, force my will upon him but he is a unique individual that needs loads of encouragement. While he may be wild and crazy he has a tender little heart. The results of positive praise were amazingly different than when we tried to sternly rebuke him. 

We still use stern voices when needed but most of the time he just needs a little encouragement. Encouragement to do the right thing. Encouragement to accept our discipline. So I’ve become his biggest cheerleader. I praise him when he does what’s right. To often we only rebuke for what is done wrong and don’t give credit when things are done right. I encourage him to apologize, ask for forgiveness and make things right when he’s done wrong. I encourage him that he can do the right thing and that he knows how.

But I’m learning. I’m learning how to teach my “spirited” child to behave appropriately, to discipline him according to his needs. I’m learning that what works for other moms won’t always work for us. I’m learning to NOT compare myself to other moms and NOT compare Jude to other kids. I’m learning that it’s OK for my son to be a crazy boy sometimes. I’m learning that his personality is beautiful and is what makes him so very special, I wouldn’t want him any other way. His energy and spirit are vibrate. He’s a flame that refuses to be put out. 

While we still have difficult days I wouldn’t trade him for an “easy-going” child in a million years. I love being the parent of a “spirited” child. (If I tell you differently I’m just stressed out.)

Similar Posts