My oldest son was a toddler full of energy and very curious, he would ask endless amounts of questions and demand my attention all the time; he also wanted to touch/taste everything. His reactions tend to be on the aggressive side, and by that I mean, he is not a big fan of “using his words”, especially with his brother.
Somebody once told me that he was a very “spirited” boy and somehow that didn't sound to me like a positive thing, but now I understand where that term is coming from. According with the API (Attachment Parenting International), the simple definition of the spirited child is simply that he/she is more. More intense, persistent, sensitive, energetic, perceptive and uncomfortable with change among other things.
It is not easy to treat a super energetic, strong willed kid, when you don’t have the knowledge/ tools; this totally leads to frustration and shame when you feel like it is your fault, and you are failing as a parent because you do not know how to handle it. First of all, be kind to yourself and give yourself some credit.
In my case, I have done my research trying to understand my complex lovely son; first of all I have taken notice of his strengths, try and turn the negative into positive.
Many times, these types of kids seem to be strong and tough on the outside, even extroverted, but are really sensitive. If you pay close attention and listen you will most likely find a gentle soul.
I’m not going to pretend that the high levels of energy are just going to disappear; the fact is your kid needs to release that energy somehow, channel it, and use it in a good way. Remember, it is not just that they want to move, they need to move!
I recently learned something from the book “Parenting from the inside out” from author Dan Siegel, which changed the way I see my kids completely. Turns out the part of the brain in charge of reasoning is among the last to mature and it really does not reach full maturity until at least the mid-20’s.
So, the first areas of the brain to mature are those with the most basic functions, therefore, we should not expect our little kids to have very civilized sophisticated reactions to frustration, for example.
Good news is, by the age of 3, children develop empathy, so you can try and show your child how his/her actions make you feel, this helps kids understand you by mirroring their emotions in yours.
I know it is difficult, but, try to embrace the uniqueness of your spirited child, the intensity with which he/she lives life. Here are some good books to help you with your journey:
Parenting from the inside out b, Dr. Dan Siegel.
Living with intensity by Susan Daniels.
You can’t make me (but I can be persuaded): Strategies for bringing out the best in your strong willed child by Cynthia Tobias