Taming the Spirited Child: Strategies for Parenting Challenging Children Without Breaking Their Spirits

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9780743286893: Taming the Spirited Child: Strategies for Parenting Challenging Children Without Breaking Their Spirits

Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled “defiant” or “rebellious”? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame—not break—a spirited child.

Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, or hyperactivity. In this uniquely prescriptive guide, leading parenting expert Dr. Michael Popkin shows parents how to think differently about so-called problem children. The effective strategies within this guide will quiet the difficulties spirited children have at home and school while exposing the unique, special gifts they possess.

Develop a relationship with your spirited child by:

-Building relationship skills
-Disciplining with encouragement
-Balancing the power dynamic
-Curbing tantrums effectively

With step-by-step methods for every type of misbehavior and every child's unique personality, this comprehensive guide will help parents cultivate their child's spark, not extinguish it—and reach beyond depressing labels for their beloved children.

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About the Author:

MICHAEL POPKIN, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Active Parenting Publishers, helping millions of parents to develop cooperation, responsibility, and courage in their children. Dr. Popkin lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his family. To find out more please visit his website at www.activeparenting.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

Do You Have a Spirited Child?

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

-- Jack London (1876-1916)

Jack London, a talented and popular writer of adventure tales, including Call of the Wild, the story of a sled dog in Alaska, spent his adult life writing, championing social causes, and struggling for peace of mind. London was probably once a spirited child, the kind of child that prompted the late humorist Sam Levenson to quip that "insanity is hereditary -- you get it from your children." If you have a child who is driving you crazy, chances are that you are grimacing rather than laughing right now. I'll also wager that you find yourself angry a lot. You may feel like one mother who confided to me recently, "I never even knew I could get angry until I had Alex!" Some kids just seem to know how to push our buttons in ways we never dreamed possible.

Such kids have been called by many different names over the years -- and to be sure, they are not all alike. They used to be simply referred to as "defiant" or "rebellious." Later, books were written about "the problem child," "the strong-willed child," and "the difficult child." They are often described as impulsive, hyperactive, aggressive, noncompliant, difficult to manage, ornery, temperamental, oppositional, or just "all boy." Some kids even get diagnostic labels such as ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), obsessive-compulsive, bipolar, and so on. Sometimes these labels are useful for knowing what, if any, medication might be prescribed to help a child. I'm not here to engage in label bashing because, when medication can help, I'm all for getting that help to children and their parents. I'm also not suggesting that all of these children are the same. There are often important differences between children diagnosed one way or another, differences that affect the choice of treatment.

But often labels are merely arbitrary handles that writers and mental health professionals use as shortcuts for fuller descriptions of behaviors that they think get in the way of a child's successful functioning in society. We also know that such judgments are specific to our time and place in history. A hyperaggressive child might have been highly functional in a war-making society in the Dark Ages, for example, but in this century he will likely wind up in the principal's office, the boss's office, and the warden's office unless he changes his ways. Jack London, though one of the most talented and successful writers of his time, suffered from alcoholism and depression, and died at the young age of forty an unhappy man, his spirited nature never successfully tamed.

Changing the Child's Ways, Not the Child's Being

The one thing that all of these labels have in common is that they are negative. Defiant, problem, rebellious, strong willed, and the like all smack of an underlying condition that needs to be healed. They suggest that there is something abnormal about the child at a very deep level. Something seems to have gone terribly wrong in the child, and it must be remedied. Once this is understood, the theory goes, it can be treated; and once treated, the child can be returned to normalcy. This will ensure that he no longer spends time in the principal's office, the boss's office, or the warden's office. Instead he will function as a contributing member of society, pay his taxes on time, and contribute to a growing gross national product.

This pathology-based approach is not always all bad. A lot of kids and their parents have been helped by it, and many more will be helped by it. The problem, however, is that by dwelling on a presumed underlying problem, we can miss the real strengths these nonconformist kids bring to the table, the gifts that characterize spirited children. They are not pathological at their core. Most have a fire and energy at their core that, if harnessed, might fuel a lifetime of great achievement. While their particular ways of expressing this energy is often out of sync with the times in which they live, the power within them should be a source of inspiration for the rest of us. Certainly they may need to redirect their gifts, so that they do not become the unwanted warriors in a time of peace, the unacknowledged iconoclasts in an age of conformity, or the untamed thoroughbreds never invited to the Kentucky Derby. Which brings me to the following analogy.

Seabiscuit Rides Again

The movie and book Seabiscuit stole the hearts of the public in 2003. In 1938, the underdog horse upon which the story was based became the champion by defeating the legendary War Admiral by four lengths. Seabiscuit became a hero during a period of American history, the Depression, when people needed to believe that the little guy could succeed in spite of overwhelming odds. Seabiscuit, a small horse with a huge spirit, came to the rescue of a nation.

Of course, if you saw the movie, you'll remember that Seabiscuit wasn't always a champion. In fact, he was actually an untamed, out-of-control terror that was almost put to sleep because he caused so much chaos. Fortunately, a wealthy owner saw promise in Seabiscuit's rebelliousness and bought him, saving the future champion from a bullet. There is a powerful scene in which five or six handlers try to rein in Seabiscuit, while he struggles mightily against their attempts to harness him. They are losing the battle and ready to give up when a young red-headed jockey (the story's other hero), who has a partially untamed spirit of his own, also sees something special in this defiant, strong-willed, difficult to manage, magnificent horse. The talented and caring jockey is able to win Seabiscuit's trust, tame him, and help realize the championship potential with which this spirited horse was born.

It is obvious where I am going with this, right? Inside many spirited children are champions who need the taming of firm and loving parents, or surrogate parents, to bring out their best and perhaps save them from self-destruction. Without such taming, the lives of these kids can go further and further wrong, often ending up in one form of confinement or another. In and out of time-out as children, they resign themselves early to being at odds with any form of authority. As teens, their spirited behavior gets them into more and more trouble -- sometimes landing them in jail, a hospital, a psychiatric unit or worse.

Taming, Not Breaking

Some parents mistakenly believe that they need to break the will of a spirited child, even punishing him into obedience, like a horse trainer who beats a horse until the animal breaks. This was not how Seabiscuit was tamed, and it's not about to work with most spirited kids. The problem with the heavy-handed approach is that spirited children have a keen sense of respect and disrespect. When parents rely on punishment, especially harsh punishment, to break the child's will, the child feels trampled on and becomes resentful. Since these kids are anything but passive, they do not take such perceived injustices lying down. They rear up like Seabiscuit and rebel. Some of these kids can rebel very well and very long, which accounts for that feeling of anger on the part of the parent that I acknowledged in the opening paragraph. Parents who try to break such children are in for the fight of their lives -- often becoming frustrated and angry, if not thoroughly defeated. I'll talk more about these kinds of power struggles, and about methods to avoid them, later in the book. I'll also teach you methods for taming spirited children that are much more respectful of you as a parent and your child as a person, as well as more successful.

Some parents are thinking right now that they know of at least one child who has been successfully broken by a strong-willed parent who used a lot of harsh discipline. There are even well-known child experts, whose books suggest breaking the child's will through punishment. But even if you could use sufficient force to break the child, here's my question: Why would you want a broken child when, with a different approach, you could have a whole child who behaves well? I speak from experience, as well as from my professional training. Our son, Benjamin, was a spirited child. He would throw the most impressive tantrums, the reverberations from which may have registered on a Richter scale someplace. He had his own mind, and he wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. By the time he was four, we knew it was time to intervene. Oh, he was also charming, happy, funny, smart, and otherwise a joy to be around. Our job as parents was not to break him, and risk losing all of these positive gifts, but rather to tame him so that he learned to use his gifts in positive ways.

For years I had been teaching other parents strategies for raising challenging, powerful children. I had worked with hundreds of frustrated parents in therapy sessions, and over two million parents had completed my Active Parenting courses, six-session video-based groups that teach a complete approach to parenting. Many had taken time to write about how well these methods worked, not only to change their children's lives but to improve their own lives as well. We had some twenty different studies showing the effectiveness of these methods and thousands of parent educators who endorsed and used our programs.

But now it was time to practice with our own spirited child what I had preached. The shoe was on the other foot, and at times it pinched. My wife and I found that though these strategies worked, they required a patience and awareness not as necessary as when parenting our other, quite-diff...

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Descrizione libro SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled defiant or rebellious ? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame--not break--a spirited child. Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, or hyperactivity. In this uniquely prescriptive guide, leading parenting expert Dr. Michael Popkin shows parents how to think differently about so-called problem children. The effective strategies within this guide will quiet the difficulties spirited children have at home and school while exposing the unique, special gifts they possess. Develop a relationship with your spirited child by: -Building relationship skills -Disciplining with encouragement -Balancing the power dynamic -Curbing tantrums effectively With step-by-step methods for every type of misbehavior and every child s unique personality, this comprehensive guide will help parents cultivate their child s spark, not extinguish it--and reach beyond depressing labels for their beloved children. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780743286893

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Descrizione libro SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled defiant or rebellious ? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame--not break--a spirited child. Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, or hyperactivity. In this uniquely prescriptive guide, leading parenting expert Dr. Michael Popkin shows parents how to think differently about so-called problem children. The effective strategies within this guide will quiet the difficulties spirited children have at home and school while exposing the unique, special gifts they possess. Develop a relationship with your spirited child by: -Building relationship skills -Disciplining with encouragement -Balancing the power dynamic -Curbing tantrums effectively With step-by-step methods for every type of misbehavior and every child s unique personality, this comprehensive guide will help parents cultivate their child s spark, not extinguish it--and reach beyond depressing labels for their beloved children. Codice libro della libreria BZV9780743286893

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