Everett's better: moderating the 'spirited child'

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Places To Go, Development/Milestones: Babies, That's Entertainment

everett is calming downAs he nears four years of age, Everett, my son who long has seemed a poster boy for the moniker 'spirited child,' is actually becoming less "intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic" and more... moderated. More manageable.

He's not a whole different boy. I cannot claim that my parenting skills have been an unqualified success. But I can claim that he's indubitably changed over the past six months. My sister-in-law, who was spending one or two days a week with Everett before she moved a good 500 miles away in July, visited this past weekend and was amazed at the transformation. And today, we ran into friends at Starbucks, and I was relating how intense Everett was.

"He seems calm now," said "Grandma Barb," who was reading her grandson and Everett a Berenstain Bears book. And I realized: yes. He is calm, or, you know, as calm as is possible for a three-year-old boy whose boyishness is permanently in overdrive. He's theatrical, but it's a social theatrics, meant to inspire love and laughter in the kids he meets. He's intense, but it's a focused intensity not unusual in children of any age. He's energetic, but isn't that supposed to be a good thing?

So I had to ask myself (being the analytical mother): how did I get here? How did I turn my lunatic of a 2.5-year-old into a relatively socialized 3.5-year-old? And was it even any of my own doing? I think the answer is, something like: consistent boundaries. And consistent consequences.

When Everett's daddy was away for several months of Army training, and during the end of my pregnancy with Truman and during his early weeks, I was a discipline vacuum, letting Everett get away with whatever would keep the screaming and whining to a minimum. I bribed, oh yes, I did. Every time we went to Target, he got a Thomas train, and he had to literally scream the entire time for it to go back on the shelf.

But with Daddy home and as the months went by, I started to toughen up. I backed up Jonathan on his hard-and-fast discipline (you whine, you get nothing) and his babysitter's crackdown on temper tantrums (one. single. fit and he got no gold stars for the day - 10 gold stars would earn him a DVD). We instituted "who's the boss"-type rules: when mommy is working and/or the babysitter is present, someone is the ultimate boss and all requests and discipline filter through "the boss."

We've been working on getting more consistent with schedules, although that has been implemented rather ineptly, and we've been attempting to give Everett a lot of one-on-one attention and opportunity to just run. Accompanying Daddy to track practice a few times a week and running laps with the high schoolers does wonders in both areas. (Everett calls the star hurdlers "those big girls" and adores them.)

I think diet helps, too, and I push bananas and oatmeal and eggs and bagels and peanut butter on him; the more protein and complex carbs in his diet, the better, it seems.

Whatever is the one right answer, our strategy is definitely working. If you have a spirited child like Everett, what's worked for you? Or are you still in the discovery phase?

Now if I could only get him to clean his room... but that's a story for another day.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.