Parental Advisory

The Spirited Toddler Quiz, Part 2

In our look at spirited toddlers and answering the question of is Ellison spirited or just eccentric, we come to the second characteristic of most spirited toddlers…persistence. If there’s one thing about Ellison, she’s persistent, but how much more than any average toddler. Again, the goal here is to take an honest swipe at Ellison’s behavior and assess whether or not she’s clinically spirited (which there’s no such thing as “clinically” spirited because it’s not a clinical condition, but recognizing how you’re child’s different from others will help you develop good practices in teaching, correcting and loving this spirited child). Writes our author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka:

Persistent kids are committed to their tasks. If they want a cookie, they’ll keep coming back until they get one. They are goal-oriented, unwilling to give up easily. Many parents of spirited children are baffled by the fact that spirited children can be both persistent and perceptive. They wonder how spirited kids can forget two directions from their parents, yet remember the Kentucky Fried Chicken stand fifty miles back and insist on going there. They answer is simple. Spirited kids are persistent when they are motivated and personally interest in the idea or activity. If it’s their idea, they won’t let go of it. If it’s yours, they are much more interested in what else is going on in the world around them. They world needs people who are persistent, but as their parent you can expect to expend more energy and skill to win cooperation.

Bullheaded, stubborn, relentless. It’s a trait that can be especially irritating for a new parent. Long hours staring at yourself in the mirror trying to amp yourself up for another quarrel with your little one. Sleepless nights wondering why she hates you. Beating yourself up because this little baby who has only been on this green earth for eleven months doesn’t understand language and won’t stop climbing the screen on the fireplace. Asking what constitutes “abusive language” and have you crossed that line in correcting your persistent daughter? Look, when it’s the nature of child…if she’s truly spirited…the answers become much clearer. But first, let’s determine Ellison’s level of persistence.

Looking at these scenarios that help illustrate the persistence of a child or toddler, she certainly leans closer to the right hand side on the first scenario. I’ll give her a 4 outta 5 on the first one. Once she sees something she wants, determines where she wants to go or identifies a target, she’s gonna have it and won’t be denied access. This has proven to be especially challenging as she becomes a walker because she’s mere steps away from getting what she wants. She can scale walls, pull up on tables, turn things over, knock things down. When Ellison wants something she’s gonna get it. Why not a 5? Only because she can often be diverted or distracted by something else which disproves any “locks in” characteristic. When Tucker locks in, there’s gonna be blood. Ellison can be reasoned with. Secondly, the crying. We’re gonna give her a 3 on the duration of her crying. Lately, she can be pacified in about ten minutes or so. Sometimes we have bouts that last a longer, but nothing close to an hour. It feels like an hour sometimes because it’s in the middle of the night, but almost always they’re ended under a half hour…usually less than ten minutes. The last scenario deals with the acceptance of “no.” I’m proud to say that Ellison is very responsive to “no.” Our house rule on the word “no” is that it’s used sparingly and authoritatively. It’s a loud and succinct NO! not the machine gun “nananananananana!” or “eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh!” “No!” is unmistakeable. Brief. Like a quick explosive. Sometimes a little frightening to a toddler. But she responds very well when you speak her language. Don’t talk to her like a caveman and she will cease in most cases. She might go back to doing what she was doing later, but you can break the immediate behavior with “no” most of the time. I’m going to give her a 3 outta 5 for the reason that she sometimes will break only as long as you’re looking and then she’ll go back to doing what she was doing as soon as you’re not looking.

Altogether, we’re gonna give Ellison a 3.33 rating on persistence. More persistent than an average child, but only slightly. I told my lovely wife that I was scoring her 3.33 outta 5 and she gave me the same look that I’d expect if I told her that discovered a third arm growing from the middle of my back and the hand had seven fingers. You’d know the look if you saw it.

This brings our score to 7.33 outta 10 total. If you’re tired of me using the word “outta” already, let me know. It’s a word in my world. And the Mac’s dictionary also recognizes it:

outta |ˈoutə| (also outa)prepositionan informal contraction of “out of,” used in representing colloquial speech : we’d better get outta here.

On that note, I’d better get outta here. The kiddo’s waking up.


One thought on “The Spirited Toddler Quiz, Part 2

  1. Cousin Carrie says:

    First of all, I think the use of ‘outta’ is appropriate. flavor. Second, this makes me wonder who in the family could be classified as ‘spirited’…. one out of ten…. there has to be someone here..!

    I am completely excited for the 1-year photos 🙂 Hope you and Erin have a great time celebrating Ellison’s one year – CONGRATS!

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