When a child is "spirited," the toddler years can be especially trying. But what defines a spirited child?
"All toddlers are busy: They're climbing and jumping and throwing things," says Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of the popular books Raising Your Spirited Child and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime.
"But the high-energy kid is the one who can get to the top of the refrigerator," says Kurcinka. "All toddlers say 'no' too, but a spirited child's 'no's!' are louder and more frequent, and his tantrums last longer and are more intense."
Spirited kids are definitely a challenge, but there are ways to defuse daily battles and help a toddler learn self-control. Here are Kurcinka's top strategies:
Spell out what's coming next
All toddlers become anxious when they can't predict what's coming next, but most spirited children need events spelled out to a degree that you might not expect. When it's time to leave the playground and your 2-year-old throws herself on the ground howling, it might be because she's insecure about what's coming next.
Tell her in detail: "You'll go to the car, we'll drive straight home, find your sister and grandma there, and have spaghetti for dinner."
Remember that with toddlers, words aren't always enough. You might tell her "Daddy will pick you up from daycare this afternoon," for example, but she may well have trouble remembering it all day. In this case, you might ask her daycare provider to remind her later in the day that Daddy's handling pick-up duties.
Sometimes visual cues can help. If Grandma and Grandpa are coming for an annual visit, show her photos ahead of time. You might even make a picture book outlining her bedtime ritual: Bath, pajamas, story, bed. You can't cut all the surprises out of your toddler's life, of course, but you can minimize the stress by giving her a heads-up when you can.
Be clear and consistent
Spirited children need the security and consistency of clear rules, so it's important to set limits. If nap time is always after lunch and your spirited 3-year-old puts up a fuss, be firm and confident as you enforce his rest period. If movies aren't allowed after dinner but you let him watch "just this one" tonight so you can make a phone call, he'll test you and demand one – forcefully – every night for the rest of the week.
"As toddlers move toward independence, they still need connection," says Kurcinka. Maybe your toddler would like a backrub before bed. Or she might enjoy cuddling with you in a rocking chair in the morning.
Have her bring toys into your room so she can play near you while you dress for work. At daycare, sit with her on the floor until she moves into the group on her own.
These tactics may seem to slow you down initially, but they'll actually save you time in prevented tantrums and battles. "Toddlers need to know they can trust you to be there for them. That way they'll ultimately be more independent," says Kurcinka.( source:baby center)