Author Archives: Sallie

The Joys of a Differently-Wired Child

The Joys of a Differently-Wired Child

The Joys of a Differently-Wired Child

So far in the 31 Days of Learning Differently series we’ve focused a lot on the challenges of homeschooling and parenting a differently-wired child. As I was reading some comments earlier today, I realized that I needed to also write about the joys of having a child who fits this description.

As I mentioned in another post, it took me a few years to get to the point of truly enjoying parenting a spirited child as opposed to trying to come up with ways to survive. LOL! I can say I truly do enjoy my child now. David and I have both said many times that God knew we needed a court jester to lighten things up around here and so He sent Caroline.

So where to begin with the joys of parenting a differently-wired child? There are so many to choose from!

Exuberance

Caroline has a zest for life that spills out spontaneously. She doesn’t just love something. She LOVES it! She doesn’t just get excited. She gets EXCITED! She doesn’t just enjoy something once. She wants to enjoy it AGAIN! and AGAIN! and AGAIN! It’s good to be reminded on a daily (and sometimes hourly!) basis that life is worth celebrating and enjoying to the fullest.

Playfulness

I’m not an especially playful person except for when it comes to words or a battle of wits! Having a playful daughter has helped me remember not to take life so seriously. It forces me to forget my mental to do list I’m trying to plow through each day and spend some moments just enjoying the playfulness of a child.

Creativity

I love seeing my child create, especially in ways I am not very talented. I love it that my child already excels beyond me in some areas. I love that she is so naturally creative and enjoys it. She looks at things in ways I would never consider and that stretches me.

Imagination

I’m not an imaginative person. I’m really not. Caroline has more imagination in her pinky than I have in my entire body. It has been eye-opening for me to live with an imaginative person. And not just an imaginative person, but a person who could be imaginative all day, every day if given the time and space. And who never gets tired of finding new ways to stoke her imagination.

Sensitivity

Differently-wired children are often very sensitive. Having a highly-sensitive child has provoked growth in me in terms of patience and compassion. It has also driven me to prayer to know how to effectively parent a sensitive soul which I hope, in turn, has made me more Christ-like in how I treat others and not just my daughter.

Compassion

Differently-wired children are also frequently compassionate souls. They feel deeply and sincerely. Seeing Caroline’s compassion and care in action whether it is for one of us, one of her stuffed animals, or one of her Minecraft pets stirs me to greater compassion toward those around me. It also gives me great hope for the impact she will have on others throughout her life.

Joy

All of these different qualities combine to bring greater joy to our home. Joy over new goals attained, experiences enjoyed, and lessons learned. Although I have invested much in an effort to understand my child, I have been blessed with great joy as I see the fruits of our labors expressed in a wonderful little girl.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Transitions and Your Differently-Wired Child

Transitions and Your Differently-Wired Child

Transitions and Your Differently-Wired Child

We’ve had a couple of significant aha moments that changed our parenting. One I mentioned in a previous post had to do with Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child. The other one we figured out a bit earlier and is probably even more important if you are raising a differently-wired child. This has to do with transitions.

Planning for and carefully executing transition periods is so important for differently-wired children.

Transitions Defined

Transitions are when your child goes from one activity to another when she does not have control over the change. For example, if your child is reading and decides she wants to play with LEGOs, that is not a transition. Here are examples of transitions:

  • When your child is reading and you are leaving for the grocery story in fifteen minutes and she has to go with you
  • When your child is deep in an art project and dinner is going to be ready shortly
  • When your child is playing outside and has to come in for a bath
  • When your child is being pokey over breakfast and you need to leave for church
  • When your child is watching a video and you have to leave for a medical appointment

Any time your child is actively and happily engaged in something and you are going to force them to change direction, it is a transition.

Planning Transitions is Essential

Differently-wired children absolutely need help with transitions. This isn’t optional. You need to work this transition time into your plans whenever you are going to do something else. If you try to rush your child through a transition, you are going to end up with a protracted battle on your hand.

On the other hand, if you help her become familiar with the steps of a transition, 98% of the time it will go smoothly once you have established the expectation of what it means to do this.

Transitions are Loving

Transitions are a tangible way that we love and respect our child as an individual. No one likes to be interrupted with a demand to immediately change what we are doing when we are engaged in something we enjoy. By helping our child through transitions, we are saying that we know that her interests are important to her and we want to work with her.

Some people promote a view of parenting that demands immediate, first-time obedience. They even go so far to say that you should make unreasonable demands of your child just to prove your authority. No. Just no. That’s not loving or respectful. And it is definitely not a helpful way to parent a differently-wired child.

How to Transition

The exact details of how to transition will vary by child and takes some trial and error. but here is how we did them when Caroline was younger and we were helping her understand what transitions were in our home. Take what I offer here as a starting point and then adapt it to your particular needs.

Our transitions start in the morning or even the day before. If we have appointments, we tell Caroline ahead of time so nothing is a surprise. If we have to go away in the morning, we talk about it at supper the night before and again at bedtime. If we have an afternoon appointment, we discuss it at breakfast (or even the night before).

Official transitions start anywhere from five to fifteen minutes before we need to change activities. This is dependent on her age. When she was younger, we gave her less time. Now that she’s older and often involved in elaborate activities, we’ll give her more advanced notifications.

We start by telling her face to face that in fifteen minutes we’ll be getting ready to leave for the doctor (for example). We tell her she needs to finish up what she is doing and pick up in a few minutes. Here is the big thing:

You can’t just walk through the room and say it in passing. Stop in front of the child, make sure the child looks directly at you while you speak, and have her repeat back what you said.

Getting an uh-huh isn’t enough. Hollering it from the bathroom when she is in the kitchen isn’t enough. You need to be face-to-face, especially in the beginning.

Once we absolutely know that we’ve communicated the information, we let her continue doing what she is doing. Five minutes later, we go back and tell her she has five more minutes and then she will have to stop. We remind her to start finishing up. Get the verbal confirmation. Five minutes later we go back and help her finish up, pick up and move on.

So we’ve given her five minutes to continue doing what she is doing with the knowledge she has to stop soon. We’ve given her five more minutes to start thinking about wrapping it up. And we ensure five minutes to help her stop, clean up, and move on.

Transitions Greatly Reduce Conflict and Stress

I can honestly say that handling transitions in this way dramatically dropped the drama, stress and conflict in our home. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but like most ways we train our children to understand procedures, it makes a huge difference for everyone.

Now that Caroline is older (eight years old), our transitions have simplified a great deal. Each notification takes a few seconds and we generally transition very quickly at the end. This was not the case in the beginning so it is nice to see the fruits of our labors.

How do you effectively transition your child?

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Adjusting Expectations as the Parent of a Differently-Wired Child

Adjusting Expectations as the Parent of a Differently-Wired Child

Adjusting Expectations as the Parent of a Differently-Wired Child

A few years ago I read an article that was both comforting and disconcerting. It was comforting because after reading it I understood our situation a bit better and I knew I wasn’t alone. It was disconcerting because I didn’t want to accept the reality of what it contained.

The Restless Ones discusses children who are characterized by the Edison Trait as described in the original book The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Free-Thinking Child in a Conforming World and the revised book called Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School. In the article, they are described this way (bold mine):

They are spirited individuals who live life with passion and determination, firing out an endless stream of questions and often recklessly pursuing their own desires (like Edison, who wanted to see how fire worked and accidentally burned his father’s barn to the ground).

“They are conundrums, children with a profile that is both intriguing and maddening,” explains Palladino. “These children are appealing, daring and entertaining. Yet they are frustrating, demanding and difficult to raise.”

Their temperament and intellectual style will shake the stamina of the most devoted and patient parent. “Forget mom doing anything except challenging this child,” says Julie Chapman, admissions director of the Oak Hill Academy in Dallas. “These kids are physically and mentally hyper; they can’t shut off their minds. Yoga is not going to work for them.”

To be clear, Caroline is not reckless or wild. She’s not physically hyper either. But she can be intense! I admit my heart skipped a beat when I read the bold part. I felt better to be sure. This was when things really started to click for me that Caroline was differently-wired in some significant ways. It was reassuring to hear that even the most devoted and patient parents will find themselves stretched in this circumstance because I did feel really stretched.

At the same time, I’m honestly not keen on giving up the rest of my life while raising my child. I don’t think it is good for me, David or Caroline for my sole focus to be on challenging my child. But the reality is that if you have a differently-wired child it is going to change your life trajectory. It simply is.

I’ve had to adjust my expectations for my life.

Over the past several years I’ve invested a lot of time in reading to understand my child. That is time that I couldn’t devote to my personal or spiritual life.

I honestly don’t get enough time alone to be healthy and whole. I really don’t. I know it has taken a toll on my health.

My spiritual life has taken a hit. Between Caroline and me, we’ve missed a lot of church over the past several years. A lot. Finding community has been non-existent. Just being in church has been a challenge. I don’t get to attend Bible studies any longer. And we won’t get into my (lack of meaningful) quiet times. (Also reference lack of time alone mentioned above.)

My professional life has taken a huge step back. When Caroline was a baby and toddler there was no time or energy to do much professionally. I have a bit more now, but not enough for it to be satisfying or without stress from taking the time to do it.

And because my professional life has taken a huge step backwards, so has our financial life. I sometimes wonder what is going to happen financially to many families in the future who have sacrificed so much in order to homeschool their child.

These are the realities of having a differently-wired child. I know that our situation is not unique in this regard. I’m sure this story could be repeated in many, many other homes. I’m sure there are parents with many more challenges than the ones I’ve listed above.

Has it gotten easier as Caroline has gotten older? Of course.

But I think most parents in this situation will tell you that it truly changes the trajectory of your life. While many families might feel that homeschooling is a choice they make, I feel like it is a choice that is made for me.

And, honestly, there is something hard about that.

This is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Parenting and Homeschooling as an Introvert

Parenting and Homeschooling as an Introvert

Parenting and Homeschooling as an Introvert

This was originally posted August 11, 2012, on my previous blog. Caroline was almost six and I thought that she was an extrovert at the time. I’ve since concluded that she’s more introverted, but did not alter the original post to reflect this. I’m posting it now to add it to my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

The past few weeks have been hard.  I hit the proverbial wall this week and it all had to do with being so strongly introverted. On the bright side, I think God allowed me to realize something in the midst of it.

Singleness and childlessness were two of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced.

Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I struggled with singleness and childlessness.  Those seemingly never-ending years were an important part of my faith journey, and God used both of them in significant ways to shape me as a person.  But in the midst of them I never really felt like I had any control over the situations. I could pray and wait and trust.  It seemed that the overall theme that kept rising in my life was that God was calling me to patience and waiting in the midst of each situation.

But the parenting thing.  This feels different. I’m not waiting on God to move and change something. It’s something I have to get up and do every day. And it is challenging in a completely different way. Yes, I need to rely on His power in my life to parent well.  But it is still different than the paths I walked before. And so far I don’t see an overall theme coming forward to give me encouragement and confidence that I’m on the right path in my thinking about the situation.

The past couple of weeks have been full of people and devoid of any meaningful introvert time for me which is a sure recipe for disaster on pretty much every level.  I started searching for articles online about parenting and introverts and found some gems.  I felt encouraged after reading them if for no other reason than I knew afresh I wasn’t alone.

I thought Why Introverts Fail at Attachment Parenting had some fantastic gems of truth.  Oh my.  A few statements resonated loudly in my weary heart and mind, especially in contrast to so much of what is written about Christian parenting and homeschooling…

To put it simply, being an introvert means that being around other people slowly depletes my energy. I love talking with people, but it is as though I have a word limit both for hearing and for speaking. Once I have exceeded my limit for the day, I begin to lose my ability to be a kind or even polite person. I cannot be around people—any people—24/7. I absolutely have to have alone time to recharge my emotional batteries.

and

I am fully convinced that many—if not all—of the parenting experts favored by liberals are extroverts. Extroverts find themselves energized by connection to other people. So it isn’t surprising that extroverted parenting experts have told us that we should be overjoyed at spending every waking minute with our children. Extroverts have a nearly unlimited number of words that they can hear and say in a day, so they have told us to be constantly attentive to what our children say, to engage in every conversation. Extroverts can talk for hours on end, so it seems perfectly reasonable to them that everyone should be able to be tuned into toddler babbling and grade-school chatter for days on end without becoming suicidal or homicidal. Extroverts enjoy being in close physical proximity to other people and can go for days on end without any alone time. So they believe that everyone should be able to be able to wear a baby in a sling, be snuggled up to another person 24/7 without going completely out of their minds. 

and

I would argue, however, that the first step to being a good parent is being a self-aware person. It is knowing and honoring your own limits. I believe that we are better parents when we work with our nature rather than against it. For those of us who are introverts, this means that we honor our own need for space, for quiet, for time alone. We do these things not because we are selfish, but because they make us better parents.

and

Look at it this way, when we discover that our children have special needs, we move heaven and earth to make the kind of accommodations that will allow them to thrive. Even if we decide that being an introvert handicaps us as a parent, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to make reasonable accommodations for ourselves so that we can thrive as parents.

I also appreciated a discussion I found on Mothering.com that tackled Introversion and Parenting. I related to many of the comments.

I laughed out loud a couple of times while reading Pity the Introvert.  I loved this (and so will my mother-in-law):

A few years ago – well, probably around ten years ago, now that I think about it – one of my older sons asked me what my favorite day of the week was.

“Monday morning,” I said, “When everyone goes away.”

and this comment from a reader named Sue:

The first day of school after a long summer is the highlight of my year. I would walk back to my car saying ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last!” Have you ever read ‘Party of One: The Loners Manifesto’ by Anneli Rufus?? Some of it is a stretch but I liked her description about spending hours with friends would leave her feeling drained, like she had donated blood..all day long.

I thought Amy made some really great observations such as:

On days when everyone is around all day, I must stay up later than everyone in order to feel like I exist. I don’t mean that overdramatically, I just mean that my self doesn’t feel really connected until it’s…quiet and I can process stuff in my head.

coupled with this…

My oldest son is an extrovert. I mean…he’s an extreme extrovert. It took me a long time to figure this out. It all finally came together for me in the aftermath of doing one of the Myers-Briggs inventories (for school, of course. So we could all get along, etc.) and observing him during one more aggravating trip to the grocery store in which he could not, would not leave either his brother or sister alone. It finally hit me, “If he’s not interacting with someone, he doesn’t feel alive. ” And I grasped the corollary of that which was that I feel most alive when I’m alone. And we were going to have to figure out a way to co-exist.

This is EXACTLY where I am with mothering Caroline. Bless her little extroverted, only child heart… She wants interaction ALL. DAY. LONG. The other day we took her to the Children’s Museum in the morning and then we ran some errands.  When we got home mid-afternoon, her tank must have been full because she actually went into the learning room and was fully engaged A.LONE. for the better part of an hour. I vacillated between total shock and thanksgiving. But it took all of the attention from me AND David until three in the afternoon before she got to that point. We simply cannot do that every day.

And bedtime… If she doesn’t have her word and interaction quota met… She CANNOT go to sleep or stay in bed. Drives me nuts to no end.

And, yet, I’m the same way on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s past midnight and I should be in bed. I want to be in bed. But I’m sitting here typing because it is finally quiet and I can finally find a way to bring some life back into my introverted self. I can’t go to bed until I’ve had my introvert time.  She can’t go to bed until she gets her extrovert time.

I have no idea how this is going to work. I’ve asked myself more than a few times lately if I am simply incapable of homeschooling and being a healthy person. And yet I believe with every fiber of my being that homeschooling is the best thing for Caroline even though she is an extrovert.

No answers tonight. Just some thoughts put to electronic paper so I can quiet my own mind and go to sleep.  :-)

This post is part of my my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Getting Spirited Children to Sleep and Related Challenges

Getting Spirited Children to Sleep and Related Challenges

Getting Spirited Children to Sleep and Related Challenges

This was originally posted oh my previous blog on December 4, 2012, when Caroline was six years old. I am adding it to my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

One of the most popular posts on this site is Raising a Spirited Child and Feeling Like a Bad Mother. (I wrote it when Caroline was about three and a half and I was so frustrated with her bedtimes.) Many people end up on this blog looking for information on spirited children and make their way to my Raising a Highly-Sensitive and Spirited Child page or one of the posts I’ve written on this topic.

Every once in awhile I see a search engine phrase in my StatCounter listing that just breaks my heart. You can tell by the words the person is searching that she is really struggling with parenting a spirited child. A few times I’ve wanted to be able to write to her or contact her to offer encouragement, but there is no way for me to do that unless she leaves a comment.

Today I received an email from someone and it made me realize I need to do an update on the content of that post from two and a half years ago. The email said:

Dear Sallie,

I just came across the above post from 2010 and as I read it, I started thinking, :Did I write this?” I could have – word for word. I am an introverted mother of a spirited toddler who will be up until 9:30 -10 PM. even with a 7:30 start time on her bedtime routine, every night. No matter how patient I try to be during the day, at night I have none after the third request for a hug and kiss or to put her sheet back on. Please tell me it gets easier!

Thank you!

Yes, it does get easier in many ways.  (And in a few ways it hasn’t.)  But here we go!

I’m going to share what I’ve learned in parenting Caroline.  The following may or may not work for other parents and their spirited children.  But I can honestly say that I’ve been there done that in a way that a lot of other parents of non-spirited children haven’t. I’ve survived infanthood, toddlerhood, the preschool years and kindergarten with a spirited child. And not only have I survived, I’ve gotten to the point where I enjoy my spirited child. She’s a whirlwind of joy and enthusiasm. She is a great little girl who is kind, helpful, thoughtful, compassionate, creative, imaginative… so many wonderful things. But it took me awhile to get to the point where I really enjoyed her and not just looked for ways to cope with her spiritedness. Here’s what I’ve learned. See what you can glean to use in your own home and ignore anything that doesn’t make sense for your particular child.

Filling the Spirited Child’s Tank

The biggest thing I have learned is that you have to fill the tank completely before bedtime. When a spirited child’s tank is full, she is more apt to go quietly to bed.  And by filling the tank I mean emotionally she feels full, verbally she’s gotten it all out, creatively she’s fully expressed herself, and physically she has had enough action during the day. This might sound obvious, but for an introverted parent it can be so hard to make sure a spirited child has a full tank in every way. It takes so much out of us to interact sufficiently with a spirited child. But I do think this is the biggest thing. When Caroline has gotten lots of attention, activity, and play she generally goes to bed quite well now.

Adjust Bedtime Expectations

Re: bedtimes. Caroline is on the very short end of the spectrum when it comes to sleep needs. She only needs about ten hours. So she’s up most nights until around 10 and she’s awake between 7 and 8. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve just had to learn to adjust our expectations in the evenings. I now go to bed later and get up later than I would prefer. I don’t get up before her even though I wish I could. But I need my sleep in order to function well. As she gets older and more independent, this will probably change. But for now this is what we’ve learned we have to do.

A Break for Mommy before Bed

Related to this is my need for a humorous, vegetative break each night. Every night I watch something funny before I go to bed. Cosby, Home Improvement, whatever. No drama and nothing serious. I have a snack and veg with something that makes me laugh. It really does make a difference in how I feel and it allows me to unwind in a way that reading or heavy content DVDs don’t.

Helping Spirited Children Fall Asleep

Spirited children are not good self soothers. I’ve read this in numerous places and believe it to be true. They have a very hard time turning off their minds because they are so full of ideas and questions. We always had to rock Caroline to sleep when she was little. I think we rocked her to sleep until she was three. Many nights she still needs help falling asleep. Either she wants David to rub her back or I sing Christmas carols to her (year round!). Eventually this will end, but we got to the point where we accepted this is what she needs from us and we do it with a good attitude (most nights). Even then we will think she must be asleep or almost there and her eyes will pop open and she’ll ask a string of questions about something or tell us a story she’s made up. We’ve learned to just let her talk at that point rather than trying to shush her and tell her to go to sleep. She has to get it out or she can’t sleep.  Once she tells us whatever it is or we answer her questions, she goes right to sleep.

And Other Spirited Child Sleep Issues

Re: the not knowing if you are going to get a Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde in the morning… That definitely changed. I think she outgrew that around the time she was a preschooler.  I was very glad for that!

Re: the length of time for her to go to sleep… We did shorten up the routine. When it became obvious to us that she was never going to go to sleep before ten no matter what, we adjusted things.

The bottom line is that you really cannot change them and their bedtime needs. I know that probably isn’t what parents of spirited children want to hear, but I believe with all my heart it is the truth. They have their own unique set of bedtime issues and it isn’t something you can “train” out of them. Somehow parents have to find a way to deal with the neverending bedtime routine and needs. Believe me when I say we tried every trick in the book, every bit of advice we could find and nothing works.  (Well, we didn’t try everything. We do not spank or threaten her.  That’s not an option. Period.)

I hope this is helpful.  If any parents are reading this, feel free to leave comments or questions!  There are a few other parents of spirited children (some grown) who read and comment here as well.  You are not alone!  There are other parents who understand.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Raising a Spirited Child and Feeling Like a Bad Mother

Raising a Spirited Child and Feeling Like a Bad Mother

Raising a Spirited Child and Feeling Like a Bad Mother

This was originally posted on May 24, 2010, on my previous blog when Caroline was three and a half. It was one of my most popular posts at that time and generated many comments as you will see below. I am making it a part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series and will have the follow-up from 2012 tomorrow.

I was reading on a spirited child discussion board the other day about how many of these children wake up early no matter what time they go to bed. Caroline is this way.  No matter what time she falls asleep, she is awake almost every morning between 6:00 and 6:30.  Keeping her up later does not make a bit of difference. In fact, it makes it worse.  Once in a great while she will sleep until 7:30 or even 8:00 and I seriously feel like I’ve had a vacation.  (A few mothers also mentioned the not knowing if they are going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde each morning. Um, yes, I get that too.)

Some moms were mentioning that they also experience the “might fall asleep in ten minutes, might be awake for two hours” problem that we also have. I cannot count on her to fall asleep within a particular amount of time no matter how tired or not tired she is.  We’ve tried every trick in the book.  It doesn’t matter.  Right now she is so tired (probably overtired because it took her forever to fall asleep last night) and she’s still awake after being in bed an hour.  And she isn’t just in there quiet.  She’s talking to herself, her animals/dolls, and whatever she’s reading.  Telling her to not talk doesn’t work because I honestly don’t even think she realizes she’s doing it 90% of the time.

By the end of the day, I just want her to go. to. sleep.  My patience is at the end by the time we get her in bed.  I’m tired of the constant chatter, I’m tired of being on, I usually still have work to do in the evening, and I just want some time to myself.  I cannot begin to unwind and decompress until she is asleep.  David is fortunate in that he can sit down and just start working as soon as she is in bed, even if she isn’t asleep. I cannot do it. So when she is awake until 9:00 or later, I stay up later because I need at least three hours in the evening to recover and unwind.  So then I stay up too late which makes it impossible to get up before her because skipping sleep doesn’t work.  So I don’t get enough sleep and then I have to get up when she wakes up and start all over again.

We’ve analyzed this every which way and the simple answer is: There is no solution. And it frustrates me to no end that we can’t find a way to make this work better.  I’m frustrated and tired of it.

I suppose some people will think I’m just selfish.  Being a mother means having children around.  Duh.  I know that.  I’m just trying to figure out how my personality and her personality are both going to survive the next fourteen and a half years.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I’m just venting this evening about something that’s been driving me nuts for a long time.  I hate ending the evening on a negative note.  I feel like a terrible mother when I’m short with her in the evening when it is time to go to bed or something happens to necessitate her getting out of bed. I know I need to keep praying that God will give me the ability to suffer long when the evenings drag on.

So what makes you feel like a bad mother?

If you came here via an online search, please note I have an entire page devoted to Raising Highly-Sensitive and Spirited Children.

I also have a follow-up post to this one: Getting Spirited Children to Sleep and Related Challenges.

Getting Spirited Children to Sleep and Related Challenges

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Parenting an Introverted Child

Parenting an Introverted Child

Parenting an Introverted Child

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you already know that I am extremely introverted and that I function best when I have lots and lots of time alone each day. When Caroline was little I was sure she had to be an extrovert because she always wanted to be picked up, walked around, and in close proximity to us. It seemed like no matter how much attention we gave her, she wanted more. (Yes, it truly pushed me to the edge at times.)

As she has gotten older, I’ve realized that I think she is more introvert than extrovert and she is far more to the middle of the continuum of the two than I am.

Introvert or Extrovert Test

I’ve been reading a copy of Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World that I received to review from Prufrock Press. The author (Christine Fonseca) says that you can identify whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert by asking this simple question:

So how do you figure out what is dominant for you or you children? Think back to a time when you were emotionally spent. What did you crave in that moment? Solitude? Time to think, process or reflect? Or did you want to talk with a friend? Go to a social activity? Run and be active? The answer to these questions can help you determine your dominance–introversion or extroversion.

When I look at it that way, I can see that Caroline is introverted. If we’ve been out and about, she retreats to her room.

So what do we do with these introverted, differently-wired children? Here are some things I’m thinking about in terms of both being an introvert and mothering one. Many of these ideas are discussed in Quiet Kids which is an excellent book. Even though I’ve read a lot about introversion over the years, this is the first time I’ve read one from a parenting perspective. Even knowing myself and my needs as well as I do, I’m still gleaning a lot from this book. If you have an introvert, I highly recommend it.

Introversion is Biological

Introversion isn’t something you choose to be or not. It is part of your biology. The book explains how introverts and extroverts utilize different chemicals in their bodies. This one is a no-brainer for me, but I’m sharing it because I hear from people who say their parents tried to force them to not be an introvert and it made life very difficult for them. I can imagine that is true because it doesn’t work! If your child is wired to be an introvert, please respect and support the way that she is naturally wired.

Introverts Can Implode or Explode

I’ve already learned this in my own life. When I don’t get enough time alone, I become desperate. Fonseca talks in the book about the various ways introverts will struggle to manage their lack of recovery time. Some explode. Some retreat. Some dogmatically refuse to cooperate with basic requests because they have entered self-preservation mode.

Does this sound like your child? If you have an introverted child who is on overload for lack of space and time, she may very well dig in her heels and become extremely uncooperative about routine things. Don’t assume she’s being combative or manipulative. It may be that she’s desperately trying to cope as best she can. And the younger she is, the less she’ll understand why she is even doing it.

Introverts Need Thinking and Reflection Time

This is a need. Like food and water and air. Okay, your child can probably get by without thinking time longer than water and air. But not forever. Not even for a few days without starting to feel the impact.

If you are homeschooling a child, take this into account. Introverts need time to think and reflect. They are not going to especially like fast-paced schoolwork that requires quick answers on demand. You are setting yourself up for a lot of battles and feet dragging if you think you can push an introvert to hurry up and give an answer all the time. Your introvert truly might need to stare off into space for ten minutes to think through an answer or even just get through the day.

Introverts Need Calm, Organized and Predictable Homes

Caroline lucked out in a major way in this respect. Calm, organized and (fairly) predictable is the way we lived before we ever had her. Our life is still this way as much as possible with the addition of a spirited child. LOL!

But, in all seriousness, introverts need to live in a place that allows them to rest and think. Chaos in the form of noise or clutter is a drain for an introvert. Give them their own room if at all possible. If this isn’t possible, make sure they have their own space and they have the opportunity to retreat to it ALONE when they need to do so. When your introverted child kicks her sister out of the room they share and states emphatically that she just wants to be left alone… She’s probably reaching that desperation point and not kidding that she needs to be left alone.

Love Your Introvert

Take the time to love your introvert. We live in a world dominated by groups, activities, noise and demands. Each one takes a little bit out of us. This is true for your child as well. Love and care for your introvert in the way she needs. You will both be blessed because of it.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Children Who Don't Fit Grade Level Parameters

Children Who Don’t Fit Grade Level Parameters

Children Who Don't Fit Grade Level Parameters

We’ve homeschooled Caroline from the beginning. Although we’ve wavered a bit here and there, we’ve remained committed to homeschooling, believing it is the best option for her for a number of reasons.

Because we homeschool, there have been certain issues we haven’t had to deal with. For example, Caroline has a late September birthday which means she would have made the cutoff for kindergarten, but she would have been one of the youngest kids in her class. An additional five or six months of development can be huge when a child is five or six. We’ve seen that first-hand with friends who have a daughter who is four months older than Caroline. When the girls were younger, I could definitely see my friend’s daughter was further along developmentally. Caroline was reading before kindergarten, but I’m not sure she would have been ready in other ways. Because we homeschool, we never had to make a decision about when to start kindergarten based on outside expectations. We simply started her when she was five and did what was developmentally appropriate for her.

Like many gifted kids, Caroline is asynchronous in her development. She is miles ahead of her age cohort in some areas and what would be termed “below grade level” in other areas. This really doesn’t concern me because I’ve seen firsthand that when the light goes on in a certain area, the mastery is rapid.  This has been true of walking, potty training, reading, etc. When she’s ready, she’s ready. It’s like flipping a switch.

Even in our homeschool co-op, the classes are multi-grades in the early elementary classes so she’s been in classes that were K-2 as youngest through oldest over the course of three years. At church, her different activities were mixed grade so they worked as well.

And then came grade specific Sunday School at the new church. Yikes.

There is a reason they call it Sunday School, I guess. This class was school. Reading, discussion and writing. Lots of sitting and listening.

So not how Caroline learns best.

And the areas they emphasized were some of the areas where Caroline does not currently excel.

So this was our first experience of bumping up (hard) against the assumption that a third grader must be able to do A, B and C because this is what third graders do. Suffice it to say it was not a pleasant experience.

In trying to process with her what happened, I reminded Caroline of a time a couple of years ago at co-op when she was taking a class about America. The students made three dimensional Washington Monuments. Caroline was one of the youngest children in the class. She whipped hers together in no time because she is fantastic at that kind of thing. Her teacher was impressed and even spoke with us about it. She also asked Caroline to help some of the other kids who were really struggling, a number of who were older than Caroline. I reminded Caroline of this and the fact that no one is good at everything and learns at different speeds. I reminded her that a few of those older kids might have even been a bit embarrassed that a younger student was helping them. I think our conversation helped her think through the church situation even though it was still very disappointing.

I don’t have any big words of advice or some great summary of how to handle situations like this. I’m simply sharing it as an example of how homeschooling choices seem so natural and make so much sense to us in the world of our homeschool and yet we are reminded at times of how counter-cultural some of those most basic choices really are when compared to traditional schooling.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Relationship Homeschooling and Your Differently-Wired Child

Relationship Homeschooling and Your Differently-Wired Child

Relationship Homeschooling and Your Differently-Wired Child

When I started blogging in 2005, a woman named Karen with a blog named from the prairie left a comment on my blog which was then called Two Talent Living. I’m not certain how we initially connected, but I’m guessing it was through a website neither one of us would recommend now! LOL!

Over the past nine years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this online friendship as we’ve shared our blogging experiences, followed stories together, and encouraged each other that we weren’t going crazy thinking a certain way about different topics. It is amazing to me that someone I’ve never had the opportunity to meet in real life and have only corresponded with and spoken with on the phone could have been used in such profound ways to bless me and encourage me in the faith.

The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling

Karen (now blogging at that mom) released her first book The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling: when the one anothers come home last spring and it is well worth your time if you are a parent whether you homeschool or not. While Karen writes a great deal about homeschooling in the book, it is at its heart a book about the parent-child relationship with a strong emphasis on the Scriptures.

I was fortunate to be in an ongoing dialogue with Karen during the years she was formulating the ideas for her book and then writing it. Why? Because I truly believe it saved me a lot of heartache in my own parenting journey. Karen often spoke about the fact that our children are not our adversaries and it was a message I needed to hear. Too often parenting experts (especially in certain Christian circles) present children as adversaries who need to be dominated and defeated. This is just so wrong.

Our Children are Not Our Adversaries

Caroline is not my adversary. She is my child, my sister in Christ, and I hope (as Brenda often says) that I’m raising my own best friend of the future. The mix of my own strong introversion and Caroline’s spiritedness would make it easy for me to slip into feeling like Caroline is my adversary. But that is not the case. Nor is it the case for anyone who has a differently-wired child. These children require a lot of parenting skill, energy and time. There is no doubt about it. But they are not our adversaries or someone to be conquered.

Karen’s emphasis in the book on the one another verses in the Bible I think will also help parents reflect on their parenting approach and perhaps keep them from making big mistakes with their own children.

Be forewarned. Karen is a strong proponent of homeschooling in the book. And the book is full of Scripture. If either of those ideas bother you, the book may not be for you. But if you are looking for encouragement to love your children in practical ways instead of a list of rules, I truly think you will enjoy this book.

If you would like to enter a giveaway for one of three copies of the book, please go here. This is a guest post Karen wrote about her son with Asperger’s and I put the giveaway at the end of the post.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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5 Tips for Homeschooling a Gifted Child

5 Tips for Homeschooling a Gifted Child

5 Tips for Homeschooling a Gifted Child

Today’s guest post in the 31 Days of Learning Differently is from Andrea Townsley of The Townsley Times.

It can be a challenge to stay one step ahead of the gifted child. Things can get more complicated when they are spirited, sensitive or don’t deal well with transitions. Homeschooling these children can be a huge blessing as we can tailor their education to accommodate their pace, skill level and learning needs. But it is not without its challenges, for them and for us as parents.

Get Creative with Curricula

A lot of parents get hung up on which curriculum to use and when a child is gifted, it can be even harder to figure out what’s best for their needs. There are so many options to choose from, but you do not need to choose a one-size-fits-all curriculum that comes in a nice tidy box. You can mix and match from curricula for each subject to ensure you are working at the child’s level for individual topics, but you can go a step further and supplement with hands-on activities at home, participating in local study groups or co-ops, checking out any and all cultural sites in your area or taking some classes at a nearby community college. (There are usually non-credit options if your child is not ready for credit-based courses.)

For the younger crowd, some great options include printables for tracing and coloring, basic science experiments, an interactive calendar and weather center, watching history or science videos on YouTube or Netflix and, of course, plenty of arts and crafts.

Mixing things up can help the spirited crowd stay interested and focused on the material without getting bored and acting out.

Keep It Moving

Gifted children don’t move at the same pace as their peers. They tend to learn quicker – we already know this. But also consider the fact that they can get frustrated more easily because they are necessarily using more challenging material. Thankfully, they develop coping mechanisms that allow them to learn through the frustration. They retain the material better perhaps because of this frustration (as opposed to in spite of it), whereas other children might shut down in the same situation.

That said, it’s important to recognize the limits of the gifted child. Watch your child carefully to learn the signs that show when he or she is hitting a proverbial wall, and keep things moving along. To aid in transitioning more easily, find a natural stopping point and then change subjects or take a break. You can come back to the topic later or another day.

Do What’s Right for Your Child and Nevermind the Naysayers

Perhaps you have started formal schooling with a young child, a time at which most parents insist that learning through play is the only type of appropriate education. Only you know your child’s limits and only you know what your child is capable of. The gifted and talented tend to amaze even themselves, so if you believe your child is ready for more advanced types of instruction, go ahead and give it a shot. What other people have to say about it doesn’t really matter. How you react to these people can affect your attitude during teaching hours, so it’s really important to let it go.

Remember Your Sense of Humor

As with all things in life, being able to laugh at your own mistakes and not take things too seriously can really help when the going gets tough. Showing this to our children is especially important when they are qualitatively different from the general population. These kids have some quirks, and homeschooling will inevitably bring them out. You must show them how to embrace their differences and, in order to do so, you have to embrace it also. Cut your kid some slack, and yourself, too.

Give It to God

When problems crop up, prayer is always helpful. Pray for guidance and discernment, patience, and assistance in understanding your child. It is difficult to be a parent, but raising a child who is gifted, spirited, sensitive or in some way differently wired is as much of a challenge as it is a joy. Trusting in God to provide for your family’s needs can help get you through each day.

Andrea Townsley of The Townsley Times is a Christian homeschooling mom of two, one of whom is a gifted, spirited and highly-sensitive three-year old.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Words of Encouragement for Parents

Words of Encouragement for Parents

Words of Encouragement for Parents

It is comforting to know that the God who guides us sees tomorrow more clearly than we see yesterday.
Unknown

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
C. H. Spurgeon

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)

God doesn’t always smooth the path, but sometimes he puts springs in the wagon.
Marshall Lucas

Guilt is concerned with the past. Worry is concerned about the future. Contentment enjoys the present.
Unknown

God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible– what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.
A.W.Tozer

True faith is never found alone; it is accompanied by expectation.
C. S. Lewis

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Resources about Differently-Wired Children

Resources for Parents of Differently-Wired Children

Resources for Parents of Differently-Wired Children

Today I would like to highlight some different resources available in case you aren’t aware of them. There is lots and lots of good reading available in these places.

My Related Pages

Raising a Highly-Sensitive and Spirited Child

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling a Right-Brained Child

Raising a High Need Infant, Baby, Toddler & Child

My Pinterest Boards

Right Brained Learning

Sallie Borrink Learning (This is where I put pins to all my posts for those who are visually oriented!)

All of my Pinterest boards

Relaxed Homeschooling Series

I did a series on how we do relaxed homeschooling: Relaxed Homeschooling in the Early Elementary Years – A How To Series

My Sallie Borrink Learning Facebook Page

If you don’t follow my learning page on Facebook, please check it out. I share many links there that I don’t on my website.

Free Ebook for Subscribers

I’ve put together a very encouraging and helpful ebook for subscribers called 7 Tips for Overwhelmed Parents: Effectively Parenting Your Differently-Wired Child. You can customize your subscription to only get the posts in the areas that interest you most.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child

Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child

Identifying and Understanding the Red Zone with Your Spirited Child

I asked David to look through my tickler list of topic ideas for this 31 Days of Learning Differently series and tell me what he thought I was missing. He immediately suggested writing about the red zone. This was a really important topic for us as the parents of a spirited child and I’m glad he suggested it.

The idea of the red zone comes from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic. It is basically a term for when a child is overwhelmed by out-of-control emotions. How the child acts while in the red zone varies from child to child. It could be a tantrum, sobbing, etc. However it manifests itself, it is a time of intense, overwhelming emotions. For spirited kids who are more, the red zone is a big deal.

The challenging part for the parent is how to respond when their child is in the red zone.

We did it all wrong for awhile. But once we figured out the appropriate strategies to utilize for our individual child, we made huge strides as a family. We learned how to avoid our child’s common red zone triggers which is half the battle. And we learned what she needed from us when it did happen.

What Happens in the Red Zone

My natural inclination when my child is upset is to hold her and talk. Talk about what is wrong, talk about how to fix it, and talk it to conclusion. I’m a talking problem-solver.

That is SO not what my child needed.

When a child is in the red zone, she can’t focus on what you are saying. Talking on and on is like pouring gasoline on wildfire. Every child is different, but some strategies that can work include redirecting and distracting. Both can be very effective depending on the age of the child, how far she is in the red zone, and the coping skills she’s learned to that point.

I personally think it is important to allow the child to get the emotions out. Shushing her or telling her to stop on command (or, God forbid, spanking her) is not going to help. She has to learn how to recognize and handle the overwhelming emotions so she can eventually learn to calm herself. She also needs to know that it is okay to have strong emotions. It is okay to feel deeply and intensely. She has to learn that the only thing that makes it a problem is if she acts out in inappropriate ways while she is upset.

Getting Outside of the Red Zone

The most important thing to realize is this: You cannot deal with the issues of the red zone until the child is well out of the red zone. And getting out of the red zone takes time.

Think about how long it takes an adult to calm down after something upsetting happens. Your adrenaline is rushing, your heart is pounding, and you are flooded with emotions. The same thing happens to the spirited child, but in an even bigger way. There is no way a child recovers from something like that in a few minutes.

And yet we as parents often want to deal with a situation and move on. We’re busy people with a lot on our plate.  Sorry, folks. You cannot rush your child out of the red zone. It simply doesn’t happen with a spirited child.

You can only talk about what happened and how to deal with it after she calms down. This might be HOURS later. It might be wise to even wait to the NEXT DAY if feelings are too raw. If you try to rush it, it will backfire. Nothing is going to be accomplished by trying to talk about it too soon.

The good news is that spirited children and their parents can develop positive ways to deal with the red zone. It might not be perfect every time, but it can certainly improve. If you are raising a spirited child and aren’t sure how to deal with the red zone, I highly recommend Kurcinka’s book mentioned above. Not only will you better understand the issues of the red zone, but you will also gain a much greater understanding of and appreciation for your wonderful spirited child.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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We’re at the mid-point!

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We’re half way through the 31 Days of Learning Differently. At this point, I’d like to invite you to let me know if there is something you are hoping to see in this series, but it hasn’t shown up yet. I have a general plan for the rest of the month, but also want to find out if there are topics people are looking for. I can’t promise I will write about everything that might be suggested, but I will see what I can do.

Feel free to leave a comment here or email me at sallie @ sallie borrink dot com (broken up for spam purposes). :-)

 

6 Reasons Why We Changed Our Mind and Stopped Spanking

6 Reasons Why We Changed Our Mind and Stopped Spanking

6 Reasons Why We Changed Our Mind and Stopped Spanking

We spanked Caroline less than a half a dozen times before she was three, but I never felt right about it. David and I were convicted that we should not continue to spank her. I’m going to share six reasons why we changed our mind and stopped spanking.

DISCLAIMER: I realize good people who love their children disagree about this topic. I realize that specifically some Christians reading this are going to disagree with me. That is fine. I am sharing our family’s experience and our convictions. I am not a parenting expert either. I am a mom still in process. I would not presume to tell you what to do with your child. I am simply offering my perspective with the hope that sharing our thought process regarding this topic might help other parents struggling with this decision.

Please also note I am sharing this in the context of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series. There is a reason why I am sharing it now when we are discussing parenting and learning issues each day.

So the six reasons…

The Bible does not require spanking.

I could write an entire post or series of posts on just this one reason. I’m not going to do that today. I will link to some reading at the end that people might find helpful if they want to read theological explanations and expositions on why some Bible-believing Christians believe spanking is not required by the Bible.

What it boils down to for us is the fact that while Caroline is our child, she is also our (presumed) sister in Christ. I can read a great deal in the Bible (especially the New Testament) that talks about how we are to treat one another that is very clear. I find very little in the Bible that seems to teach the merits of spanking, let alone that it is required. The preponderance of evidence goes clearly away from spanking when one looks at the entirety of Scriptures.

Our child never hit us until we hit her.

Caroline never hit us until we spanked her. This, to me, was profound. When we hit her, she hit us. And then of course we turned around and sternly admonished her it was wrong to hit and she could not hit us. The message we were communicating to Caroline was we can hit you but you can’t hit us. That makes absolutely no sense in any way.

I know there are people who will say that spanking isn’t hitting, but I respectfully disagree. We now have a very strong no hitting rule in our family. We also have a very strong rule that no means no. When someone says no, we all respect that immediately. (The same thing when someone says stop.) In these ways we believe we are preparing her for adulthood and hopefully instilling in her a very strong sense of personal power, especially as she will relate to men.

Spanking provoked anger in our child.

There may be some children who can be spanked and not be provoked to anger. But I am firmly convinced that spanking does provoke some (or many) children to anger. The Bible tells us we are not to provoke our children.

The challenging thing is if a parent starts spanking early as is recommended by experts, she probably doesn’t yet have a firm grip on her child’s temperament. She can’t clearly tell if her  child is one who will roll with the spanking to no (apparent) harm or if she has a child who is deeply wounded by the spanking. If a child falls into the group that is provoked to anger by spanking, how much damage is done before the parents figure it out?

(And, no, I do not believe that if a child becomes angry then we need to beat the anger out of her until she is broken and completely submits her will to us. No. Just no.)

Spanking provoked fear and distrust in our child.

This is the reason that saddens me the most and the one that makes me wish I could go back and do it over. Spanking Caroline clearly provoked fear and distrust toward us, especially me. She may have been small, but it took a very long time for her to move past this after we stopped spanking. It sickens me physically to think about it. We only spanked her a few times and that was all it took.

Again, spanking some children is going to be disastrous based on their temperament. I truly believe that. Now that she is eight and I have a better understanding of who she is and how she is wired, I can clearly see why spanking would be so devastating to her and completely ineffective.

We considered how adults receive consequences.

When adults make mistakes, they are not physically punished. They might lose their job, suffer financial loss or lose a friend, but they are not subjected to spanking or hitting in order to make them learn from their mistake. They suffer the natural consequences of their actions. Furthermore, hitting an adult is battery or assault. Hitting an animal is cruelty. Both can result in jail time. Yet somehow hitting a child is different.

As adults we learn from the consequences of our actions. We believe it should be the same with a child. Is this tricky when the child is younger and doesn’t have fully developed reasoning skills? Yes. Is it more work? Yes. Does it require more of the parent? Yes. Is it sometimes harder to measure the results in the short term? Yes. Does it work? Yes.

Spanking isn’t necessary.

The bottom line is that spanking isn’t necessary. There are many other ways to disciple and discipline our child that do not require hitting her or inflicting physical pain. Yes, they often take much more effort and work. But I am so thankful we realized that spanking is not necessary for our child in our home.

If you would like to read more about not spanking from a biblical and scholarly approach, I suggest starting with the free ebook you can download right now: Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me – Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Samuel Martin. There are many articles online as well including this secular one I just saw: Spanking the gray matter out of our kids. We also had a lengthy discussion in the comments of this post that I wrote about spanking: Highly-sensitive children, shy children, spanking and Voddie Bauchum.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Learning Differently series.

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