Book Club: Raising Your Spirited Child

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After taking the ‘test’ in chapter three to rate Ruthie in the spectrum of nine different personality traits, it came out just as I had suspected: she’s spirited.

But just barely, as it turns out. She’s at the low end of the Spirited range.

Her intensity is not spread evenly among the nine traits, but rests heavily in three: Intensity, Persistence, and Mood. For all the other traits she scored the minimum, with the exception of Sensitivity (middle of the road), which surprised me. But because this was not a scientific or exhaustive test, I may be confusing ‘symptoms’ – when Ruthie needs to have her blankets JUST RIGHT while she is sleeping, or her towel wrapped around her in a very specific way after a bath, it may not be an issue of her Sensitivity but a reflection of her Persistent traits when things don’t go as planned.

The following chapter asks you to rate yourself in these personality traits, keeping in mind that a grown-up’s personality traits can be masked by learned behavior. Again, I was not surprised. I scored off the charts in the same three areas as Ruthie, and scored low in all the other traits.

We are two bulls in a china shop, getting tangled up in each others’ horns.

I knew long before I read this book that Ruthie exasperated me the most because she is exactly like me. Not only are my own raw traits staring me down on a daily basis, but our mutual intensities set each other off like a spark in a fireworks display. At times it’s difficult to tell which one of us is the parent, since I am just as skilled at throwing tantrums as Ruthie, and Ruthie has been known to say to me quite sternly, ‘you need to tell me you’re sorry for screaming.’

What I have been thinking about the most in the last few weeks is how my Intensity, Persistence, and Mood have shaped who I am. How have I learned to use these things to build my character and accomplish goals, and how have they been my achilles heel? How can I mentor Ruthie in the things I’ve learned to manage, and help redirect her in the ways I have not mastered?

And most of all, how can we get through her childhood and teen years with a still-intact relationship?

I’d like to think that my humility will soften her heart toward me, and continue to change my heart and my actions. We are getting there, but it is slow going. Some days I have a superhuman dose of patience and glide through even the worst defiance. Other days it’s the littlest things that set me off on a tirade.

We are both unpredictable, but we are also both learning.

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