Parenting Style: Tune into Your Child's True Nature

"She's running me ragged."

"She was the child who climbed up the bookshelves," says the mother of 6-year-old Livvie. "From the time she first started walking -- at 9 months -- it's been full speed ahead." In fact, Livvie's parents are quiet types who don't always enjoy being around their energetic daughter. "I really feel she's more than I can handle," sighs her mom.

The Plus Side: Children with high energy levels are doers, so you will never have a couch potato on your hands. They're lively participants in whatever is going on, and their enthusiasm is often contagious.

What to Do: To give yourself a break, help your youngster channel all that energy in better ways. Sign her up for soccer, gymnastics, or swimming -- anything that allows her to move around freely for a good stretch of time. Livvie's parents got her involved in an outdoor play program three afternoons a week. "By the end of one of those days," says her mother, "she's more content and cooperative." As a result, her parents are starting to enjoy her more.

At home, try to bring the action down to a manageable level by controlling your child's environment. Paradoxically, giving a high-energy child fewer toys, fewer choices, and a smaller space can sometimes calm her down. Faced with three toys instead of ten, she'll choose one or two and stick with them longer. Child therapists have learned that the smaller and less cluttered their offices, the less revved up kids get.

Look for clues to what makes your child frenetic (and what drives you crazy). Is it when she's hungry, tired, or playing a particular game with a friend? Try giving her something to eat every two hours, sticking to the same bedtime religiously, or putting that game away when her friend comes over. Those minor adjustments might make a difference.

The message is simple: Stop fighting who your child is. Only then can you work toward mutual accommodation and understanding. Accepting your child's basic characteristics will not only help him learn to accept himself, it will also enable you to be a happier and more fulfilled parent.

Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the April 2000 issue of Parents magazine.

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