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Book Review
Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook
by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Reviewed by Neysa C.M. Jensen
Boise, ID USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 3, May-June 1999, pp. 98

Spirited! What a lovely word! In a society that often frowns on wild, explosive, and stubborn behavior in children, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka redesigns the labels and calls the behavior energetic, dramatic, and assertive. Kurcinka is the author of Raising Your Spirited Child- a Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic.

When I first read Raising Your Spirited Child I found myself wishing I could be a part of a workshop on spirited children such as the ones Kurcinka described in the book. I could have used the practical help in applying her principles of positive parenting with my children. In answer to many requests for a study guide, Kurcinka wrote the Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook.

In this book, the author assembles a fictional, but representative class based on her own experiences leading workshops for parents of spirited children. Readers read about the sessions, do the exercises along with the fictional class members, and share in their successes. Most importantly, readers have the chance to take the concepts from the original book and further learn how to apply them to their specific child. Whether one has read the original book or not, Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook will help anyone with a spirited child.

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka echoes La Leche League's philosophy of loving guidance time and time again in this book. She points out, for example, that "spirited children possess traits 'in the raw' that are truly valued in adults but challenging in a young child." Thus, her goal is not to change children, but to "recognize their potential and help them develop the skills they need to manage their temperament well." This workbook provides exercises and insight to "help parents create families where spirit thrives," rather than aiming to crush these tender spirits. Exercises focus on the positive attributes of each trait, always reminding the reader that spirit, well channeled, is wonderful. Emphasis is also given to enabling children to recognize and manage their own temperament as they grow.

Chapter by chapter, readers cover each trait and learn tools to help children maintain their spirit. I use this workbook to teach classes in my community and one of my favorite exercises in the book is in the chapter "What Makes Kids Spirited?" The participants write their names and are then asked how it feels to write with their preferred hands. In the class I lead, answers include "natural, normal, right." Then participants are asked to write their names with the other hand and describe how it feels. Some common answers are "awkward, embarrassing, impossible, difficult." The exercise demonstrates how it feels to use one's non-preferred style.

Imagine an energetic spirited child trying to sit still at school all day, or an introverted spirited child trying to find her place at a busy day care facility, where participating in the group's activity is valued. Kurcinka says, "Unprepared and pushed to 'not be' who he is, the child may become exhausted and frustrated. He may even refuse to cooperate or simply quit trying." The exercise helps parents of spirited and non-spirited alike feel the frustrations their spirited children face each day.

With that in mind, the Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook proceeds to discuss the temperamental traits of spirited children: intensity, persistence, sensitivity, perceptiveness, and adaptability, plus the bonus traits of regularity, energy, first reaction, and disposition. Questions and charts guide readers through an analysis of their children's and their own temperament (most spirited children have at least one spirited parent), to determine which traits are most dominant.

Not every spirited child has all the traits, and not all children who have the same traits have them to the same degree. That's part of what makes living with spirited children frustrating for parents. There are no “one-size-fits-all" answers.

Mothers looking for a book that speaks about loving guidance beyond the toddler years may want to read this book. Several parents of spirited children in an LLL Group might decide to form a group to do parts of the workbook together. The members of the group lead enthusiastically comment that every parent, not just parents with spirited children, can follow the techniques in this book. Good communication and respect for children and their diverse needs are at the heart of positive parenting, whatever the child's temperament.

Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook is published by Harper Perennial © 1998, and is available through LLLI (3951, $14.00).

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