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Taming the Spirited Child: Strategies for Parenting Challenging Children Without Breaking Their Spirits

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Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled “defiant” or “rebellious”? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame—not break—a spirited child. Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disor Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled “defiant” or “rebellious”? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame—not break—a spirited child. Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, or hyperactivity. In this uniquely prescriptive guide, leading parenting expert Dr. Michael Popkin shows parents how to think differently about so-called problem children. The effective strategies within this guide will quiet the difficulties spirited children have at home and school while exposing the unique, special gifts they possess. Develop a relationship with your spirited child by: -Building relationship skills -Disciplining with encouragement -Balancing the power dynamic -Curbing tantrums effectively With step-by-step methods for every type of misbehavior and every child's unique personality, this comprehensive guide will help parents cultivate their child's spark, not extinguish it—and reach beyond depressing labels for their beloved children.


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Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled “defiant” or “rebellious”? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame—not break—a spirited child. Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disor Do you dread parent-teacher conferences? Does your child really know how to push your hot button? Has your child been labeled “defiant” or “rebellious”? Here are proven strategies that have helped millions to tame—not break—a spirited child. Parents are often faced with scary labels for their children, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, or hyperactivity. In this uniquely prescriptive guide, leading parenting expert Dr. Michael Popkin shows parents how to think differently about so-called problem children. The effective strategies within this guide will quiet the difficulties spirited children have at home and school while exposing the unique, special gifts they possess. Develop a relationship with your spirited child by: -Building relationship skills -Disciplining with encouragement -Balancing the power dynamic -Curbing tantrums effectively With step-by-step methods for every type of misbehavior and every child's unique personality, this comprehensive guide will help parents cultivate their child's spark, not extinguish it—and reach beyond depressing labels for their beloved children.

30 review for Taming the Spirited Child: Strategies for Parenting Challenging Children Without Breaking Their Spirits

  1. 5 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    I found some of the suggestions in this book helpful, especially the emphasis on not showing anger as a parent because, in a power struggle, that means the child wins. It takes a middle position between the authoritarian and permissive approaches to parenting, though I found it a little too close to the permissive side. (What you have to understand is that when your child is screaming in your ear and hitting you, she's not really being disrespectful. Uh, yes, she really is.) Many of the tactics I found some of the suggestions in this book helpful, especially the emphasis on not showing anger as a parent because, in a power struggle, that means the child wins. It takes a middle position between the authoritarian and permissive approaches to parenting, though I found it a little too close to the permissive side. (What you have to understand is that when your child is screaming in your ear and hitting you, she's not really being disrespectful. Uh, yes, she really is.) Many of the tactics he suggested seemed to me to be only delaying the inevitable. Many of these exchanges he never wrote out to conclusion (i.e. to the point when the kid actually DOES the thing he's supposed to do). For instance, instead of saying, "Come to dinner" and getting a "NO!" he says to ask, "Would you like to come to dinner now or play for five more minutes?" (never mind that dinner is getting cold, I guess, or that the other family members are ready). Okay, but in five minutes, it's still time to come to dinner, and the kid still says NO! You've just delayed the confrontation. When a child refuses to have a bath, he has the parent ask him something like, "Bath's are healthy, and you need to be clean. What ideas do you have for how I can get you clean?" But he doesn't write the conversation out from there and take it to a point when the child would actually get IN the bath. What does the child say to that? "With a garden hose?" or "NO! I don't WANT to get clean!" Then what? You're back to the start of the confrontation again. These unfinished scenarios were very unhelpful. Nevertheless, I did find a few real insights here. Mainly, I was reminded how important it is not to lose my own cool, which is very hard to do when you have a "spirited" child.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christi

    Well, I've read lots of parenting books. Let's just say if you have one of those kids that has you scratching your head wondering what to do---this book might have some answers. And, after reading so many parenting books and having so many jumbled perspectives and conflicting advice, this book cut through it all with some simple explanations for why that other advice just doesn't work with Spirited kids. It was a relief to see someone else say "yeah, lots of people say "X" but if you try that wi Well, I've read lots of parenting books. Let's just say if you have one of those kids that has you scratching your head wondering what to do---this book might have some answers. And, after reading so many parenting books and having so many jumbled perspectives and conflicting advice, this book cut through it all with some simple explanations for why that other advice just doesn't work with Spirited kids. It was a relief to see someone else say "yeah, lots of people say "X" but if you try that with these kids, it won't work. this is why, so try it this way" I felt like after being beat up and knocked around by advice that only works partially and leaves me feeling like a failure, someone patted me on the back and gave me permission to embrace the kid I have.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jess Shulman

    I really found this book useful. These strategies would be useful for any parent -- even if your kid isn't nonstop "spirited," they all have their (many) moments, and this book really gave some great suggestions. I've been practicing the "don't fight, don't give in" strategy for a week or two and it's working like a charm. (Considering my default strategy is fight like crazy and then capitulate, my kid doesn't know what hit her.) Despite some less-than-helpful mnemonics, I found the guidance in t I really found this book useful. These strategies would be useful for any parent -- even if your kid isn't nonstop "spirited," they all have their (many) moments, and this book really gave some great suggestions. I've been practicing the "don't fight, don't give in" strategy for a week or two and it's working like a charm. (Considering my default strategy is fight like crazy and then capitulate, my kid doesn't know what hit her.) Despite some less-than-helpful mnemonics, I found the guidance in this book to be immediately applicable and effective. I know some parents are just this way naturally, but for those of us who have trouble dealing with kids when they're not being easy, this was a great read. Definitely recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mari McR

    I treasure this book. It doesn't propose anything I didn't already know as a parent, but a lot of it were reminders to ask in a firm, friendly tone rather than demand. The #1 tip: Spend at least 10 minutes a day just BEING with your child one-on-one to show them that you want to continue building and maintaining a relationship with your them. The #2 tip: Keep in mind at least ONE THING that DELIGHTS you about your child, not their behavior, but their very essence. When I keep those two tips in m I treasure this book. It doesn't propose anything I didn't already know as a parent, but a lot of it were reminders to ask in a firm, friendly tone rather than demand. The #1 tip: Spend at least 10 minutes a day just BEING with your child one-on-one to show them that you want to continue building and maintaining a relationship with your them. The #2 tip: Keep in mind at least ONE THING that DELIGHTS you about your child, not their behavior, but their very essence. When I keep those two tips in my heart throughout the day, then the trouble spots are not as large and looming.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This is a parenting guidance book based on trying to "tame" the spirited child. I think this book is a useful tool. There were a bunch of amazing points that I never really considered. If you have a difficult to deal with child, this book would be useful to give you some tools for your self - really to work towards your reactions when raising the kids. This is a parenting guidance book based on trying to "tame" the spirited child. I think this book is a useful tool. There were a bunch of amazing points that I never really considered. If you have a difficult to deal with child, this book would be useful to give you some tools for your self - really to work towards your reactions when raising the kids.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This book is great! I read it twice -- once to get the idea; then a second time so I could take notes. As an educator and parent, I think every educator and parent should read this book. Popkin not only sets out ways to help tame the spirited child; he also gives sample dialogues to help the reader see what the conversations with your child might sound like. Popkin's writing is easy to read and clear. In answer to some of the reviews I read of this book, this book does require a shift in the thin This book is great! I read it twice -- once to get the idea; then a second time so I could take notes. As an educator and parent, I think every educator and parent should read this book. Popkin not only sets out ways to help tame the spirited child; he also gives sample dialogues to help the reader see what the conversations with your child might sound like. Popkin's writing is easy to read and clear. In answer to some of the reviews I read of this book, this book does require a shift in the thinking and speech patterns of the parent, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing. And I think one of the things he points out is the need to create better transitions for children who are spirited, instead of abrupt changes. What seems on it's face permissive, actually gives the child a chance to shift gears and smoothly transition, creating less friction. Popkin does speak on discipline, and on the fact that change has to come over time. No method is going to work immediately, on the first try. I also like the fact that he emphasizes the need for both parents to be on the same page, as well as the school teachers, coaches, etc. The techniques from the book which I have used so far have worked for me, and I am implementing more.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I got quite a bit out of this book, and actually would recommend it, but it wasn't very good. The author doesn't seem to know much, he doesn't speak with any knowledge or authority, but instead spews a whirlwind of options. The author doesn't seem to have any knowledge of the literature or even any concept of research, and instead has just come up with all this stuff with justification or even much explanation. I was able to sift through these options to separate what would work from me from wha I got quite a bit out of this book, and actually would recommend it, but it wasn't very good. The author doesn't seem to know much, he doesn't speak with any knowledge or authority, but instead spews a whirlwind of options. The author doesn't seem to have any knowledge of the literature or even any concept of research, and instead has just come up with all this stuff with justification or even much explanation. I was able to sift through these options to separate what would work from me from what wouldn't, nevermind noticing how many things were just wrong (e.g. the proven error of recommending to punch a pillow to deal with anger). Among the worst aspects of the book was the examples, which usually followed the template: highly challenging situation, weak solution, problem fully resolved, apology from author that this isn't very realistic, but it is instructive. All this said, there is a lot of good information in this book. You just need to take everything with a teaspoon of salt, which is somewhat true of all these types of books (you are ultimately responsible for your own parenting), but particularly for this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    My 4-year-old defintely fits into the cateogory of a spirted child and this book is just what I needed to read right now to deal with the power struggles and frustrations we often have together. Popkin helps you to see your child's traits in a positive light and how just viewing your child in a less negative way can help with their behavior. He also discusses how to avoid power struggles. This book is a lot of discipline strategies in one book. Since I have read numerous parenting books I didn't My 4-year-old defintely fits into the cateogory of a spirted child and this book is just what I needed to read right now to deal with the power struggles and frustrations we often have together. Popkin helps you to see your child's traits in a positive light and how just viewing your child in a less negative way can help with their behavior. He also discusses how to avoid power struggles. This book is a lot of discipline strategies in one book. Since I have read numerous parenting books I didn't find anything the author wrote about as amazing or new, but instead was a much needed refresher about what I should be doing and want to do with my children including using lots of encouragement, showing empathy, using logical consequences, and positive discipline techniques. A lot easier said than done. I recommend this book to anyone who has a energetic child who challenges your patience. The book may be best suited for parents of children 3 and up.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This was a good book for your average all American family that meet all their children's needs, but their parenting efforts seem to fall short of managing that one lone wolf. As a parent of that difficult child, I can say in my house this works and the face that I have parented my son in a similar way with tons of love and consistent follow through of limits, has proved a worthy method. As a therapist, there is only a certain population I would recommend this book for. The reason is the section This was a good book for your average all American family that meet all their children's needs, but their parenting efforts seem to fall short of managing that one lone wolf. As a parent of that difficult child, I can say in my house this works and the face that I have parented my son in a similar way with tons of love and consistent follow through of limits, has proved a worthy method. As a therapist, there is only a certain population I would recommend this book for. The reason is the section on the explanation of Power. While I agree power and control are important to everyone, I think the ideology for children who have suffered a trauma or neglect is different than the explanation in the book. I don't want parents fighting for power when a child feels power deprived such as traumatized and neglected children experience. So while I like and agree with much of the book, I will be selective about who pay it forward to in the future.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Uplifting, positive, a great reminder of things I would have thought I knew but I found, between the five minutes of putting the book down after a chapter and parenting, I don't put those things into practice as much as I thought I did and should do! SO positive, the books first premise is to build a positive relationship with the child. Still looking for what to do exactly when limits are pushed and those consequences are needed... which are right? I particularly appreciated this book though aft Uplifting, positive, a great reminder of things I would have thought I knew but I found, between the five minutes of putting the book down after a chapter and parenting, I don't put those things into practice as much as I thought I did and should do! SO positive, the books first premise is to build a positive relationship with the child. Still looking for what to do exactly when limits are pushed and those consequences are needed... which are right? I particularly appreciated this book though after reading a book that so left out the positive that I was left feeling hopeless thinking about taking mattresses away... This book starts and ends with the positive, which is just the way it should ideally work with a child. I plan to reread this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shelly Vendemo

    Best parenting book I've read so far, perhaps because I have a strong-willed child I often find myself in power struggles with?! I do think the strategies in this book are good for all children and not just "spirited" ones. It's so different from the discipline methods I grew up with. In fact, I can hear my Dad chuckling right now when picturing a conversation between us about this book. That's ok though. I believe parenting strategies should evolve over the last 40 years. The one take-away from Best parenting book I've read so far, perhaps because I have a strong-willed child I often find myself in power struggles with?! I do think the strategies in this book are good for all children and not just "spirited" ones. It's so different from the discipline methods I grew up with. In fact, I can hear my Dad chuckling right now when picturing a conversation between us about this book. That's ok though. I believe parenting strategies should evolve over the last 40 years. The one take-away from this book that keeps coming back is the fact that we should "lead" our children, not "master" them. They need to have choices, their feelings acknowledged and time/space when they're feeling frustrated. I believe these strategies might also work well with my at times "spirited" husband!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I thought the author did a good job of not writing just another parenting book, but was really thorough in explaining his definition of spirited children and his philosophy and strategy in raising one. I really appreciated the fact that he recommends finishing the book before implementing any of the strategies. It shows that he really "gets" spirited children and he is truly dedicated to helping parents understand and make the paradigm shift needed to have a more successful and positive relation I thought the author did a good job of not writing just another parenting book, but was really thorough in explaining his definition of spirited children and his philosophy and strategy in raising one. I really appreciated the fact that he recommends finishing the book before implementing any of the strategies. It shows that he really "gets" spirited children and he is truly dedicated to helping parents understand and make the paradigm shift needed to have a more successful and positive relationship with their child. I found this book to be very well thought out and very helpful. I have already noticed a difference with my son.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elasha

    Three and a half stars. The book helped me understand one of my children's temperaments better, and gave me some really good strategies that have worked great when this child has not responded to our typical parenting. I especially use the FLAC method (acknowledge feelings, set limits, give alternatives, administer consequences if necessary). Also, the water play idea totally works for this kid. Something about the tactile nature of water play is always a winner when I'm at a loss for how to ent Three and a half stars. The book helped me understand one of my children's temperaments better, and gave me some really good strategies that have worked great when this child has not responded to our typical parenting. I especially use the FLAC method (acknowledge feelings, set limits, give alternatives, administer consequences if necessary). Also, the water play idea totally works for this kid. Something about the tactile nature of water play is always a winner when I'm at a loss for how to entertain without having to do the entertaining (playing in the tub, tea party on the back porch, watering plants, spraying with water/cleaning, you name it).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I have to confess, I didn't read this one in-depth all the way through. But what I did read was insightful - especially the chapter on the nature of power and how that plays out in the parent-child relationship. At first, too, I resisted picking this one up because of the title. But then after his explanation of what he means by "tame" (he doesn't mean "docile" or "submissive" or anything along those lines; instead, he's talking more about self-control and forming working relationships with othe I have to confess, I didn't read this one in-depth all the way through. But what I did read was insightful - especially the chapter on the nature of power and how that plays out in the parent-child relationship. At first, too, I resisted picking this one up because of the title. But then after his explanation of what he means by "tame" (he doesn't mean "docile" or "submissive" or anything along those lines; instead, he's talking more about self-control and forming working relationships with other people) I was alright.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a great book! It was well-written and engaging for non-fiction. A lot of the concepts taught in this book can be found in other parenting books, but there are a few *very* key concepts that I haven't read in other parenting books. I love what the author has to say about the ability of parents to be friends with their children, albeit friends who say no and who have the authority. I also liked what the author had to say about teaching your children anger management. It definitely will he This was a great book! It was well-written and engaging for non-fiction. A lot of the concepts taught in this book can be found in other parenting books, but there are a few *very* key concepts that I haven't read in other parenting books. I love what the author has to say about the ability of parents to be friends with their children, albeit friends who say no and who have the authority. I also liked what the author had to say about teaching your children anger management. It definitely will help you to be a better parent!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This is an excellent, excellent book! I had previously read, "Raising your spirited child" and felt that I could identify with the book. However, more than anything, that book helped me understand my child better. This book gave me techniques and strategies that truly helped in our home without making things worse (as many of the other parenting techniques that I've used have). I would recommend this to anyone who feels that one or more of their children is an extra special challenge. This is an excellent, excellent book! I had previously read, "Raising your spirited child" and felt that I could identify with the book. However, more than anything, that book helped me understand my child better. This book gave me techniques and strategies that truly helped in our home without making things worse (as many of the other parenting techniques that I've used have). I would recommend this to anyone who feels that one or more of their children is an extra special challenge.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ginger

    I think there are some good concepts in here, but it seems geared more towards older kids--there are lots of things that call for discussion, talking things through, and rationalizing, which a toddler/preschooler might (or in my case, does) have a hard time with. That said, I think there are some good foundations for how to have a respectful relationship with your child, spirited or not, once they get old enough to understand some of the conversations the book recommends.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    A client had recommended the book, and I am so happy I read it. Many of the tools have proven useful with our two young children. The best is using the timer on my smartphone to signal the time to leave the park, store, event, or even trade a coveted toy. No longer is the parent bringing an end to joy, just the timer. Works great!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    This book has really opened my eyes. The suggested strategies for discipline and generally living with a "spirited child" are very helpful should you be so lucky to have one. My frustration level has dropped considerably. This book has really opened my eyes. The suggested strategies for discipline and generally living with a "spirited child" are very helpful should you be so lucky to have one. My frustration level has dropped considerably.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    Having a child with a strong will, this book has given me some great strategies for getting her to cooperate more often. Still reading it, but I find it easy to understand and put ideas into practice. Definite read for those with "spirited" toddlers! Having a child with a strong will, this book has given me some great strategies for getting her to cooperate more often. Still reading it, but I find it easy to understand and put ideas into practice. Definite read for those with "spirited" toddlers!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Delight

    This book has excellent parenting advice, real-world examples, and useful information about children's needs for power and how parents can grant them power without letting them run the show. I really enjoyed it! This book has excellent parenting advice, real-world examples, and useful information about children's needs for power and how parents can grant them power without letting them run the show. I really enjoyed it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Catrina Edgar

    I had several of what Oprah calls "Ah-Ha!" moments when I read this book. I have an extremely spirited and strong-willed child, and this book gave me the confidence I needed, as well as several strategies for effectively taking control of my child's behaviors and my sanity. I love this book. I had several of what Oprah calls "Ah-Ha!" moments when I read this book. I have an extremely spirited and strong-willed child, and this book gave me the confidence I needed, as well as several strategies for effectively taking control of my child's behaviors and my sanity. I love this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Skedatt

    The dynamics of power chapter worked with the teenagers that I work with as well as my own toddler children. All of a sudden the showdowns made sense...as well as how to handle them by "taking your sails out of their wind." The dynamics of power chapter worked with the teenagers that I work with as well as my own toddler children. All of a sudden the showdowns made sense...as well as how to handle them by "taking your sails out of their wind."

  24. 4 out of 5

    reading is my hustle

    Wonderful guide with real strategies on how to parent a spirited child. Good, solid suggestions on how to redirect their "spirited" energy into positive thoughts and actions. Also (and frankly), it was a relief to read a parenting book that did not once reference any depressing labels. Wonderful guide with real strategies on how to parent a spirited child. Good, solid suggestions on how to redirect their "spirited" energy into positive thoughts and actions. Also (and frankly), it was a relief to read a parenting book that did not once reference any depressing labels.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Tucker

    I think this book has really great ideas. If only it were so easy to apply them in the heat of the moment. But I am making my husband read this book because with work and practice I really think it will help.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debi Ferguson

    Checked this book out from the library. It was full of usable ideas, but most I already knew. It did remind me, how important it is to provide structure, use respectful forms of discipline (be consistent), be patient, and build a positive relationship with my spirited little being.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Fisher

    Very helpful. If you want to stop the battles with your child, just is a very helpful guide.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cortney

    I need this one too! I think I'll pass it along to my sister-in-law! Thanks for sharing with us, Rachel! I need this one too! I think I'll pass it along to my sister-in-law! Thanks for sharing with us, Rachel!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    Has some pretty good techniques for dealing with power struggles which is the biggest problem in our household (we're all too darned stubborn). Has some pretty good techniques for dealing with power struggles which is the biggest problem in our household (we're all too darned stubborn).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristin R

    Didn't quite finish, but gave good insight. Didn't quite finish, but gave good insight.

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