What are the Signs of a Spirited Child?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2019
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Some signs that may alert parents to a spirited child include a tendency to be highly emotional or animated. Spirited children may also display aggressive behavior. Another sign indicative of a spirited child is tenacity. While not all children who possess these traits are labeled as spirited, those are a few common characteristics.

Raising a spirited child can be a demanding and frustrating for many parents, especially when they are new to parenting. Raising a spirited toddler may be a difficult part of child rearing, because at a very young young age the child may not quite grasp what is considered acceptable behavior. A sign of a spiritedness in children younger than three may be repeated temper outbursts. Some spirited children may also bully a smaller, more defenseless child.

Conversely, spirited children may be overly sensitive and cry with little provocation. While other children may not react to certain situations as noticeably, spirited children may become clearly upset by casual comments or remarks. Feelings may become hurt easily. Parents may see this as sensitivity.

A high-spirited nature in children under the age of two may be difficult to recognize. The high-spirited 18-month-old may often be thought of as a fussy baby. He may want his own way all the time and become fussy at bedtime or mealtime. He may resist toilet training, and may also appear very needy and cling to his mother excessively.


As the spirited child enters school age, the parents may notice mood swings on a daily basis. Often parents think of the child as being temperamental. Spirited children may display an extremely happy and upbeat disposition, which easily changes to indifference or even sadness with no apparent reason.

In other cases, the spirited child may not take well to sudden changes in his routine. He may resist change and become quite upset with even a slight variation in his daily activities. Teachers may notice the child adapts better with constant structure and order.

Some spirited children have difficulty sleeping. Bed wetting is another common issue with many of these children. Some high-spirited children will experience bad dreams or nightmares regularly. When the child has upsetting dreams, he may want to sleep in the parent's bed, or may insist on sleeping with a light on.

Many spirited children are highly domineering and bossy, especially with other children. The high-spirited child may constantly need to be the center of attention. Some of these children tend to be self centered and not focus on others.

Parenting advice for those who are raising a spirited child includes learning to be patient and accepting. At the same time, setting boundaries is a crucial step. Experts also believe accepting the child for the unique individual he is and offering unconditional love can go a long way.


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Post 3

@Mor - I guess what I would add is that you shouldn't shame a child who happens to be spirited. They are operating according to their own logic and you might not understand it, but that doesn't mean they are trying to get into trouble.

I once taught a lovely boy who had never been in a classroom setting before and he would rush outside whenever he saw something interesting in the playground. Getting mad at him didn't help. We just had to keep repeating over and over what was expected of him and why, and eventually he began to curb his enthusiasm.

Very young children just don't respond well to shame or harsh punishment. They usually want to please, they just don't exactly know how everything works.

Post 2

@pleonasm - It probably depends on what your definition of "normal" is in the first place. But I agree that this term isn't very specific. If you go to a school and they describe your child like this, you should ask them for specific examples of behavior, so that you know exactly what the problem is. I imagine it could be anything from a child who refuses to obey the teacher, to a child that cries whenever they don't get their own way.

So there isn't one particular way of raising a spirited child, because there isn't one particular kind of child that happens to be spirited. I do think consistency and good boundaries would be important, but that's true for every child.

Post 1

This term doesn't really mean anything specific, I think. It gets applied to any child who is outside of normal expectations for behavior, but not so far outside that they become a problem.

If you let children play and be comfortable in their surroundings I think that most kids would be called a spirited child.

Children are just naturally prone to be excitable and to push boundaries. That's how they learn.

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