Getting quirky kids to be good

My kids are quirky. That’s what I tell people. It seems a little more polite than saying they are “the kind of crazy that is contagious.” People don’t like the word contagious, but really, isn’t that how it works? When they have been acting too crazy for too long, it starts to make me feel a little bit nutty myself. Parenting is an exhausting job. And my kids are quirky 24/7. I’m always hesitant to go into too much detail. I mean, it is a personal topic and this blog lives on the Internet where anyone can read it. {That’s kind of my goal – for people to read my blog.} I read a post on Creative with Kids several months ago that said exactly what I think keeps most parents from sharing about their kids. Nobody wants their child to be embarrassed by what Mom says online. And nobody wants to sound like they are complaining or don’t like their kids! I would add that nobody wants to be judged either. But what Alyssa said that has me inspired is that as parents, we often turn to the Internet for advice. And if you read a story that you can connect to, it reminds you that you are not alone.

Quirky kids make a lot of faces

What do you mean your kids are quirky?

Sometimes it is hard to describe how my kids behave. I mean, there isn’t just a checklist that I can follow. And no matter how much I describe each one, there is so much more that can be said. {Note: My kids have not been diagnosed with SPD, ADHD, or any other neurological disorder by a doctor.}

My daughter is loud, runs everywhere she goes, and has a moody temper. She is very smart and usually logical, which motivates her to be pretty bossy. She loves to be in the middle of a crowd, but has trouble making close friends. She often doesn’t get jokes. She is OCD about many things. Cleanliness is not one of them. She is terrified of all bugs and desperately wants a puppy.

My son is an engineer who always needs to know exactly how something works and why. That includes everything from the mechanics of our stereo turntable to the biology of fictional animals. He gets overwhelmed by people and often needs to spend time alone after being around them. His feeling are easily hurt, particularly by his older sister. Sometimes I think he has a better understand of English than I do, because he makes brilliant puns.

Mad scientist quirky kid

In many ways, it seems like my kids are opposites. That is probably why they fight with each other so often. They currently share a small bedroom and we have little backyard, so it is difficult to have alone time in our 900 (?) square foot house. Every day, I negotiate a dozen tiny battles. Every night, I negotiate a few more, often up until my own bedtime.

How to get a quirky kid to be good

Don’t panic! The key to getting kids to be mostly good and avoid fighting isn’t keeping them from misbehaving. It is in preventing the things that cause the misbehaving. Yes, that’s the hard part. Stop and think for a minute or two about what causes your child to have a temper tantrum, fight with a sibling, or have a bad day in general. They usually want to be good, but something is irritating them. Some of the things that upset my kids include:

Boredom

Every kid gets bored. Mine can do any single task in about 2 minutes if I’m trying to give them busy work. The trick to boredom is to always have something new without changing the routine {see below}.

Change in routine

My kids love a familiar routine. Truth be told, so do I. When something upsets our schedule though – a holiday, appointment, social gathering, weather – both kids get irritated. Creating lists and charts helps. {Read my post on how to prepare your kid for a haircut.}

Food

I’ve read a number of debates on whether certain foods cause children’s health problems or not. We tried a gluten-free diet for my daughter for a while, but that was impossible to stick to and I wasn’t even sure it was making the difference. After lots of trial and error, it seems that it wasn’t wheat, but the other ingredients in many of the processed foods that were stressing her out. Now I have a specific list of things I avoid as much as possible. They include artificial food coloring, preservatives, and chemical additives that I can’t pronounce. All it takes is a day or two of eating those things for her to turn into a different person.

Sensory overload

Too much of one of the five senses is a guaranteed bad day. I think most kids get upset when too much is going on. My daughter will try one new food in a week, but not three. My son enjoys a play date with one friend, but a party with five has to be short or I will find him quietly hiding under the sofa. My daughter doesn’t like things to touch her, while my son will sleep with three comforters in the dead of summer. This is hard to control or predict when they spend all day at school, but planning downtime every day helps.

Drama queen quirky kid

Quirky kid activities

I’ve had a lot of suggestions from people on  how to encourage my quirky kids to behave and possibly read every book on behavior in our local library. Here are five that work for us most of the time.

  • Chores – Kids like responsibility. Cleaning, sorting, and organizing in an age-appropriate way is a good way to keep them occupied. Plus, the sense of accomplishment and a big thank you from parents is a good motivator. {Print a chore chart to keep track.}
  • Physical activity – Where there is too much energy, burn it up. If you have the luxury of a big backyard, that’s all you need. In a tiny city apartment, it is a little harder. My son likes to do yoga and my daughter plays on the Wii Fit.
  • Crafts – My daughter’s favorite activity is making things. She likes being creative and not following any rules. She makes a lot of her projects using recycled materials.
  • LEGO – My son’s favorite activity is building with LEGO. He creates elaborate things like a working elevator, a puzzle, or a rube goldberg-esque contraption.
  • Reading – I’m fortunately to have two kids who love reading and an enormous local public library. This is an essential part of our quiet downtime. {See a list of our favorite LEGO books, pirate books, or chapter books for big kids.}

Some days, no amount of drama prevention or redirecting of energy will save the day. Some days, I have to throw in the towel and stop whatever I am doing and give one or both kids my undivided attention. This makes working a 40+ hour week and still having clean clothes and dinner on the table a challenge. It’s a balancing act, but I make do. Most of the resources I’ve found are geared for younger kids. If you have an older quirky kid, I’d love to know what things have worked for you.

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6 Comments

  • Nana says:

    One thing I have learned from you and having the grandkids’ visits is that we need a down day between every day of activity because it makes things go smoother. Maybe we don’t cram as much into our time with them, but we have less squabbles and it allows them to express themselves much better and they don’t get so worn out. I think it makes for a better visit and better memories than saying we went here and here and here. Also easier on the budget and on the nerves, as we, grandparents, get a down day in between busy ones. Love those quirky kids because I raised two also.

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  • Thanks so much for linking up to the Parenting Tip linky – really good to have you. Some great ideas here – and perhaps my kids are Quirky as well – we would much rather be making Lego than watching a movie as well..in fact Cars scared my five-year old boy!

    • kerihouchin says:

      You’re welcome! When my kids do want to watch a movie, they can’t sit still for 2 hours. Usually they are doing other things while watching to keep their hands busy. They have a few friends who are scared of a lot of “popular” movies too. I think sometimes there is just too much going on and it is easy to get overwhelmed.

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