About 20% of all babies born have temperament traits of a fussy or high need or what we call a “spirited child”.  Spirited children share many of the following characteristics.  They require extra TLC from parents because their behaviour can be very challenging.  Children generally do not change their temperament as they grow but temperament can change in intensity as they move through their developmental stages.   Parents are not responsible for making a child “spirited”.

They are born that way and grow up to be wonderful adults.  Parents handling a spirited child need extra support, and need to be sure that their needs are met: sleep, healthy food, healthy self esteem, and personal time.




Wants to be held all the time.

Doesn’t schedule well for eating, and toileting.

Cries for no apparent reason.

Reacts strongly against sleep training.

Won’t stay for long in carriers.


Toddlers and Preschoolers


Smart-won’t play with toys, mostly real items.

Every day is unpredictable.

Mood swings in minutes.

Wakes up generally unhappy.

Early night terrors and many night time awakenings.

Severe separation anxiety

Goes through most daily requirements-dressing, diaper changing, meals, bath, toothbrushing, with difficulty

Clings in new situations and with strange people.

Wants to do everything themselves.

Not easily distractible.

Violent, intense tantrums.

Very active.

Picky eater.

Still requires a lot of attention and physical contact.


School Aged


Very structured and needs routines.

Better tempered if gets adequate sleep and food.

Very determined in needs and wants.

May dislike clothing blends.

Requires a lot of physical contact.

May still have temper tantrums if goals thwarted.

May still have periods of separation anxiety.




Not easily swayed by peers.

Requires a lot of physical contact.

Determined and self directed.


Copyright Judy Arnall 2005