Raising spirits

. February 11, 2013.

 Parenting is never easy, but there are some children who require additional attention, supervision and love. These “spirited children” are a challenge for any parent, but counselor Layla Kurt is here to help.
Kurt, who has lived in the area since 1991, worked as a counselor for Washington Local Schools and as a teacher in Wauseon before beginning her private practice. She offers private counseling for both children and adults, but also gives workshops on the art of “Parenting the Spirited Child.”
Spirited children are the ones who require what Kurt calls “get-off-the-couch parenting.” Simply issuing passive instructions to them doesn’t get results—they require a more direct, hands-on approach. “You can’t just give a bunch of directions,” Kurt says. “Sometimes they need us to walk side-by-side with them.”
Kurt’s mantra for parents is “firm, fair, consistent, and loving.” Spirited children need lots of positive encouragement, but, Kurt says, also “some firm and consistent limitations.”
If parents aren’t firm and consistent, Kurt says, “we end up in negotiations…which sound great in theory, and are okay with some kids.” But with spirited children, “negotiating gets us deeper into trouble.” However, firmness can only be effective if it’s combined with the “loving” part of the motto.
“It’s really important to remember that we need to use kind and loving words,” Kurt says, “as opposed to angry and frustrated words.” Even if these children require more careful attention than some others, only supervision that comes from a place of love can be truly effective.
For parents seeking help, Kurt recommends a number of commonsense parenting books, like Dr. Thomas Phelan’s 1-2-3 Magic, as well as books about the culture of childhood, like the classic Reviving Ophelia and Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. She also suggests talking to your child’s teachers, who inevitably will have “an abundance of creative strategies for redirecting children’s behavior.”
What draws Kurt to working with children like this? “I have one,” she says. And she maintains that these children tend to be creative and intelligent. “Some are more labor-intensive than others,” she says. But for parents who can raise a healthy, happy child, it’s all worth it.” To make an appointment, call 419-283-6050, or see toledocounseling.com