High-Energy Kids: Tips from KidStrong’s Director of Research (and Boy Mom), Kristie Abt, PhD
I am the proud momma of 2 amazing boys, 11 and 9 years of age. They are both amazing in their own unique ways. My oldest is responsible, hardworking, incredibly empathetic, and loves Legos and soccer. My youngest? The best way to describe him is, well….he’s a high-energy child, always has been.
My youngest was crawling upstairs faster than I could blink by 6 months, walking by 9 months, and gave up naps before he hit 2 years of age. He seemingly has two speeds - awake and moving at 160 mph, or sleeping (0 mph). He rarely sits still, loves all sports, WWE, American Ninja Warrior, and always has a basketball in his hands or a soccer ball at his feet. He loves to talk and talk. Some nights after he is asleep, I truly hear the sound of silence.
I love my youngest more than anything. But if I can be honest, sometimes the high energy leaves me feeling annoyed or frustrated, especially if my energy for the day doesn’t match his or trying to keep up with him makes working an impossible task. Also, he’s challenged by boundaries and being told what to do. And with his high energy comes intensity, including strong emotions and epic meltdowns. There have definitely been some hard days; days when I have questioned my parenting, lost my temper, felt guilty for losing said temper, even hid in a closet, and cried.
Can you relate? If so, read on. I want to share a few tips that have helped me with my amazing high-energy child. Hopefully, these tips will do the same for you!
First, understand that this is their personality. It’s part of their DNA and it’s normal. Don’t try to change it because you can’t. Embrace it and focus on what you love about their personality (Yes, some days this will be easier than others). I know for my son, he is incredibly smart, fun, hilarious, values connection and loves hard. In fact, I don’t know a single person on the planet that makes me laugh more or gives better hugs than him. And I make sure to tell him this every day. Maybe even more on the harder days.
Be mindful of negative descriptive words/statements of your child, especially if they fall within their earshot. Refrain from using words such as “challenging” or “high maintenance”. I have also heard comments from others, such as “Wow, you certainly have your hands full!” or “I don’t know how you do it!“ How do you think these kinds of words or statements make your child feel, especially if they hear them regularly? How would it make you feel if people described you in this way?
Understand that children naturally have high levels of energy and require physical activity every single day, multiple times a day. This is non-negotiable. So, provide them with a healthy outlet for this energy and run them! Include structured and unstructured physical activity, including workouts from KidStrong University, family walks or bike rides, trips to the playground. Consider creating a home ninja course and race through it, play tag, or any type of sport. High energy kids also love what we call heavy work. Heavy work is any type of ‘work’ that pushes or pulls against the body. When performed it results in an increase in body awareness and a sense of calm. Have your child perform push-ups, burpees, bear crawls, or load up a laundry basket and have your child push and/or pull it from one end of the hallway to the next.
Provide and teach calming activities that appeal to multiple senses – excellent for feelings of restlessness. My son loves water activities. To this day, and especially after a long day at school, he will ask for a warm bubble bath because he has learned it helps him feel calm. When my son was little we would make bath time a little more engaging with a glow stick bath. I would fill the bathtub with warm water (soothing), throw in some glow sticks, and turn out the lights (calming). How great is that? You can also try activities such as coloring or painting, reading, or create what is called a sensory bin (check out Pinterest for loads of ideas). When my son was little, his favorite was a bin filled with shaving cream. Sometimes we would use food coloring to make the shaving cream different colors. Other times he drove matchbox cars through it or we worked on ‘drawing’ our letters and numbers. These days, one of his favorite calming activities is to build a fort, climb inside and read a book.
Keeping up with kids can be energy-draining no matter their energy level. Take time every day to do something for yourself without the kids in tow. You need and deserve this daily investment. Consider an exercise that may include intense training like strength training or running. Or maybe you need a calmer form of exercise, such as a walk or yoga. Other options include meeting or calling a friend, taking the time to read a book, or taking a nap. The options are limitless. The point is to do something that is special and specific to you.
Ok, it’s YOUR turn! What are your best high-energy child parenting tips? Let’s start the conversation. I’d love to hear from you!