Living With the Active Alert Child

This book is a wonderfully written explanation of challenging children. Written by Linda S. Budd Ph.D., it delves into not only the behavior, but the parenting style and the impact these children have on their surroundings. Join me in this summary of her book. The italicised words were written by the author.

The eleven traits of an Active-Alert Child:

  • Active
  • Alert
  • Bright
  • Controlling
  • Fearful
  • Intense
  • Attention-hungry
  • Trouble getting along with others
  • Fluctuating self-esteem
  • Performers
  • Empathic ability

"My first message to you then is: You didn't create this temperament. Your child was born with it." And that is the simple message that begins a terrific book on temperament-based parenting and the best way to elicit a better response from your active-alert child. I had been so caught up in parenting, that when I read this book, it touched me. Describing both of my children, but more so the older of the two, it really struck home. The style of writing, the effortless conversational prose, the real life excerpts were effective in showing me where I was missing a few key ingredients. Read along with me for a few highlights and you will no doubt want to get the book and read the entire thing again and again! I have left out most of the anecdotal support and concentrated this summary as an outline. The book is filled with some essential and effective pictures of specific family situations and you really must read it to get the full impact.


'…being active is not to be confused with hyperactive.' I think at one time or another, all of us have used the word 'hyper' to describe our children, but it is a medical term and really should be used for a medical diagnosis. This will assure that the correct assessment occurs and that people do not misinterpret what you describe. Movement alone does not make a child hyperactive but rather, the author states, '…movement is your child's learning tool. Think about this in relation to a "fussy baby." If you learned best through movement, but you could not yet crawl or walk, wouldn't you be "fussy" or colicky too?'

Again, with simple language, she summed up my children's screams by their ever growing need to be shown EVERYTHING, however because they couldn't get anywhere themselves, they would YELL!

Wonderful ideas constantly burst forth from these children! It is truly incredible to observe the "idle" hours of the active alert. The amount of artwork they produce in a day, the number of block buildings they create in an afternoon, boggles the mind.

Given this high level of activity, it can lead parents to believe that their kids will just conk out from exhaustion. But the reverse is actually true - the activity will grow exponentially to a point of frenzy and since the child is ill equipped to calm themselves, they can and do stay up very late at night. Bedtime routine and calming focused activities will help your child relax and approach sleep better.

Parenting Strategies for Active Children-

1)Investigate the Physiological Origins of Your Child's Active Behavior

  • a)allergies
  • b)chronic ear infections
  • c)hearing complications
  • d)genetics
  • e)SID

2)Help Your Child Get His/Her Rest

3)Enjoy and Focus the Monkey Energy


'Alertness has 4 components, each with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.'

1)Alert children are keen observers

Advantage: they notice things that others don't.

Disadvantage: they may notice things that hurt them, but fearing that they will miss something, they do not turn away.

2)Alert children have no boundaries for self.

Advantage: they explore everything

Disadvantage: they become overstimulated or take in information they aren't ready to understand

3)Alert children have no boundaries for others

Advantage: they get what they want more often when they intrude or violate other people's space

Disadvantage: they may not make friends easily. They anger people whose space they violate.

4)Alert children have no sense of boundaries in the form of rules for appropriate behavior

Advantage: their keen observational and advanced language abilities help them to detect inconsistently applied rules

Disadvantage: their lack of knowledge about boundaries makes it difficult for them to determine whether they should or should not try to get their own way

Parenting Strategies for the Alert Child

1)Observe your keen observer (…If you are not ready to explain, be careful of exposure.)

2)Remember your child's lack of boundaries for self

3)Teach your child about other people's boundaries

4)Establish rules as boundaries


Active alert children are bright. Most of them test into their schools' gifted programs. Many come to see me with high IQ and aptitude scores in hand. Yet active alert children are different from traditionally gifted children. Some gifted programs may actually overstimulate them and raise competition anxiety within them. Active alert children learn differently…

Parenting Strategies for the Bright Child-

1)Learn how your child learns and How to facilitate that learning

2)Accept your child and advocate for him/her


Active alert children have a high need for control. They are highly verbal and often use those skills to their advantage.

Parenting Strategies for the Controlling child-

1)Recognizing and respecting boundaries


3)Build structure or routines

4)Determine who's in charge

5)Set priorities


Active alerts are unable to make transitions and are often fearful in new situations. It's easy to see why. New situations mean new stimuli. To the active alert child, confronting such an onslaught of new stimuli means uncertainty about how much control he/she will have in his/her new environment with new adults and peers. The observant active alert always fears that he won't be accepted and won't belong in this new place.

Parenting Strategies for the Fearful child-

1)Prepare your child for change

2)Accept your child's fears

3)Be careful not to push


Your child is intensely active, intensely alert, intensely controlling and intensely fearful…life is black and white, happy and sad, for the active alert child. There are no gray areas…Active alerts also perceive themselves as smart or dumb- never average. Extreme in their expectations of themselves, they do not readily accept their own mistakes.

Parenting Strategies for the Intense child-

1)Accept and affirm your child's intensity

2)Offer sympathy while guiding your child

3)Identify "Catastrophizing" with your child