What exactly is a child's temperament, how does it differ from personality, how do incongruities between a child's temperament and his environment affect behavior, and what are the nine main temperament traits?
These are some of the questions I addressed in my last article, The Importance of Temperament, referring for most of the facts to Dr. William B. Carey's best-selling book: Understanding Your Child's Temperament. Dr. Carey, M.D. is an attending physician in the division of General Pediatrics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is also the Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Understanding a child's true temperament can help parents resolve a host of behavioral issues in the home, school, and social environment, as well as help them shape their parenting style to effectively accomodate their child's needs.
The term "goodness of fit" refers to the degree of harmony between parent and child. Luckily, family members do not have to possess similar temperaments to achieve harmony in the home.
"A good fit occurs when the values and expectations of parents and other caregivers in the environment are in accord with the capacities and temperament of the child," writes Carey in Understanding Your Child's Temperament. "A good fit does not mean a complete lack of stress or conflict. Some of these uncomfortable feelings are inevitable in normal development."
According to Oliver, a good fit begins with the parent, not the child. "We need to lead the dance," he says. "Expecting children to make adjustments to fit us is not fair. We are the ones who need to be aware and willing to make things fit well for the child. This is the selfless part of being a parent."
This does not mean letting your child run circles around you. In fact, effectively managing your child's temperament may require you to set more, rather than fewer limits.