Parenting Your Child's Temperament: Part Two
How to create an effective parenting style for harmonious family relationships
Here are some additional tips to help you develop a game plan.
- Stop Blaming Yourself and Your Kids
Your child’s temperament is not a result of “bad parenting” or a “bad kid.” Certain temperamental traits are more frustrating and exhausting to deal with than others. Practice self-care along the way and ask for help from your partner, your family, or a qualified health care provider.
- Avoid Comparisons
It is tempting to compare your child to yourself or siblings (“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”), but try to never do so out loud. Also, avoid statements like, “I wish you were more outgoing,” or, “I wish you were less sensitive.” Wishing does not make it so. It only makes children feel inadequate.
- Slow Down
Most adults multitask, walk quickly, talk quickly, and rush from one activity to the next. But children, even those with active temperaments, have not yet mastered this juggling act. Most kids move slower and need more transition time than adults. Avoid packing your schedule so tightly that ten extra minutes here or there risks completely stressing you out and ruining the day. Prioritize and make more room for unstructured time with your kids.
- Put Yourself in Their Booties
Imagine how it feels to be a child. You are completely dependent on someone else for food, a good night’s rest, love, company and reassurance. Everyone is taller than you, faster than you, and they come and go whether you want them to or not. Seeing life from your child’s point of view may not come naturally and it is not always easy (especially if your parents were not particularly empathic towards you), but once learned, empathy can give you incredible clarity into how to best work with your child.
- Choose Appropriate Discipline
Learn to distinguish between temperamental styles and deliberate acting out. There is a difference between a highly active child who accidentally knocks over your favorite vase and one who breaks it in a fit of anger. It takes time for children to develop impulse control, coordination, and to understand cause and effect. In the meantime, apply discipline and consequences that are appropriate to each situation.
- Remember the Positives
It is very easy to focus exclusively on the challenges and difficulties of your child’s temperament. But for every drawback there is at least one major advantage. According to the Child Development Institute website, slow-to-adapt children are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure, highly active kids are often good at sports and do well in demanding jobs as adults, while serious children tend to be analytical and good evaluators. Look for and praise them for their special traits and talents.
Whenever possible, take the time to explain your motives and decisions to your kids. If you are just too busy at a particular moment, tell your child that you will be happy to explain later. Also, kids love to help. It makes them feel important and respected. If you have the time, ask your child for her input about a particular issue, like how to best get her out the door when you are in a rush. Work as a team to create realistic strategies that she can understand.
- Lead the Dance
“Set limits to help your child develop self control,” says Oliver. “And be a good role model because children learn by imitation. Respect their opinions but remain firm on important limits.”
- Be Honest
With older children, you can be honest about the potential pitfalls of a particular trait. For example, ff you child is highly sensitive, he may get his feelings hurt more easily. Teachers may unfairly single out children with highly active temperaments. Let kids know that you are concerned without criticizing them. Tell them to come to you if they experience problems.
- Aim for Improvement, Not Change
The goal is to understand and then successfully manage your child’s temperament, not to change it. As Carey points out, variations in temperament make each child as individual and interesting as a snowflake.
“Temperament is as natural as their eye color,” says Oliver. “My daughter’s eyes are the bluest blue in the world… I wouldn’t want to change that. She also has a high activity level and I wouldn’t want to change that either.”
As with so many issues, knowledge breeds understanding, and with understanding come the strength and ability to handle different situations. Minor adjustments to parenting styles can make a tremendous difference to their effectiveness. The knowledge that your child’s temperamental style colors her approach to the world and affects her social, academic, and family interactions may motivate you, the parent, to make the modifications necessary to achieve harmony within your home and family relationships.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN