One sensitive issue parents contend with is their child’s temperament. Understanding children’s inborn traits is a key to better parenting and happier children, especially in the development years.
Before my daughter was born, I imagined her to be a specific type of a good-natured child. As she grew up, I realized my always viewing her as good-natured was a pre-conceived idea I had. Her childhood moods meandered through creative, sensitive, emotional, and even defiant in the early teen years. And she was good natured about most events in her life.
Understanding her temperament enabled me not to blame my self for her situations. Instead, I learned strategies to deal with difficult circumstances or conditions. One point of discipline I followed was to diffuse challenging situation so as not to escalate into major conflicts that might cause harm.
Temperament information helps you see how your child learns, responds, reacts, and behaves. Through the earlier years of development, you see reactions begin to form into a pattern of values, needs, and fears:
+++++ One child needs closeness, touch, and assurance from parents.Thus, he values following his parents, climbing in their laps and being cuddled or held.
His fear of not having the needs met, or when his needs are not met, he feels, hurt, lost, or angry.
+++++ Another youngster values being by herself–independence.
She plays with her dolls and likes doing so by herself.
Her need to learn through trial an error means that she pushes parents away sometimes with the familiar, “I can do it.”
+++++ Children, who readily and quickly shift, show adaptive temperaments. They learn more by doing and practicing.
+++++ Children, who have slower-to-warm temperaments, learn by watching and rehearsing internally.
+++++ Children’s challenging temperaments cause us to regroup:
- Ask what is the child going through?
- Is this a temperament trait or learned behavior that needs to change?
- Are the child’s needs being met?
- Are fears causing issues?
- Has the child’s value been diminished in any way?
This child views the world through optimistic eyes, adapts quickly and maintains positivity well. He is a natural learner, eats and sleeps regularly (has no trouble sleeping), is pleasant and cheerful, and displays a low-intensity mood.
Because this child feels deeply in certain situations, he has few significant emotional outbursts. This type comprises about 40% of all people.
The Feisty/Difficult/Spirited group of children comprises about 10% of the population. This grouping is the opposite of the flexible children. Feisty children are slow to adapt to the routines: napping, eating, homework, quiet time. Moreover, bowel movements are not regular. The spirited child has preferences for parents to discover and manage. On the hand, the child shows his mastery for specific tasks.
The feisty child has tantrums, is fussy, and can be unpleasant in disagreements. With high energy, this child explores with intensity and can get into mischief, On the other hand, he or she is bursting with energy and explores the surrounding and people intensely.
The third general temperament type is aptly called Slow-To-Warm, and 15% of the population belongs to this category. Slow to warm types are shy or highly-sensitive persons (which they sometimes are. They watch their world and usually observe on the outside of things before joining. Their internal clock is disrupted easily and shows up in irregular sleeping, feeding and other personal habits. This child seems to be always enjoying things or doing them at his own sweet pace.
The rest of the 35% of the population are combinations of several temperaments. They exhibit traits of all three temperament types and cannot be categorized into a single trait pattern. The feature they share is that they have characteristics of all three temperaments.
In all these temperament types, you will also find yours. Understanding children and their temperaments include understanding your own. Doing so will open your eyes to the many areas where you can connect to that of your children, or whether you are compatible with each other or not.
When coaches or consultants are working with parents or a family, take time with parents to establish a good fit between the parent’s temperament and the child’s temperament.
What Is Creating a Good Fit?
The term “goodness of fit, or used here as the good fit, refers to parents meeting the needs of a child by parenting according to the temperament of each child. The goodness of fit between a child’s temperament and your parenting temperament style is essential for healthy social and emotional development for both you and your child. Also, you want to meet your personal needs as a parent in daily living from sleeping well at night to scheduling date nights.
How To Create A Good Fit?
The Nine Traits Inventory is helpful in determining reaction patterns in children and typically is used from infancy through the first to fifth grade. For example, two-year-old Lucy was very shy. Each month when Mom’s book group came for an evening, Lucy’s mom thought she was helping by pushing Lucy forward or holding Lucy while mom’s friends hugged her hello. Lucy, however, appeared frightened and pulled back.
Being with and observing your child, you start to note how he or she responds to people, environments, stress, food, etc. You’ll be observant of how you react. Are you reactive? Or are you proactive?
Your goal is to become an active parent by recognizing feelings and watching behaviors. The more you observe your child’s traits, the more prepared you’re a master at managing and supporting temperaments. You are watching your child adapt, and then you adjust to varied environments and situations as you go along. Lucy’s mom took the hint when a book club member mentioned that because Lucy seemed overly shy, why not let her hang out at the book club meeting for several weeks without pushing her into anyone or anything. Instead, the friend suggested that Lucy explores and find her level of comfort in her way. These moms would watch how she did it and learned what comforted Lucy. That advice was excellent for Lucy’s mom to allow temperament expressions to evolve into a good fit for the situation.
What Does Adapting the Environment Mean?
Here are examples of how different parents handled changing the environment to meet the needs of a child.
Marilynn got upset when something new was happening the next day or an activity would be different. Her mom started talking about the exciting new event one week before it would happen. She’d mention in normal conversation each night, and the night before the event was the most critical. Marilynn asked, “Is it tomorrow?” Mom responded wth yes, which made Marilynn cry more. Marilynn would speak of being scared and not liking new things she didn’t know about. Mom adapted the environment by talking about the event with her daughter. She left an additional hour for Marilynn to get ready for bed, cry, read a book, and talk some more before turning off the light. On the following mornings, Marilynn did all right and held herself together. Somehow, her living through the fear before the event seemed to make her happier to be there.
Do you see how common sense the adaptations can be?
What questions do you have about a good fit between parents and children?
“Teenagers are known for their angst and moodiness. You really can’t blame them with all that’s going on in their lives from physical changes and peer pressure to academic expectations and the formation of relationships.” Tyler Jacobison (Twitter | Linkedin
Feeling moody and grouchy once in a while is normal. Trouble begins when these feelings become more intense, persisting for weeks, months or even longer. Teen depression is an uncomfortable reality in our society and it’s up to parents to support and help their affected teens.
Situational vs. Clinical Depression
You can help your child by first identifying the difference between situational and clinical depression, their causes and treatment methods.
Situational depression (also known as adjustment disorder) occurs in the aftermath of monumental or traumatic changes in an individual’s life. In teens, situational depression can be triggered by parents’ divorce, a breakup from a romantic relationship, death of a loved one, academic struggles or even moving to a new area. Keep in mind that situational depression is temporary and things should go back to normal once the stressors are removed or your teen learns to cope with them.
In the meantime though, their symptoms are very real and are similar to those of chronic depression. They include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness or hopelessness.
- Changes in sleeping patterns –either difficulties in falling asleep or oversleeping.
- Changes in eating patterns, loss of appetite and weight changes.
- Loss of interest in hobbies, studies and life in general.
- Persistent lethargy and fatigue.
- Difficulties concentrating, making decisions or remembering tasks.
- Self-harming or suicide attempts.
Clinical depression, on the other hand, is more severe and is thought to be caused by a complex mix of brain chemical imbalances, genetic factors and social situations. It causes major long-term depressive symptoms that are pervasive enough to interfere with your teen’s daily life.
Different Treatment Approaches
The treatment your teen requires depends on the type of depression they have.
Managing Situational Depression
● Urge your teen to continue pursuing their hobbies and other leisure activities.
● Also, encourage them to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet and get regular exercise to stimulate the production of dopamine to boost their mood.
● Joining a support group or talking out the situation with close friends and relatives can also help.
● If all else fails, seek the help of a trained psychotherapist.
Managing Clinical Depression
● Psychotherapy is a crucial part of helping your teen deal with clinical depression. Get feedback on their progress to ensure that the therapist you engage is the right fit.
● Appropriate medication in tandem with therapy will provide the best outcome for your teen. The medication might be for short or long-term use depending on the diagnosis.
● Hospitalization in a psychiatric facility might also be necessary especially if your teen is self-harming, suicidal or showing signs of delusion or psychosis.
With proper coaching, parents can learn responsive parenting skills that will help them discern behavioral issues that may predispose their teens to depression as well as learn how to assist their children to get over rough patches in their lives.
GUEST AUTHOR: Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn