The first article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama. Click for the English and Arabic versions of the article.
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the joys of being a parent are priceless. Still, parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there. Understanding your child’s behavior can help make everyday situations and disciplining easier for you. The first step to that is understanding your child’s temperament.
Temperament isn’t something your child chooses or that you created. Each child is born with his own natural style of interacting with the people and environment around him. This uniqueness is evident from birth; some babies are quiet while others loudly demand attention. Children in the same family can have different temperaments as well. These temperamental differences mean that each child has different needs and parenting can’t be a “one size fits all” scenario. Temperamental traits usually stay with the child into adulthood and differs from personality.
Recognizing your child’s behavioral patterns that are influenced by temperament can help you anticipate your child’s reactions to certain situations. Additionally, it can help you decide on the best way to deal with your child’s needs.
Temperament Types & What you can do:
There are generally three different temperament types. Most children can easily fall into one of these categories while others show a combination of these patterns.
- Easy or flexible children are usually happy, calm, adaptable, have regular sleeping and eating habits, a generally positive mood and are interested in new experiences.
What you can do: You may need to make special time to talk about your child’s feelings since your child might not naturally demand that due to her easy style. Make sure you spend enough play time and talk to your baby who may be naturally quiet. She will still need all the early experiences of social interaction and communication to help her develop.
- Active or “difficult” children are often active, fussy, more likely to be irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, are more fearful of new people and situations and are easily upset by noise and commotion.
What you can do: Give your active child opportunity to work off his energy. Give choices (usually limit them to two options) to reduce conflict. For example, give a choice of wearing the blue or red sweater while getting dressed. Make sure to prepare your child if the situation will change to make transitions easier. Such as, letting him know it’s almost bedtime and giving him time to prepare for that instead of expecting him to immediately put away his toys and go to bed. Try giving your child tasks to help move from one activity for the other. Such as, brushing his teeth before going to bed. Remember to explain to your child what’s happening, this can make activities like diaper changing and getting dressed much easier once your child knows what to expect and understands his role.
- Slow to warm up or cautious children are usually inactive, they tend to withdraw or respond negatively to new experiences. However, they slowly become more positive and adjust with continuous, positive and supportive exposure.
What you can do: Your child may need more time to adjust to new situations and people. Make sure to give her enough support and time to feel comfortable enough to venture out. Change can also be difficult to handle, try to give your child enough notice that a situation will be changing. For example, let your child know when it’s almost time for dinner and she has to put her toys away soon, that way she has enough time to prepare herself to move on to the next activity. Routines are also important and a source of comfort, they help children feel in control of their surroundings. Remember not to force your child if she’s not ready. Comfort and support are much more effective ways to helping her feel secure enough to explore her surroundings.
Parenting with Temperament in Mind
- Avoid comparing him to other children. Remember that your responses can help adapt his temperament. A timid child can become more comfortable with a supporting parent.
- Communicate limits and decisions clearly. Involving your child in setting rules will help make routines and transitions easier as well as help your child develop self control.
- Be aware of your own temperament and try to adjust yourself to your child. This doesn’t mean changing who you are, but realizing that your child enjoys experiencing the world in a different way.
- Finding activities to bond and understanding your child’s actions which are very different from your own can be a struggle. Those feelings are OK and it’s important to communicate them with your partner.
Remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” temperament. Even though some temperaments might be easier to deal with than others, it’s still one of your child’s unique qualities. It’s important that your child feels loved the way she is. Remember, the goal isn’t to change your child, but to help nurture her unique strengths and to deal with difficult situations.
How many parents have thought about taking a moment and listening to their child? If you have, how often have you actually gotten down to your child’s level and listened to his thoughts and ideas? It can be difficult for parents to find the time and energy to listen to young children, especially in times of conflict or stress. Even though we might spend most of our time directing or talking to children, listening is also an important part of communication. It a great way to help you understand how your child thinks and feels and encourages her self-expression and independence. By listening to your child you send the signal that her thoughts, ideas and feelings matter.
Different stages of your child’s development require different means of listening from infancy through the early years.
Infants typically need parents to listen to their cues and signals. It’s important to observe your baby and learn her expressions of anger, frustration and happiness. By learning your baby’s cues and signals you can respond quickly and appropriately to her needs. Infants learn from reoccurring experiences, as you consistently respond to her this in turn helps her feel secure in knowing her caregiver is available in times of distress as well as understanding that her actions cause certain reactions from you.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
At this age your child is developing more complex feelings of emotions as well as a burst of words to help express herself. Your child still needs your help in regulating these emotions and expressing thoughts and ideas. However, she’s also starting a stage of independence where her self-expression matters. It’s important to effectively listen to your child which in turn will foster her independence, self-confidence, self-expression and critical thinking skills. Here are a few practical tips you can implement.
- Talk about feelings: Acknowledge your child’s feelings when sad or angry, “I can see you are feeling sad”. Validating and respecting your child’s feelings is the first step to letting your child know that her independent thoughts matter.
- Offer comfort. Sometimes young children need to have their feelings validated but can’t express themselves yet. Just like infants, learn to read your child’s cues and signals and offer appropriate comfort when needed.
- Actively listen to your child: Listen to your child without interruption and let her take her time to express herself, younger non verbal children may need your help by asking questions about what happened or elaborating on their statements. Make sure you refrain from subjective statements, try to be as objective as possible when helping your child out. After your child is done make sure you understood correctly, restate your child’s thoughts as she stated them. This shows your child that you did actually listen to her point of view. Try to avoid judging your child’s opinion.
- Ask questions to get more information: “what happened” “How did you feel when he took the ball from you”. Follow-up questions help acknowledge your child’s feelings and help you understand how your child is feelings.
- Have your child propose solutions: In situations of conflict you can encourage your child to propose a new solution to the situation. This typically works best with older children who are able to express themselves easily and understand the concept of consequences. Remind your child of your general house rules and suggest she pose a solution. She may truly surprise you! If the solution conflicts with your house rules simply mention that and start over. Let your child carry out the solution and follow up with her if she feels it’s working out or not. If not, then discuss the reasons and go back to negotiating a new one. This strategy helps foster your child’s independence, self-help skills as well as learning about consequences and compromise.
- Try to avoid objecting to your child’s opinion too soon: Give your child ample chance to explain before saying No. If possible offer a series of questions that allow your child to reach this conclusion on her own.
Points to Remember
- Choose appropriate techniques for your child’s age and abilities. It can be quite frustrating for a 3 year old to have to come up with a solution or readily express herself using long sentences. This is behavior is more appropriate for a 5 year old. Try one or two word sentences and yes/no questions with your younger child.
- Try to find the reason behind certain misbehavior. Is your family going through a stressful time or significant changes? Moving, having a baby or starting school are all things that could cause your child to start acting out.
- Use simple language when speaking to your child. Your child might get lost if you use long and complex sentences. Try to be concise and to the point using simple words that your child can easily understand.
- Get down to your child’s eye level. This does wonders to the conversation. Your child feels she has your full attention and is more willing to communicate and listen to you.
- Offer choices. If things get complicated or you’re dealing with a young child, offering choices can be a good solution. Limit them to two choices to avoid confusion and make sure you can follow through!
Read More On..
Great Resources on Listening
Picture from E>mar
It’s a start of a new year! Why not start off with a positive parenting resolution? positive discipline parenting is a great way to deal with your child on a daily basis and handle conflict and difficult situations while keeping your cool and supporting your child’s independence and development.
Dr. Jane Nelson, author of the Positive Discipline series, initiated a great idea for this year on her blog. Using a new positive parenting tool every week! In support of this initiative and helping to spread support for parents on how to implement these tools in daily life. I’ll be blogging about the practical implementation of some of these tools from my personal experience and different references. Take a look of the full list of 52 positive parenting tips.
Week 1 – Listen
Week 2 – Encouragement
Week 3 – Connection Before Correction
Week 4 – Family Meetings
Week 5 – Compliments
Week 6 – Routines
Week 7 – Special Time
Week 8 – Take Time for Training
Week 9 – Validate Feelings
Week 10 – Positive Time Out
Week 11 – Jobs
Week 12 – Mistakes
Week 13 – 3 R’s of Recovery
Week 14 – Problem Solving
Week 15 – Limit Screen Time
Week 16 – Follow Through
Week 17 – Agreements
Week 18 – Focus On Solutions
Week 19 – Logical Consequences
Week 20 – Natural Consequences
Week 21 – Teach Children What to Do
Week 22 – Put Kids in the Same Boat
Week 23 – Allowances
Week 24 – Hugs
Week 25 – Wheel of Choice
Week 26 – Act Without Words
Week 27 – Understand the Brain
Week 28 – Back Talk
Week 29 – Winning Cooperation
Week 30 – Distract & Redirect
Week 31 – Decide What You Will Do
Week 32 – Practice
Week 33 – Empower Your Kids
Week 34 – Motivation
Week 35 – Kind and Firm
Week 36 – Pay Attention
Week 37 – Small Steps
Week 38 – Control Your Behavior
Week 39 – Sense of Humor
Week 40 – Silent Signals
Week 41 – Letting Go
Week 42 – Eye to Eye
Week 43 – Closet Listening
Week 44 – One Word
Week 45 – Show Faith
Week 46 – Break the Code
Week 47 – Avoid Pampering
Week 48 – Anger Wheel of Choice
Week 49 – Encouragement vs Praise
Week 50 – Limited Choices
Week 51 – Curiosity Questions
Week 52 – Mirror
Photo from Nameberry.com