Parenting a child at any age is an adventure, right? Some of us seem to enjoy it more than others and I think that the children we enjoy most, are the ones who reflect that back to us. Each child is a mystery until you understand who they are. Dr. Stella Chess, a noted child psychiatrist, identified nine personality temperaments which a child will show in a weak or in a strong manner.
1. activity level-active or passive
2. regularity-attitude about routines
3. approach to new things-goes forward or withdraws
4. adaptability-accepts change or is irritable
5. intensity-responds to feelings-high or low
6. sensory threshold
7. mood-cheerful or gloomy
8. distractibility-impulsive or hesitant
9. attention span-short or long.
If a child seems easy to raise, it probably has a lot to do with having a temperament similar to that parent. The important thing is getting to know each child so that these basic patterns can be accommodated in the family and the differences appreciated. Although behavior problems of children are par for the course, so to speak, working together with the child to resolve them is critical in the child’s on-going development. What is unsolved at age 4, for example, such a aggressive behavior, tantrums or fears tend to continue as normal to the child through preadolescence.
Typically, the child has become frustrated in his or her attempts to get a need met and feel satisfied in the situation. So asking and observing what that might be could be a good first step. The goal always is to provide experiences that the child feels he or she can handle and then, receive approval for those verbal or physical choices. Knowing your child’s temperament can assist in preparing and providing for changes so that the child will feel less stressed and be less likely to have a frustrated behavioral response. Family rules are of course basic to everyone’s welfare and testing those limits is also normal for most children. Remembering to notice when the child complies and also finding other opportunities to give positive attention usually will cause the child to repeat that behavior.
As we know, children who lack consistent attention for their efforts to be cooperative tend to seek parental attention in their misbehavior. This negative pattern forms a habit over time and may be displayed in other social situations as well as this behavior is also repeated. Respecting the child’s unique personality could go a long way to making parenting an enjoyable 20 year adventure.
Katherine Eberhard is a semi-retired Clinical Social Worker with 35-plus years counseling families, children and individuals. She has been a resident of Lees Summit over the past 27 years and was in private practice since 2001. She now does in-home counseling and can be reached at email@example.com