Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

Parenting with Temperament in Mind

Ever wonder how your child can react to and behave in situations so differently than you do? Though parents surely have an influence on children’s behavior and mannerisms, temperament is also a unique influence that a child brings on their own. Temperament needs to be taken into account to not only have successful parenting, but also a secure attachment between parent and child– which impacts a child’s exploration, independence, and relationships in the future. The goal of this post is to better understand what temperament is and how to guide your parenting style to have harmony at home and securely attached children in now and in the future.

According to the Center of Parenting Education, there are 10 traits that make up temperament. These 10 traits are: Intensity, Activity Level, Regularity, Quality of Mood, Emotional Sensitivity, Sensory Sensitivity, Adaptability, Approach/Withdrawal, Distractibility, and Persistence. Another article explains children with “difficult” temperaments as those who react to the world negatively and intensely, while “easy” children are described as positive and calmer. There is no “right” or “wrong” temperament, just different. For example, a parent who is easy going might find it difficult to have a child who is rigid and shy. Likewise, a parent is calmer and less forthcoming may find it challenging to have an active and talkative child. If there appears to be a mismatch of sorts between parent and child, don’t lose heart. The goodness of fit will sometimes be low, and always vary, between parent and child when it comes to temperament. The key to succeeding in any bond is flexibility. Zero to Three explains that children’s reaction and behavior can in large part be influenced and adapted through parent’s introducing children to different situations in small steps. It is also important to point out that a child’s adaptability and flexibility will also be a reflection of the parent’s flexibility and adaptability. The point is not to change your child, but to work with your child.

A great question to ask yourself when you see yourself struggling to mesh with your child’s approach to life, specifically when it is not harming them or others, is: “Am I looking at this as ‘wrong or right’?” If you answer yes, you may be looking at it through a lens that will not only suffocate your child’s individuality, but will also be conducive to further confusion and disruption to your bond. Seek ways to tweak your parenting style to match what your child needs– does your child need more limits or reminders, or does your child need to have more time on their own?

This is no small feat! Creating a strong and healthy bond with your child that will not only help them feel safe with you but safe enough to explore and create other bonds with others in the future takes diligent work and effort. Tweaking your parenting style through, you will often find yourself sacrificing a short-term goal or desire for something that will be much more fruitful in the future. For this, we at Help Me Grow commend all parents who are constantly seeking to assist and lift their children in a heroic undertaking of parenthood, where there is always something more to learn and something more to clean up.

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