Temperament - A Family Affair

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 02:35pm
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What is temperament? Temperament is a combination of 9 emotional building blocks, called “traits” that affect how you respond to life.

These traits are: activity, adaptability, approach, distractibility, intensity, persistence, positivity, regularity, sensitivity.  Each of these traits can appear as either high or low, or something in between. 

Why is temperament important?
Humans are born with the traits.  They appear beginning early in life.  They affect how you, your husband or wife and your children act and relate as individuals and, importantly, with each other

How permanent are the traits?
Traits are biologically-based.  We know traits run in families.  They stay with us over time and we use them in many different situations.

Although traits are biological tendencies, no single gene has been found to cause them, and scientists predict this will never happen.  Genetic tendencies are not simple, but complicated.

These traits are genetically related tendencies, NOT destiny.  They are better at predicting what you will not become, rather than what you will become.  For example, if you are a highly active person, chances are good you won’t become very passive; but in most instances it does not mean you can’t learn to control your tendencies under certain conditions.

These traits appear in different degrees, and some are more dominant than others.  

So why is temperament important in parenting?

Each person in your family has temperament traits.  You have temperament traits.  Your spouse/partner has temperament traits.  Your children have them.  Understanding temperament provides the basis for parents to parent their child more effectively.

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Using Parenting Styles

by Maxine
Posted May 12 2011 12:02pm
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We recommend the Positive Parenting approach, which is based on the authoritative or backbone style of parenting. The Positive Parenting approach will not look the same for every family. Your child’s temperament, as well as your own, will make the Positive Parenting approach unique for your family.

Look at how The Positive Parenting approach might be used in the following scenarios. Read the scenario and then think about what your answer to the question might be. Then read on to see what our experts have to say about these situations.

Scenario One

Tina and Mario’s son, Anthony is 3 ½ months old and they are finally starting to understand this little person. Tina has notice that Anthony gets easily upset in new surroundings. Mario has noticed that Anthony startles very easily around noise and particularly with his grandfathers’ and uncles’ loud voices. They have both noticed that Anthony lets them know with vigorous crying when he is hungry, cold, bored or has a soiled diaper. Using the Positive Parenting approach, what strategies might they use to parent Anthony?

Expert Feedback

  • Anthony appears to be a sensitive baby who is more emotionally intense. They need to respond to the cues he gives them promptly such as when he is hungry, cold or has soiled diapers. Responding to his cues promptly will help make him feel loved and secure.
  • When they do respond to his cues, talking to him about what they are doing will help to build his language skills. “I know you are upset when you have a wet diaper. Let’s go change it right now.”
  • When they take him to new surroundings they should comfort him by cuddling or staying close to him to help make him feel secure.
  • They may want to prepare him in advance for new events or places by telling him what to expect; or gradually introducing him to new people, such as when they use a babysitter.
  • Playing with him and changing the tone of their voices will help to gradually show Anthony that he does not need to fear loud voices. They need to be aware that if they use a raised voice it will frighten him.

Scenario Two

Siobahn and Paddy have a 5-month-old daughter named Kerrie. Kerrie is an active baby and has been since the day she was born. When she is awake she is frequently wiggling or babbling. She is very interested in her environment and reaches out for things that are close by. She has learned to roll over and already rolls off her play center blanket and towards the family dog, no matter where the dog lays. Siobahn and Paddy constantly have to keep an eye on her even when she is in her infant chair on the floor. She is very persistent and is not easily distracted once she becomes interested in something. Using the Positive Parenting approach, what strategies might they use to parent Kerrie?<!--?p-->

Expert Feedback

  • Since Kerrie is an active baby, who appears to have temperament traits of activity, persistence and distractability, it will be important that her parents provide a safe place for Kerrie to play and explore.
  • Comfort her when she becomes frustrated with activities that she can not yet do.
  • Be patient as she will want to continue to practice new skills as she learns them, such as rolling over towards the family dog. She will want to do this again, again and again.
  • Using firm limits and being consistent with these limits will be important, such as with the family dog.
  • Provide Kerrie with physical activities that will help to keep her engaged. Get down and play with Kerrie as she explores her environment whether it is on the living room floor, or the grass in the park.

Scenario 3

Carlos and Juanita have found their 6-month-old daughter Carmel to be an easygoing child. Carmel rarely fusses and is very regular in her eating and sleeping routines. She adapts to any change easily and just quietly watches when she is placed in a different setting. Now that she is older, she stills prefers watching even when she is with her slightly older cousins who she sees on a regular basis. Juanita and Carlos have found Carmel’s quiet easy going nature is very different than their own more extroverted and active temperaments. Using the Positive Parenting approach what strategies might they use to parent Carmel?

Expert Feedback

  • Since Carmel has quieter approach, a lower activity level and an ease in adapting, her parents may have to provide her with activities that will engage her so she can reach her full potential.
  • They may need to take the initiative to help her explore the setting she is in, her toys and her books etc. by actively playing with her. They may need to acknowledge and encourage her when she does explore, or when she plays with toys or other children on her own.
  • They should continue to comfort and cuddle her so that she feels loved and valued.

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Temperament - Goodness of Fit

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 02:43pm
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Goodness of Fit is the match or mismatch of temperament traits between two members of the family.  There are usually three people in a family, and therefore, three temperaments – parent number one's, parent number two's and the child’s.  How these temperaments fit together often explains how easy it is to parent the child as a team.

There are 3 typical Goodness of Fit challenges to parenting as a team:

  • Parent one and child fit together easily, but parent two doesn’t
  • Parent two and child fit together easily, but parent one doesn’t
  • Both parents fit together easily, but their child doesn’t

It is important for parents to know how they rank on the nine temperament traits.  It is often helpful for both parents to complete the Goodness of Fit worksheet separately, and then compare the ratings they gave themselves and each other.

To complete the Goodness of Fit Worksheet, identify the level of traits that you feel you have. Also identify the levels of the traits that your partner has. Have your partner complete their own sheet and then compare your answers.

Download the Goodness of Fit Worksheet (PDF)

Once that is done, it can be beneficial for both parents to complete the Temperament Worksheet for your child, and then examine how the child and the parents fit, or do not fit, together as a family.

Download the Temperament Worksheet (PDF)



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Temperament - Parenting Strategies for Children Who Are "Difficult"

by Maxine
Posted August 3 2010 03:17pm
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Interestingly, the traits that are easy for some parents to accept may not be easy for others to accept.

Parents frequently label their children as “difficult” or “easy.”

This is partly subjective, referring to traits that are easy to accept versus those that are not.  Interestingly, the traits that are easy for some parents to accept may not be easy for others to accept.  And gender gets mixed up in this, too.  A highly active boy is sometimes easier for parents to accept than a highly active girl.

But labeling a child as “difficult” or “easy” is also partly objective.  Intense, highly reactive children are much more difficult to parent.  It is really difficult to listen to a child in distress, and anxious children are going to show a lot more distress than easy-going children.

What should you do if your child is difficult to handle? This can occur with any mis-match of a parent’s and a child’s temperament.  For example, it is often difficult for a very focused parent to handle a child who is stimulated by everything, and vice versa – it can be hard for a multi-tasking parent to manage a very focused child. 

There are also children whose emotions run hot all the time. And this is hard for most parents to manage.

There are specific strategies you can use to parent children with high or low levels of the nine temperament traits, which are often the most challenging to parent.  See the Nine Temperament Traits article to learn more about those.

Nonetheless, if you have a child who is difficult for you to handle, try the overarching Positive Parenting strategies below to keep you on an even keel.

For Yourselves:

  • Ask for help from your partner when you need relief.
  • Offer help to your partner, when you see them struggling.
  • Ensure you get some relief.
  • Take some time away from your child, so you can be glad to see him when you return – such as a part-time job or a class.
  • Find other caregivers who like and understand your child, and will give him quality time – such as grandparents, nannies, child care providers, or neighbours.
  • Use the Reflective Parenting Strategies, to help you find fresh strategies when new challenging situations arise. Learn more about Reflective Parenting.
  • Try reframing the most challenging traits of your child to see the positive aspect of these traits.  For example, a highly active child as an adventurous child or a shy child as a calm and cautious child. 

For Your Child

  • Be as patient, encouraging and understanding as you can, knowing that you may have to do more of this with a difficult child than with a child you find easy to parent.
  • Plan ahead.  You can forecast some stressful situations, and take steps to reduce the predictable tension, before it can take hold. 
  • Make some small accommodations to reduce tensions.   
  • Shape your child's behaviour by having him make baby steps toward the behaviour you desire.  In many cases you cannot totally change your child.  Figure out ways to inch your way toward what will work for you both.
  • Learn when to back off.  It is not helpful to push yourself or your child to the point where either of you loses your temper.  When you feel yourself or your child nearing such a crisis, stop and take a break.  If this is happening frequently, ask your child’s doctor for a referral to a mental health or child management clinic. 

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