Volume 18, October 2009
Recently I was at a trauma workshop where a small part focused on directing parents to spend one to one time with their children. The suggestion to parents was to set aside 5 minutes of one on one time a day for a young child, and 15 minutes 3 times a week for older children. I decided to monitor my own habits and surprised myself! Yes I am busy. Yes my children are in extra curricular activities which require me to drive- wait and watch-but honestly, I had to really be intentional with my time with each of my children! How disappointing is that?! Part of my awareness was that I thought I was doing more than the 15 minutes 3 times a week, but it is easy to fool oneself. With a more intentional focus- where I stepped away from household chores (my personal trap) I was again pleasantly surprised how lovely my children responded to other requests for doing the dishes or practising the piano! Again it just shows how a little positive one to one time CAN go a long way!
I want to focus on sharing with you some ways to parent a difficult child. To head off this series, I will start with describing temperament.
What is Temperament?
Every person has their own temperament from birth. Temperament is a behavioural style and influences how a child behaves towards others and their environment. It is not about a person’s motivation, nor is it produced by the environment. However, the environment and your behaviour as a parent can influence your child’s temperament. Each child has their own temperament making parenting more individualistic than “one style suits all.” Temperament explains why some children do well with many stressors while others with little stress fare poorly.
There are nine temperamental traits that are described by Stanley Turecki, MD. They are:
- Activity level. How active or restless is the child generally, from an early age on?
- Distractibility. How easily is the child distracted: Can he pay attention?
- Intensity. How loud is the child generally, whether happy or unhappy?
- Regularity. How predictable is the child in his patterns of sleep, appetite, bowel habits?
- Persistence. Once involved with something, does the child stay with it for a long time? (Positive persistence). How relentless or stubborn is he when he wants something? (Negative persistence).
- Sensory threshold. How does the child react to sensory stimuli: noise, bright lights, colours smells, pain, warm weather, tastes, the texture and feel of clothes? Is he easily bothered? Is he easily overstimulated?
- Approach/withdrawal. What is the child’s initial response to newness-new places, people, foods, clothes?
- Adaptability. How does the child deal with transition and change?
- Mood. What is the child’s basic disposition? Is it more sunny or more serious.
With these 9 traits a child’s temperament can fall into the range of very easy to very difficult. The mix of traits combined may help to explain to parents why some of their children are easier to parent and why some are not in different situatins. Parents learn parenting techniques through trial and error as well as how to discipline their children. One of the important facts for parents to understand about temperament, is that often a child isn’t being ‘bad” or ‘difficult’ on purpose. It is also clear that a child who is harder to please can cause strain in the family home, making parents feel on edge or that they are not “getting it right”. Difficult children get locked into certain behaviour patterns, but so do their parents in response to this behaviour. This pattern or cycle becomes entrenched and then parents are feeling frustrated or end up yelling at their child.
Difficulty arises when there is a mismatch between the child’s temperament and the demand in the environment. This causes stress for the child and sometimes a helpless feeling for the parent. This discord can affect a child’s positive self image. A parents job is to find parenting methods and techniques that are compatible with their child’s personality.
Christine Kutzner Counselling Services 604-339-5774
Christine Kutzner, M.Ed. is a Registered Clinical Counsellor providing services to children, parents and families in North and West Vancouver. To inquire, contact Christine.
Copyright Christine Kutzner, 2009. All rights reserved.
provides counselling services to children, parents, and
in Vancouver, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver.