All children are born with individual temperament. This is your child’s preferred style of relating and responding to people and events. There are 3 behavior clusters which categorize that some babies are easy, some are slow to warm up, and others are difficult. All babies and children demand time and attention, besides unconditional love. But, there is that ‘difficult’ child who challenges and keeps parents on their toes at all times.
No matter your child’s temperament, none is neither good nor bad. It simply indicates your child’s response patterns. Adjust your parenting accordingly.
Approximately 10-20% of children are born with difficult temperaments. These children may be extra sensitive to sensory stimulation, or are overwhelmed by changes in routine and new experiences. Their reactions may be intense and are unable to calm themselves very well. They can, at times, be extremely focused or easily distracted.
Children with difficult temperament may act out or withdraw completely in response to change. For those parents who can relate to what’s described here, don’t go off and attach a label to your child one way or the other. Just be mindful of your parenting and discipline practices as it aligns with your child’s temperament.
Your routine discipline interactions inform you about your child’s temperament. Some parents may say that they are constantly yelling, repeating themselves and nagging. Some resort to bribes, or find that they make threats[mostly empty threats] to coerce good behavior. Some give up completely. These are the ones who will tell you that their child pretty much ‘calls all the shots’, and thus allow the mood swings, temper tantrums and inappropriate behaviors with minimal intervention or resistance.
None of these characteristics makes life easy for a parent, but it is important that you do not give up. Don’t get too discouraged. Learn to cope with difficult situations and never forget that you ARE the adult in the room. You just have to remain one step ahead of your child. Anticipate any possible difficulties and prepare, better yet, prevent them from occurring.
Yes, your child will require extra time, effort and extra patience from you. You can still raise a well-adjusted person amidst it all. Maintain your calm.
The very first decision to make is to avoid power-struggles with your child. Develop attitudes, strategies, and communication skills that will work for you, not against you. Work with your child’s temperament, and identify positive parenting solutions for difficult times.
Your child can learn self-control, learn to be cooperative and become more easily adaptable.
Here are some tips to managing this temperament:
- No matter the sleep or hunger pattern, ensure that your child gets sufficient sleep and is well-nourished. The right amount of sleep and the most nutritious foods help your child cope best.
- Focus on your child’s strengths; always look for the positive. When you see it, praise the behavior, not the child. It is the most appropriate, positive behaviors that you wish to reinforce. Loving the child is constant-behaviors are different and fluctuate. Love the child and like or dislike the behavior. See the difference?
- Although your days may be stress-filled, try to set aside time to give the attention your child, every child, needs to feel loved, special. Show affection as often as possible, and when your child least expects it, too. Parents often note the bad behaviors. Do the opposite more often. Catch him being good!
- Don’t put labels on your child, and don’t let others do so either. Don’t refer to your child as ‘hyper’, high strung’, a ‘trouble-maker’ or any other such term with negative connotations. Your child is a child and children will internalize all of these labels. You don’t want your child to feel bad about him or herself.
- At different ages, children can be more confused and overwhelmed when too many choices are placed before them. In order to avoid this, limit choices to no more than two, so your child feels a sense of control and you, as well. If he doesn’t want to wear the shirt you picked out, then add another shirt and let him make the choice. Then go with it. Much better than an hour of tantrums.
- Children who are easily distracted can hear only one thing at a time. So, take it slow when giving directions. Go one step at a time, and allow your child to succeed at tasks.
- Keep your schedule predictable and prepare and anticipate any veering away from that schedule. Prepare your child for this time. Walk him through it and rehearse the process. For instance, if taking your child to the dentist’s office, walk your child through the visit. Create a scenario outlining what your child can expect. It can make for smoother transitioning into new, planned and unplanned activities.
- Understanding your child’s temperament, activities should complement him or her by choosing to visit a children’s museum instead of a sit-down play. Better constructive active learning that is fun and entertaining, than two hours of frustration keeping your child seated in the movie theatre.
- Create safe, calming spaces in your home, where your child can expect to be free from sensory overload. Limit TV volume, music, video games, and lower voices in these areas of the home. You’ll keep your child stress-free.
- Allow your child enough hands-on activities at play time. It helps him to use energy constructively, and don’t over-schedule him or her. However, karate lessons, gymnastics, dance classes are good energy outlets with structure. Just not too many activities. One at a time. Once or twice a week.
- Model and encourage positive social skills, like sharing, negotiating, politeness[like knocking before entering or asking before taking]. Inviting children over to play
- Your child can gain control after tantrums by saying,” You’re crying too loud. If you speak more quietly, I’ll listen.” or “Here’s a tissue for your tears. Find another way to show me what you want.”
- Help your child to express himself and master language, words to describe feelings. Provide reminders to utilize non-aggressive ways to get what he wants.
- Structure helps if your child becomes overwhelmed and loses control. Maintain a predictable morning wake-up ritual, bedtime routines, regular mealtimes and plan your activities for each day. When running to the grocery store, give your child a job to do, like finding a particular cereal or bread. Simple, yet effective.
- Last, always choose your battles wisely. Some fights aren’t worth the struggle. Don’t overreact, raise your voice, or issuing those dreaded ultimatums. Deal with behavior challenges with a sense of calm. This helps your child gain control.
If your daily challenges do overwhelm you, disrupt family life, and you seem to have exhausted your strategies, seek the consultation of a therapist, behavior interventionist-a qualified professional. There is nothing wrong with recognizing your own limits. Your wellness is at stake, too. If you aren’t well, chances are your child won’t be at his or her best, either.
Love is all you need, is often said. But, sometimes, love isn’t enough, when there are matters beyond your capabilities or expertise. Reach out, seek the support of family, friends and parents of children with temperaments similar to your child. Remember that you aren’t a miracle worker, but sometimes miracles happen. For most of us, just work at it, and never give up!
YOU’RE WORTH IT, AND YOUR CHILD IS ALWAYS WORTH IT!