Sibling Rivalry: Part II

Mar 11, 2012 at 8:00 am in Featured, Featured Parenting, Parenting by mayowa O. · Tags: ,

In my previous post about sibling rivalry where I uncovered the power tussle between my mum and my aunt; I promised to give you an insight into the reason your children fight each other over things as trivial as toys which they have in excess.

Today, we would talk about ‘Child temperament.’ Temperament, simply defined is the genetic inborn part of you that determines how you react to people, places and things.  It is how you interact with your environment and the world around you.  Temperament pinpoints your perceptions of yourself and the people who love you”. (note: genetic INBORN)

Children are born with their natural style of interacting with or reacting to people, places, and things—their temperament. Researchers identified nine temperament characteristics or traits which are present at birth and continue to influence development in important ways throughout life. We all know children who are much more challenging to deal with than other children, starting at birth. The realization that many behavioral tendencies are inborn—and not the result of bad parenting—is perhaps one of the most important insights parents gain from learning more about temperament.

Knowing your child’s temperament would go a long way in determining the kind and level of relationship you build him/her over time. You are able to harness their strengths and use your discretion to handle their weaknesses, particularly with regards to their siblings who will most likely have different temperaments of their own.  As a parent, you can work with the child rather than trying to change his or her inborn traits.

The nine temperament traits and an explanation of the dimensions are given below.

  • Activity: Is the child always moving and doing something OR does he or she have a more relaxed style?
  • Rhythmicity: Is the child regular in his or her eating and sleeping habits OR somewhat haphazard?
  • Approach/withdrawal: Does he or she “never meet a stranger” OR tend to shy away from new people or things?
  • Adaptability: Can the child adjust to changes in routines or plans easily or does he or she resist transitions?
  • Intensity: Does he or she react strongly to situations, either positive or negative, OR does he or she react calmly and quietly?
  • Mood: Does the child often express a negative outlook OR is he or she generally a positive person? Does his or her mood shift frequently OR is he or she usually even-tempered?
  • Persistence and attention span: Does the child give up as soon as a problem arises with a task OR does he or she keep on trying? Can he or she stick with an activity a long time OR does his or her mind tend to wander?
  • Distractibility: Is the child easily distracted from what he or she is doing OR can he or she shut out external distractions and stay with the current activity?
  • Sensory threshold: Is he or she bothered by external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, or food textures OR does he or she tend to ignore them?

Temperament Types

These traits combine to form three basic types of temperaments. A thorough understanding will help parents tailor their parenting approach in such areas as expectations, encouragement, and discipline to suit the child’s unique needs.

  • Easy or flexible children are generally calm, happy, regular in sleeping and eating habits, adaptable, and not easily upset. Because of their easy style, parents need to set aside special times to talk about the child’s frustrations and hurts because he or she won’t demand or ask for it. This intentional communication will be necessary to strengthen your relationship and find out what your child is thinking and feeling.
  • Difficult, active, or feisty children are often fussy, irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, fearful of new people and situations, easily upset by noise and commotion, high strung, and intense in their reactions. Providing areas for vigorous play to work off stored up energy and frustrations with some freedom of choice allow these children to be successful.
  • Slow to warm up or cautious children are relatively inactive and fussy, tend to withdraw or to react negatively to new situations, but their reactions gradually become more positive with continuous exposure. Sticking to a routine and your word, along with allowing ample time to establish relationships in new situations, are necessary to allow independence to unfold.

Most children have some level of intensity on several temperament traits, but one dimension will usually dominate. Refrain from using negative labels such as “cry baby,” “worrywart,” or “lazy.” The child’s abilities to develop and behave in acceptable ways are greatly determined by the adults in their lives trying to identify, recognize, and respond to his or her unique temperament. By doing so, the adults can alter or adjust their parenting methods to be a positive guide in their child’s natural way of responding to the world.

Parenting with Temperament in Focus

Parents also need to get a clear picture of their own temperament traits and pinpoint areas in which conflicts with their child arise due to temperament clashing. When there is temperament friction between parent and child, it is more reasonable to expect that the parent will make the first move to adapt.

Here are principles to keep in mind as you strive to achieve this feat.

  • Be aware of your child’s temperament and respect his or her uniqueness without comparing him or her to others or trying to change your child’s basic temperament. Be aware of your own temperament and adjust your natural responses when they clash with your child’s responses.
  • Communicate. Explain decisions and motives. Listen to the child’s points of view and encourage teamwork on generating solutions.
  • Set limits to help your child develop self-control. Respect opinions but remain firm on important limits.
  • Be a good role model because children learn by imitation.
  • Enjoy the dance.

This match between the child’s temperament and the demands or expectations of his or her environment (family, school, childcare setting) greatly improves relationships. Parents who are tuned into their child’s temperament and who can recognize their child’s strengths will find life more enjoyable. It will be a dynamic dance that will last a lifetime.

contributed by Mayowa
photo by: andriodzoom.com