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Current Issue of BDINews
Caring for the High Maintenance Child
By Kate Andersen.

Improving Fit. April, 2018.
Dear Kate:
I have trouble explaining why I am so drained and stressed by our four-year old daughter.......
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Improving Goodness of Fit

About Labeling Children As Temperamentally 'Difficult'

If the term 'difficult' bothers you, you're not alone. Many people have said that, even if it's accurate, it's not fair to give children such a negative label. They have come up with other terms that are more positive. You may have heard children being described as 'spirited', 'high needs', 'high maintenance' or 'challenging'. Whatever term you use, we all need to be clear about 'temperamental difficultness'. 'Difficult' does not mean bad or abnormal. Temperament traits are not good nor bad, they are just facts of life. And one fact of life is that children with 'difficult' temperament traits can be stressful to raise. We'll come back to the topic of labeling later. For now, let's see why these children have earned these unfortunate descriptors."

"The fact is that children with the so-called 'difficult' temperament traits can be puzzling to understand and hard to raise. These children are often irregular in sleeping and eating patterns and this can make their moods and behavior unpredictable. They may be very intense in their reactions, whether happy or sad. While it's one thing to appreciate your child's enthusiastic yells of joy; it's another thing to be faced with loud and frequent screams of 'No!' or 'Yucky!!' While some people seem to think that a child who is described as challenging is likely to be a boisterous, even 'pushy' individual, many of these children actually have difficulty coping with new situations and social expectations. They may withdraw, or back away, when faced with new people. They may have a tantrum if offered new foods or when there are changes in routine. These reactions can be very confusing to parents. And, finally, many of these children seem to slide into negative moods very easily. This can be worrisome and guilt-provoking to parents who wonder why their child seems so unhappy."

About Prevention and Intervention

It is because children with challenging temperaments are at risk at home or at school (or both) that we have written this workbook and publish a newsletter. It is also because we know what wonderful young people they can be that we are so committed to educating parents and teachers about temperament. One of the first lessons about temperament is that every kind of temperament can be very positive. Whatever group of challenging traits they have, so-called 'difficult' children have been re-framed as 'spirited' and 'interesting' by those who see their positive qualities and their potential for healthy development. Temperamentally challenging children can flourish and amaze us when we really understand and help them.

When we understand temperament and work with it in a positive context, many problems can be prevented. By sticking up for our children or teaching them to behave in less bothersome ways, we can prevent others, such as teachers, from picking on our children. We can stop people from engaging in negative labeling of children and unfair blaming of parents. And, even when parents and others have not been able to prevent problems, they can use what is known about temperament to develop more realistic expectations when working on a true behavioral or emotional disorder.

About Outcomes

You may find all this talk about serious problems very scary. Please don't waste energy worrying about how your child will do in the future. There really is good news here. The first piece of good news is that, by picking up this workbook, you have shown that you are committed enough to seek help. Commitment is very important. The second piece of good news is that there are very practical ways that you, as a parent, can work to reduce stress, to cope with temperament, to improve the 'fit' between yourself and your child. And you can learn behavior change methods to get your child on to a healthy behavioral track. You have reason to expect that your family life will improve if you use these methods. You have reason to expect that you will begin to enjoy your child, and appreciate him or her. You have reason to hope for a positive outcome for your child. Research has shown that parents can implement a program of change that will make such a positive outcome much more likely.

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   Parenting Info:
Temperament FAQs
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to some common questions about behavioral style.
Origins, impact on parenting, risk for behavioral issues, relationship to
ADHD, and other topics.
Goodness of Fit
Getting to know your child
How temperament is assessed.
Poor fit can lead to stress
and possibly emotional or behavioral problems
Getting help
When professional help is needed
There are qualified individuals
from several disciplines who counsel parents and children.
Books for parents
Spirited child?
Find out how to meet the challenge.
Learn how to identify and cope
with temperament traits in your child.