Every Temperament Trait Has Its Good Side
One of the most exciting aspects of temperament
research is how it has revealed the traits that parents
find 'difficult' at one stage of a child's development
may later turn out to be assets. While you are waiting
for that magical happening, reframing traits can help your
child along on the journey towards the positive shift.
Here are a few suggestions. Try to write a
couple more of your own beneath each trait:
HIGH ACTIVITY LEVEL -lots of energy
LOW ACTIVITY LEVEL -relaxing to be around
SLOWLY ADAPTABLE -cautious and careful
VERY ADAPTABLE -easy to take places
EMOTIONALLY INTENSE -enthusiastic
POSITIVE MOOD -friendly
NEGATIVE MOOD -can be serious
NON PERSISTENT -can make changes easily
VERY PERSISTENT -knows what he or she wants
IRREGULAR -can live without a schedule
VERY DISTRACTIBLE -notices little things
NON DISTRACTIBLE -can stick to things
HIGHLY SENSITIVE -could be artistic
PHYSICALLY NONREACTIVE -easy going
BEHAVIOR - Fostering Joy in Individual
"I never realized how sad I was that I hardly ever
saw Kevin having fun," confessed Marilyn, mother
of three, only one of whom has a feisty temperament. "Shawna
and Eric were always giggling and seemed to have the greatest
time whatever they were doing," she continued.
"But Kevin, who is low in adaptability, negative
and withdrawing, seems to get unhappier as he gets older."
"I know what you're going to say," she went
on. "Unhappiness is NOT a part of a child's temperament.
I realize that, but eventually I asked our family's counselor
how you make a child happy who hates trying new things,
backs away from new people, and who never seems pleased
with what you do? She helped me so much by stating very
clearly that one person cannot MAKE another person happy
- even if the other person is your child. Instead, she
gave us some tips on fostering happiness. We had to start
by observing Kevin for a week and noting his mood as he
was doing different things. It turned out we knew EXACTLY
what made Kevin tick, but we just didn't accept it as
a valid way of having fun."
Marilyn explained that she and her spouse were both athletic
and were pleased that both Shawna and Eric seemed to enjoy
boisterous outdoor play and competing with each other
so much. Kevin hated running and climbing and was very
sensitive to failure. What Kevin enjoyed the most was
playing quietly at the kitchen table, making animals out
of play dough or building towers with his construction
blocks. His parents noted that he very much liked to observe
his brother and sister roughhousing, but he wasn't interested
in joining them. The more his parents coaxed him to go
outdoors, stretch his legs and play with his brother and
sister, the unhappier Kevin became.
Frank and Maria described their own struggles to accept
their daughter Melina's preferred activities. "She's
more like a boy than a girl," said Maria. "Melina
won't wear pretty dresses or play with dolls. She's very
active, very distractible and very loud, whether happy
or sad. We realized that something was going wrong when
we weren't hearing many screams of joy any more, just
very intense screams of refusal or anger."
Frank commented: "I know, I know, we have old fashioned
attitudes. Let's face it - we are traditional people with
a strong sense of family values. We discussed our concerns
with a church counselor. He advised us that there is nothing
unfeminine about being active and distractible. On the
other hand, he was not very impressed by the way that
Melina curses us when she is angry and hits other children
who get in her way."
Frank and Maria took stock of the situation and observed
Melina's behavior for a week. They also took a closer
look at their home and yard to see how much it fostered
Melina's favorite activities - running, climbing, skipping
and jumping. "Well, we removed the cute little play
house with all the make believe equipment. We had hoped
that Melina would enjoy playing house, but she didn't.
Frank was able to use part of the play house for a new
climbing frame for Melina."
"We also cleared a lot of the toys out of her room
- all the stuffed animals sent by relatives and ignored
by Melina. Now she has a small trampoline in there and
room to roll around on the carpet."
"Melina is a different child since we let her be
herself. Ironically, she's now willing to play house and
play with dolls when her friends come over - for a very
short while. She's stopped screaming angrily and now shrieks
with joy when she's sliding down her new slide."