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Caring for the High Maintenance Child
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Improving Fit. April, 2018.
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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: Has lots of energy
LOW ACTIVITY LEVEL: Is relaxing to be around

SLOWLY ADAPTABLE: Is happy with routines
VERY ADAPTABLE: Likes to be spontaneous

WITHDRAWING: Is cautious, careful
APPROACHING: Cheerful about changes

EMOTIONALLY INTENSE: Very enthusiastic
MILD INTENSITY: Is analytical

POSITIVE MOOD: Very friendly
NEGATIVE MOOD: Can be serious

NON PERSISTENT: Will make changes easily
VERY PERSISTENT: Knows what he or she wants

REGULAR: Predictable behavior
IRREGULAR: Can live without a schedule

VERY DISTRACTIBLE: Notices little things
NON DISTRACTIBLE: Will stick to things

HIGHLY SENSITIVE: Could be artistic
PHYSICALLY NONREACTIVE: Easy going


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

WITHDRAWING -cautious
APPROACHING -cheerful

EMOTIONALLY INTENSE -enthusiastic
MILD INTENSITY-analytical

POSITIVE MOOD -friendly
NEGATIVE MOOD -can be serious

NON PERSISTENT -can make changes easily
VERY PERSISTENT -knows what he or she wants

REGULAR -predictable
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 Children

"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."

 
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