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Personality and Temperament

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I think that you will find the parents that have the most fun disciplining their children and working with their children in order to get cooperative, helpful behavior are those that seek out other parents, who seek out professional help if they need it and who seek out parenting classes.  These are parents who really have an urge and a need to know more.  And so often they ask me questions such as:  “My child won’t let me talk on the phone he interrupts; and is so mean and nasty and I don’t understand where he gets that behavior; my child won’t go to bed, won’t get up; my daughter just tells me no when I ask her to help me.” 

There are a lot of issues around these kinds of questions but when you ask me how to solve them I would have to point to the fact that this might not just be behavior.  Part of it is temperament and personality certainly the actions that children perform such as trying to get attention and willfulness.  Those are common behavioral approaches.  However, personality and temperament matter a lot when it comes to understanding your child.  So I urge parents, even the parents you will see talking about some helpful hints that they use, I urge parents to understand temperament and personality and try to match their own with their child’s.  Click here for our Temperament and Personality Quiz and see how similar or different you are from your child. And listen now to these moms and dads as they share how they teach their children at home.

How do you teach your children?  I mean the subtle the little things.

One Parents words:

 “Well I think the main thing for them is modeling.  What they see is what they are going to learn and if they see inappropriate things from their parents then don’t be surprised, they are going to do inappropriate things.  If they see appropriate and wonderful things that their parents do then you are going to see it, it may take a while but you are going to see it one day you are going to say HA! It’s working, it’s getting through.”

More quote from Parents:

“The most important thing you can teach a child is take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them and thereby become independent and responsible for themselves.  You do this by example.”

“Alls I’ve done with these guys is give them the rules to live by and what I expect and with my one daughter, when she deliberately did something I didn’t want her to do, she knew about it and she is still paying the consequences and she has to build the trust back up now.”  How do you build into children’s behavior a high level of trust?  “One step at a time.  I started by doing things and leaving them a little at a time and finding yes they handled it when I was gone for 5-10 minutes to the neighbors house until I can leave them at least the 2 older ones for most of the day and they know how to take care of themselves.”

“I don’t have a problem with my child because I care about who is your friend, is it a good friend?  Sometimes I sit and explain why I think this playing is no good or that it is good, I try that one day had their friend show is good for you.”

“I think one of things I want to teach my kids is to be happy.  And one of the ways you learn to be happy is not just gathering the riches, but you find if you do some volunteer service or if you help someone out and you make them happy all of a sudden you are happy and I think that ultimately that’s what you wish for your kids.  And while we didn’t sit down and say this is the ways we are going to teach our kids, I think that is the way we are raised and the way we would naturally without explicitly putting down an order what you’d do.”

“When Alexander upsets a glass of milk, drops silverware, it’d probably be easier, quicker for me to just clean it up and move on.  Particularly when they can be tenacious and zesty and I love that zest for life but sometimes that isn’t the easiest path and I know that by asking him to pick up the fork and putting it in the sink and getting a new one may ensue a little tension or argument or whatever.  So the easier way is to do it myself, what I try very hard to do is, we spill a cup of milk, we drop silverware we upset the plate and he has to take that on and I may assist and that if he is unwilling it may be some hand over hand to do the job.” 

You mean he has to clean up his own messes? 

“Yes.”  And he has to take responsibility at a fairly young age (Alexander is 4) for is own behavior.  “We try very hard.  I also am very aware that if I’m having really rough day, and I am talking about my own personal day, I try to balance that, not that there is no exception nut I try to follow through that if I can’t handle the argument without getting testy myself that I have know my limits on a particular day.  And that doesn’t mean we ignore that but sometimes I have to know my limits and how willing I am to push it and if I can tell if my level of voice is raising to much or whatever.”

“I want my children to be helpful and cooperative as aspects of being kind.  I try to catch them being good for example if they hold the door open for someone, I say thank you that was very kind of you to do that.  If they help bring groceries in, I say thank you that was very kind of you to do that, especially when they do it without being asked.  I think as they grow older I think they will do that just automatically.”

Don’t do anything for a child that he/she can do for him/her self.

I meet with so many families today who feel stressed.  Mothers and fathers can feel so much out of control they feel they have to do everything for their children because it’s easier.  Don’t give into this temptation.  My advice is do not do anything for a child that he/she can do for him/her self.  Parenting styles vary but parents should try not to over protect their children.  Children should be helpful and are willing to try activities that involve simple risk taking.  Let them!  Don’t be afraid to let them experience new things.  How will they ever learn to control their own behavior? 

One of the more difficult situations that we encounter isn’t the child’s fear it is the parent’s fear.  And they often put their fear into the child’s.  When the child comes out and they are real wide eyed and excited about the environment and the parent might look right at us and say “I know he’ll never get on a horse because he’ll be afraid.”  Well they are instantly putting the fear directly into the child before then even have a chance to approach the horse with someone who would be very competent in the environment such as the instructor who is specially trained to deal with it.  So I think the parents often over protect their children especially in the new environment like this and they should encourage them to be as independent as possible.

A parent may tend to be over protective in that they just try to do everything for their child and what happens is the child is not able to plan their own action’s as they get older, and I tell parents that at conferences all the time. We need to let the child plan what they are going to do next and think about what the consequences will be. Sometimes parents become the opposite of over protective. They feel helpless to try to change their children’s inclinations to be in charge.  Families have so little time to reflect to try to change this type of behavior.  

One Mom says:

 “I know the way that Ryan is at night when I come to pick him up.  He is usually playing on the computer over in the room next door and it is very hard to get him to leave the daycare.  I bring a bag everyday with some extra things to snack on on the way home my kids always get into a battle.  I pick Ryan up first and then go to Rachel’s room and Ryan grabs her bag off the shelf and Rachel gets upset and throws herself on the floor and they fight over the last fruit chew or the one package of crackers and I was wondering what you suggestion might be to alleviate this problem?”  I think one of the things that happen in preschool is that they are ready for choices and they are ready to take control and they think they are in charge and what you need to do is think of yourself as more in charge and let Ryan wait.

Life is always changing and structure is essential for all infants and toddlers.  Life needs more structure.  After all if you think about what a child does during the course of the day, being in as many as three settings: daycare, home care, picked up by one parent and dropped off by another.  Children learn very early from that kind of a multiple setting life that they can get attention for bad behavior or for non compliance or just say no or being negative and they can pretty much do what they want when they want to do it.  It seemed to me that they need, this family, to understand a little more about how to get their children more cooperative or more helpful.  So I have some tips for them. 

We’ve already heard from some parents, about the tips that they use at home, but there are always a few more.  Let me summarize this for you right now.  Children do need structure, they need a schedule a consistent schedule and they need some simple rules, for example, a household rule might be respect another person’s property or it might be keep your hands to yourself.  Those are simple clear rules. 

They also need boundaries and by that I mean, if they can handle responsibility they can be in an bigger environment and if they can’t handle it, if they become upset or have a temper tantrum, or go to near the street then their boundaries have to be shrunk, they have to go into the house or into the area of the house where there is a smaller area.  Boundaries are important and they also lead me to the next thing that children need to be heard.  They need to have a conversation with someone about whether or not they can handle a certain situation. 

They also have to have a choice that they can live with.  So I asked families to use a specific way of speaking.  This would be a way of talking about choices:  you may either pick up your toys by yourself or you may ask for help, and we can do it together.  Or if you want to have a story when you go to bed, then you may get ready for bed for yourself or ask for help if you can’t.  This is not giving the child too much help, this is giving the child a choice that they can handle.  Either do it by yourself or ask for help. 

Another rule that I think is important is the fact that direct experiences in a variety of situations and settings like school, home and play and friends have to have consequences.  At some point children need to know that if that can’t comply with a request and if they can’t do as they are asked to do then there will be consequences.  But these consequences should be tied very directly to what the child values, what is important to the child.  A consequence isn’t punishment a consequence is something that happens that they don’t want to happen, they don’t get what they want.  It is much more clear to a child and much more valuable. 

Children do need to know who is in charge.  It is not all right for a five year old to be in charge of a household.  It is not OK for very young children to feel they are responsible for what is happening.  Someone needs to be in charge and children need to know that the person that is in charge is the person that they respect and follow. 

Children need pure positive praise. That means they need words that relate specifically to them.  They don’t need a generalized “Good Job.”  They need “Mary you did a great job picking up now you can have a story.”  They need to have family meetings that they can talk and be listened to and be heard.  They need some kind of guidance in the form of what I call a heart chart.  I don’t always like generalized graphs, which are stars and checks often seen for toileting training and eating and routine activities.  I like the heat chart because it is more kind and user friendly.  A heart chart can be a simple as one of these hearts just drawn out of paper that has on the left “What I’ll do” and these are the things the children would be expected to do.  Stay calm, be polite, do your homework right after school, pick up your toys before you go to bed.  On the other side “What happens if they are successful in doing those things.”  And those are the items that are so important to pick. You are allowed to watch TV for 30 minutes, you are allowed to watch a video, you can have free play with mom and dad, play office, a board game, something you value.  At the bottom, you have the consequences part and the consequences part where if you aren’t able to do the things that you said you’d do then you don’t get what you want or no TV today or you can wait till tomorrow and see if you can try again and see if you can earn back the privilege.  It makes children understand what a privilege is.  So use humor and use these tips everyday or at least some of them and you too can be practically perfect parent.

What do some kids have to say:

What kind of cooking do you do? 

“I cook soup, ravioli and I do other things around the house.” 

“I am allowed to cross the street when my parents say it is OK.  And I know the safety rules:  stop look and listen.  First you use your eyes and ears and then you use your feet.”

“My mom and dad taught me how to help out with the chores and if the kids need help using the bathroom or changing the diapers.”

“Clean the kitchen floor, do the dishes every other day, dry the dishes every other day.  Take care of the dog.  Clean the bathroom every other week.”

Do you have any rules?  “No fighting.”  How do you stop fighting?  “Tell mom.”

“If I didn’t have good parents, I might be miserable, Laura would be miserable, my sister Amber would be miserable, the entire family would be miserable.”

Most kids think their parents are perfect, well almost perfect.  On the other hand they may not understand their parents are teachers as much as they think of their parents as imposing family rules.  These rules make up the culture of the family and reveal how children are expected to be part of family life.  Parents tell us they want their children to be contributing members of society and they are willing to be responsible for creating their children’s values.

Some Parental Quotes:
“I don’t want the school system to teach my children everything they need to know, that comes from home first and it carries over into the schools.  If the lessons they learn at home are taught well enough then when they are in school it will be easier for teachers to teach them because they won’t worry about teaching them the basics, things children should’ve learned at home.  How to behave and how to respect teachers and how to respect elders and just how to be nice to people and how to be helpful to someone.”

“What I have always felt is that you can’t teach your children something if you are behaving in the same way.  If you want your children to behave a certain way you have to behave the same way.  If you want your children to be honest and you get too much change back at the grocery store, what kind of example are you giving your child?  You have to be the ultimate role model.”

This is Susan Turben take care of yourself and take care of your children.

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