I am not sure what it was, but I knew the moment my second child was born that my parenting journey was going to be much different this time around. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I felt this way (mother’s intuition maybe?) but three years later I understand what my gut was telling me – my daughter and I are not a match, in temperament that is. Oh, she is a super imaginative child with a strong will, fierce determination and a fearless sense of adventure; in all truthfulness I am in awe of her most of the time. But, this ‘awe’ has also created a parenting challenge I had not experienced with my firstborn or even my third child.
The challenge has been this: How do I, a rational, practical and task-focused person, parent a child that is carefree, dramatic and persistent? Even our zodiac signs don’t’ get along! I mean, I would pick up the right shoe and she would hold out her left foot (every time!); when I say “let’s go, please”, she says “I want to stay, please”…and so it goes. Over the past three years these mini stand-offs have, at times, left me frustrated, exhausted and confused.
Not all hope has been lost however, and I can honestly say that successfully parenting and connecting with your child – regardless of temperament – is possible! In fact, I have found that learning to engage your child with a temperament different from your own not only makes you a more well-rounded parent but a better partner and friend too!
Its not about being the same or different. Its about a ‘goodness of fit’, and how expectations of each other fit with temperament. My daughter and I are still learning but here are some tips to help you uncover a ‘goodness of fit’ with your child.
- Understand that there are no good or bad temperaments. However, being aware of your child’s temperament will help you adjust your caregiving style to support a ‘goodness of fit’ with your child.
- Complete the Infant Toddler Temperament Tool(IT3) to rate yourself and child on nine traits. This tool can help you identify parenting strategies that can support your child’s unique temperament.
- Listen to your child. As parents it is easy to fall into an “I know best” mindset, but if we take a step back there is an opportunity to see what is important to you child and maybe even the reason why they may wish to do a task differently.
- Follow a routine. Set clear guidelines so your child knows what you expect from them. Then allow choice on how things are done, if appropriate.
- Don’t fight every battle. No one wants to be “bossy boots”! Ask yourself if going head-to-head on the topic in question is really that important. Or is it okay that she eats her toast dripping with peanut butter upside down? Yes, it is okay.
- Say “I love you” lots. My daughter has the biggest heart and if you need a helper she is there before you can even ask. But because we are still learning what makes each other tick, I make sure that in my moments of confusion (which can lead to frustration), I pause, and before I say anything else, I say “I love you” (and then turn the toast over – just kidding, still learning).
- Have fun with your child. If the shoe fits, wear it! We need variety. Just because your temperaments may not match up doesn’t mean you are not a good fit. Choose something you both love to do and enjoy the time together.
Do you and your child have the same temperament? Check out the Infant Toddler Temperament Tool(IT3). We would love to hear from you!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.