Temperament & Your Child
Predicting Your Child’s Future: Success or Struggles
(page 2 of 2)
Examples of liabilities in the environment include poor parenting, financial difficulty, abuse, chaotic home, or a dangerous neighborhood.
The more positive the variable, the more resilience a child contains. Resilience equals success, less resilience leads to struggles.
Many parents are so invested in their children’s succeeding that they overlook signs of struggles and suffering that indicate less resilience and need for help. Many excuse their child’s struggles as a phase, going through a rough time, or other external forces, and fail to get help. There are differences in developmental time tables between children but educators recognize this normal variation. If your child’s teacher is concerned, those problems need to be addressed.
It is easier to understand how cognitive ability and the family structure affect our children. If either of these protective factors is weak, that child will struggle. Temperament traits are less well understood by most. A child who has temperament traits at risk, but is cognitively gifted and has a supportive positive family often struggles and suffers. Let us explore the temperament trait characteristics that lead to resilience or nonresilience.
• Easy, requires little of your time
• Goes with the flow regardless of changes, she/he seems content
• Finishes tasks, will plug away until a task is successfully completed
• Positive, glass half full type child
• Curious, seems eager to explore new things
• Calm, is able to calm her/himself without a lot of effort
• Able to control her/his emotions
• Not easy = requires a lot of your time.
• Resist change = seems to be your resistant child, prone to meltdowns.
• Doesn’t respond well to demands or surprises, locks up or melts down.
• Super cautious, new people, places, activities are resisted.
• Supersensitive, requires quick attention to anything too tight, scratchy, hot/cold, smelly, painful.
• Less sensitive, has difficulty with others’ personal space, feelings, less bothered by pain.
• Fails to finish tasks or becomes easily overwhelmed by a task and may be struggling in school.
• Has difficulty calming her/himself.
• Reacts in a glass half-empty response, complains often.
Obviously children are not one or the other but a combination. How can you predict if your child will have success or struggles? (See chart below.)
• SUCCESSFUL CHILD
Strong cognitive skills, no temperament traits at risk and a supportive/stable environment
ONE variable either cognitive, temperament or environment at risk for struggles
• STRUGGLING CHILD who may fail if not helped
TWO variables either cognitive, temperament or environment at risk for struggles
STRUGGLING CHILD who is likely to fail if not helped
ALL variables of cognitive, temperament and environment are at risk
Here is a case history of a child with positive cognitive skills and a strong family but temperament traits at risk:
Joshua is a 6-year-old boy who has shown increasing trouble at school and at home. His parents are attentive and provide many opportunities. He makes good enough grades but quietly resists all requests and demands from teachers. He complains incessantly and has many preferences that must be carried out or he “blows a gasket.” He refuses all things he is not familiar with and has eaten the same food for lunch for the past 2½ years. He has only one friend, states he doesn’t care to socialize with others, and prefers to play in quiet pursuits. He is manipulative and stubborn. He seems to have difficulty following through and finishing work.
This child is obviously suffering, struggling and needs professional help.
What can be done to help children who are struggling? First, realize that your child needs help to identify the exact causes for the struggles. Seek help for your child and you to create the actions required to strengthen the protective factors that are weak and make success more likely. Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses and realistically assessing them aids you in being the best parent you can be. You are helping your child prepare for the long-term successes of adulthood.
Robert J. Hudson, MD, FAAP, “Dr. Bob,” is a clinical professor of Pediatrics at the OU School of Community Medicine and the Co-Director of the Center for Resilience and Development.