What Is Your Child’s Temperament?
You can find out more at TulsaKids Live! Parent Meet-up, Wed., June 26, 6 p.m., Southminster Presbyterian Church, 3500 S. Peoria. Free and open to the public. Free childcare.
My son could be difficult. He cried endlessly when left with a babysitter. He was a Mother’s Day Out drop-out, and didn’t want to play with the kids in our toddler playgroup. He didn’t like to try new things, and even small changes could throw him off. He liked to be in charge, and he liked structure. And he was brilliant about getting what he wanted. He liked planning, organizing and being in control.
My middle daughter was introverted, but loved to carry on conversations – even as a toddler. If she could get an adult to sit down and talk to her, she was happy. She enjoyed team sports and physical activity. She was (and is) very intuitive. She’s also the worrier of the family and, even as a young child, would make sure that everyone was safe crossing the street.
My youngest enjoyed time alone, doing puzzles or creating art – especially 3-dimensional things. Even as a toddler, she would notice the tiniest item on the floor and pick it up – much to my chagrin. She could read before starting kindergarten and had amazing fine motor skills. She was also the biggest daredevil of the three.
Despite my frustration at times, I knew enough about child development to understand that my children weren’t trying to drive me crazy. But knowing developmental milestones is one thing – understanding temperament is another. Things really started to make sense for me when I began to be the parent each child needed according to his or her temperament. I could see that their different temperaments informed how they reacted to the world and to their individual interests.
Not only did understanding temperament help me be a better parent, it helped us have a calmer household. But I also had to understand my own temperament and how it could complement or clash with my child’s. Looking at yourself, and possibly adapting how you do things, can be difficult, but it can really improve your relationship with your child.
My son needed me to be more organized and predictable. He also needed me to trust him to know what he could and could not do. He researched and planned a trip to California for our entire family when he was in fourth grade, but going into a large group of peers without structure was not in his comfort zone. He helped his sisters organize their notebooks for school, and as he got older, he helped friends with resumes and job applications. His drive, goal-setting and organizational skills have led him to a job at Microsoft.
My middle daughter needed me to sometimes normalize her worries — they could be a little unrealistic. She also loved to talk through her school assignments, especially writing assignments, or discuss things she read. She’s a team player, a big idea person and, like me, wants to put details in context, but doesn’t particularly like detailed work. She is now a producer of an NPR affiliate show, a job that fits her skills, interests and her temperament.
My youngest needed me to leave her alone to work through things, but she also needed me to step up and be an advocate for her sometimes. Being a sensitive, introverted person who lives in her head, she occasionally needed help realizing that sometimes what you create in your mind is not exactly what you get in real life. Her optimistic dreams could sometimes lead to disappointment. A natural artist and an academic, she is now a PhD candidate in comparative literature.
Looking back, I never imagined what my kids might end up doing, but they are following their own life path, and each one fits the type of person I saw in the young child. I was (and am) far from a perfect parent, but I will say that understanding my children’s temperaments, along with having a fair understanding of child development, definitely helped me be a more confident parent.
Over the years as a parenting publication editor, I’ve talked to a lot of people about child-rearing. One of those who has made the most on-going sense to me is Dr. Robert Hudson, a pediatrician and OU-Tulsa med. school professor. He has done quite a lot of research on temperament and helps parents understand their children so they can work with them, rather than against them. He doesn’t advocate a simple, one-size-fits all approach, but rather a respectful, mature understanding of human behavior.
If you’d like to learn more about temperament and your child, Dr. Hudson is speaking at our TulsaKids Live! Parent Meet-up on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. There will be free childcare. Dr. Hudson will also be selling and signing his book, “The Normal, but Not-So-Easy Child.” Join us at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 3500 S. Peoria, east door (parking lot behind Lululemon). Free and open to the public.