Everyone is different. Some people like noise and activity; others prefer quiet and solitude. One child might be calm and placid, while their sibling might fly into a rage at the slightest provocation. Each would need a different parenting style.
It follows, then, that the kind of person you are will influence how you parent your children – how tolerant you are prepared to be, or how you cope with bad behaviour.
The relationship you develop with them will depend on their temperament too – but first things first:
What is temperament?
We’re all born with certain characteristics, biological tendencies that we inherit from our parents. The balance of your personality is what makes up your temperament – how you think and feel. Your reaction to stress or approach to risk-taking, for example, is defined by your temperament. All this will influence your parenting style.
Are you more comfortable with a routine or do you thrive on spontaneity? Do you find it easy to focus on a task until it’s finished, or does a low attention span mean you’ll switch between jobs? These are the type of characteristics that make up your temperament.
Temperament is different from character, which is formed by our experiences of life and the world.
Assess your temperament – and your child’s
Consider the following characteristics, perhaps deciding where they’d be on a spectrum ranging from ‘high’ to ‘low’, and do the same for your child.
- Are you sensitive to noise and loud sounds, or do you barely notice them? Do you react to strong smells or tastes?
- Are you the kind of person who likes to be on the go, always doing something, or do you prefer to be more sedentary?
- Do you wear your feelings on your sleeve or hide your emotions – do others find it easy to tell whether you’re angry, upset or happy?
- Do you like a predictable schedule and prefer to plan ahead, or is life better when it’s spontaneous and unexpected?
- How do you cope with change – think on your feet and embrace it, or prefer time to consider it slowly and work out your approach?
- When working on a task, do you stick with it until it’s finished or move onto something else and come back to the original job later?
- What’s your attention span like – are you easily distracted?
There are no right or wrong answers – it’s just how you are. But being aware of your similarities – and differences – can help when it comes to parenting your child.
If your temperaments are similar…
This can be an advantage in many ways – for example, if you’re a very active person, you’ll have no problem keeping up with an energetic toddler!
But be aware of the challenges that can arise, too. If you react easily, you’ll need to be careful when it comes to managing your emotions in front of your child. And if they’re reactive too, as they grow it could make for some very intense emotional confrontations.
If you’re very different…
Imagine a small child who likes structure and routine – but who never knows what to expect because their parent never plans anything. How anxious and unsettled will they feel? You’d need to adjust your parenting style.
On the other hand, a child who finds it difficult to adjust to new situations will benefit from a more adaptable parent, who can gently introduce new situations and teach them coping tactics.
Develop appropriate strategies
By being aware of your own temperament, and your child’s, you can recognise where flashpoints might occur and introduce suitable discipline and parenting strategies.
If you struggle to cope with excessive noise but your child works on the theory of ‘louder is better’, you’ll need to find outlets for that natural exuberance as well as a way for you to tolerate it. If they give free rein to their emotions, lashing out when angry or upset, you’ll need to gently correct the behaviour and demonstrate alternative ways to deal with their feelings.
You can’t change your temperament, or your child’s – but you can adapt your parenting style to play to both your strengths and develop a positive parenting style.