Before you became a parent, did you think about what your child would be like? Did you imagine having a calm, quiet child or an energetic, bouncing child? Maybe you assumed that your child would be just like yours in personality and interests. Almost every parent has an “ideal” child that they openly or secretly expect.
As your child grows up, you may be confused about their behaviour. You notice that your child’s friend loves birthday parties. He loves the fun, the excitement, the noise, and the games. Your child, invited to the same party, seems very uneasy and wants you to stay the entire time. What makes these children in the same situation react so differently? The answer is their unique temperament.
What is temperament? According to Jennifer Birckmayer, Senior Extension Associate, Cornell University, “Temperament can be defined as a child’s style of behavior. It is not why children do what they do (motivation). It is not what children do (behavior). It is how children do what they do.”
How many types of temperament are there? According to Dr. Stanley Turecki, author of The Difficult Child, there are three basic types of temperament—“easy-going”, “slow-to-warm,” and “difficult.” All temperament types have positive and negatives, and all styles are normal and okay. In fact, some children are labelled “difficult” simply because they don’t fit their parent’s view of how children should be, or have temperaments that are different from most of the other members of the family.
Recognizing your own temperament traits can be the first step in understanding “Goodness of Fit”. Take a minute to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I adapt easily to new things?
- Do I like a lot of noise and activity?
- Do I need time to get used to a new idea?
- Do I tend to withdraw if I feel uncomfortable in a situation?
- Am I easily distracted or am I very focused and persistent?
- Does the tag in the back of a new item of clothing really bother me?
- Do I usually see the world as a “glass of water that is half full or half empty”?
- Do I usually sleep and eat at the same times each day?
Now ask yourself the same questions about your children. Psychologist use the term “Goodness of Fit” as the desired goal between a parent and a child. When a parent understands his or her own natural preferences, it is easier to appreciate their child’s unique behavioural style. When there is not a comfortable fit, extra effort may be needed to make the interactions between parent and child more compatible.
For example, if your child has a hard time adapting to new places or people, she may need some extra time and preparation before changing. She may need a reminder that it is almost time to leave the playground. She needs to know what will happen, when it will happen, and what is expected of her. This will help her feel more secure and more co-operative.
Each child is wonderfully unique. Parents who understand and appreciate this uniqueness are more likely to feel satisfied with their children and their own parenting experience.
A person’s uniqueness is her most priceless possession. It gives her a reason to be. An individual is unique, assuring her a special place and special worth in her own society. It is precisely because she is different that makes it possible for her to make contributions to the world. Society needs a wide range of people with a wide range of skills and personalities in order to progress. “You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.”—Henry David Thoreau