My first two children were relatively “easy” babies. Then I gave birth to my third child and I immediately, knew something was different. He was intense and persistent…right from birth. He required less sleep. He demanded more and most of the time he got more or at least he put up a good fight. During his toddler years, I can remember wishing that he was less persistent. But I have come to appreciate that his persistence is a wonderful, desirable trait and it is an absolute essential trait to success in the adult world. I’ve had to re-think and re-frame this trait. Especially—after much self reflection I have realized that it is also one of my stronger temperament traits. Some could describe him as “argumentative”, but I have chosen to view him more positively, as a young man who is “strongly committed” to his goals.
Do you have child like my son Cole who seems to stand firm and have a hard time accepting “no” for an answer? When he get an idea in his head, he is determined to carry it through. He has been known to push and sometimes almost shove to have things done his way. Persistence is one of the temperament traits that every child possesses, and is one of the contributing factors that make every child unique. Some kids like my Cole are on the extreme or high end of the “persistence” scale.
I have learned that being aware of your children’s unique temperament and how they respond to the world around them can help you and your child understand and learn to work together to create more harmony within your home and to provide an environment where everyone can be more successful. From experience I know that persistent children can wear parents down with their strength of will. It helps to remain neutral and not engage in battle with your children when they are upset. They really need you to take charge when they get locked-in or stuck and to help them find ways to get calm.
There is a positive side to being persistent. These children tend to be goal oriented. Once they set a goal, they will stick with it, determined to work hard to reach their objective. They tend to pay close attention and listen to your instructions more thoroughly than their less persistent peers. Once they begin a task, including chores, they tend to endure to the end. Because of their unwavering sense of commitment, they often are big achievers with high hopes and goals and they often become strong leaders as they follow their passions.
So what’s a parent to do? From my experience I have tried to focus on three simple strategies. First I have learned ways to stay calm and avoid power struggles that I could lose. We have learned how to find solutions where we both win. Secondly—I have tried to teach him strategies that calm him when he gets upset, such as learning to compromise and learning to be more flexible. He has learned how to “take a break”, when he’s getting frustrated and prior to his breaking point. And lastly, I have learned that I am a “persistent parent”. There must be a genetic correlation with this trait! So I have learned to “be the adult” and relax my persistence. I’ve learned to drop arguments and remind him that we can problem solve together.
Oh oh…. I said it out loud (well sort of). The feisty child one of my favorite temperament types! I just can’t help it! I love interacting with a feisty temperament. I know that sounds silly but even as a preschool teacher I was always at my best when I was engaged with the feisty kiddo. Maybe ‘favorite’ isn’t the right word to use. I guess it was just that ‘I get them’. I understand the feisty traits. I ‘get’ where they are coming from.
Now just to clarify, I’m pretty sure my parents would not have labeled me as feisty. My feisty traits were sprinkled with a whole lot of adaptability. Which, for me, held the negative parts of feisty in check. So when it comes to feisty temperaments I understand that sense of being determined. Of wanting what I want. Of being persistent. In the moment of feistiness, I know how your ‘gut’ feels. What your stomach is doing. How fast your brain synapses are firing. I understand that, I get it.
So what did I learn about interacting with a feisty temperament? Most importantly, that a calm, cool and collected demeanor is the best way to approach the feisty child. You see, amidst their feistiness they won’t be able to hear your ‘reasoning or logic’. Their feistiness is in the way. It’s too loud in their head, they literally can’t hear you. But, they can still see your reactions.
That’s about all that you can do sometimes. SHOW them. Model for them how you want them to respond or behave. There’s little time or room for long drawn out liturgies and lessons on appropriate language or the use of gentle touches. Feisty kids need that ‘extra‘ moment to see calm cool and collected from you. They are looking for you to ‘show‘ them how to tame that feisty feeling that has overtaken their body.
So very hard sometimes yet so very vital to teaching them self-control.
What are some techniques you have ‘shown’?
In light of all the recent publicity around corporal punishment and children, I thought it might be appropriate to revisit our January 2013 podcast and subsequent blogs.
Click below to read about alternatives to physical punishment of children and how you can guide and discipline them in a more loving way.
Corporal punishment and alternative methods of discipline or our January 2014 topic Anger and parenting
Look back through some of our other topics while you’re there. We would love to talk again about some of them!
Think about it. “No” is a two letter word, one syllable, easy to pronounce. Easy – to use, that’s another matter. Remember last week when you got a call to do something you really didn’t want to do but you did it anyway because you thought you should. You didn’t want the rest of the parents or your friends to think you badly of you. You gave in to peer pressure even though you wanted to say no.
It works the same way for our kids. One or more friends (or maybe just acquaintances) will ask your child to do something she doesn’t want to, but the “no” gets stuck in her throat. A little practice can help children and teens feel more confident in belting out the two letter word or using refusal tactics.
Role play just what to say and how to do it. “No, I don’t want to.” “No, my parents won’t let me.” “No, you go ahead without me.” “No, that’s not me.” Other ideas are things like: start another activity, change the subject, leave the situation, and find new friends.
Let’s go back to that phone call I mentioned earlier and my favorite mantra of parents as role models. Does your child hear you saying “no”? Does he see you giving in and doing things you really don’t want to do? Show by example how to stand up for yourself and not get pressured.
Do you have ideas on how to teach a child to say “no” or even how you’ve learned to say “no” yourself?
Finding research on the impact of arguing in front of children was easy. Wrapping my head around how to talk about it was harder. As we come to the end of the topic for the month, I think we could probably agree that it comes down to a word we have all heard before. Respect. We are not always going to agree with the adults in our children lives. That is a fact. It is important however, that we learn to agree to respect each other in front of our children. Children learn about respect from the adults around them. The most important role model they have is you. I encourage you to do your best to role model respect. It’s easier said than done sometimes but is so very important in the long run.
What are some thoughts you head about our topic this month? We would love to hear from you!
You remember them don’t you – the old tan rough looking sacks. Stuffed in the corner of the shed, barn, or garage, these sacks were used for storage. So what do gunny sacks have to do with conflict between spouses or partners?
We recognize that conflict happens and does not predict couple or family problems. But research does tell us that dangerous patterns of thinking and behaviors can lead to serious problems. One of these communication patterns is gunny-sacking. Very simply, this is keeping things in and then dumping them all at once. Picture all the unkind words, slights, perceived wrongs, and accusations stuffed into the gunny sack. Then one day when you go to stuff one more thought into the bag, it is full. So you turn the gunny sack upside down on the floor and all the hurt, pain, and anger spill out – right onto your spouse or partner. The next picture isn’t going to be a pretty one.
Managing Conflict: Escalating and De-Escalating is just one of the lessons in a series, Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for our Family. This program is for single parents or couples who are in conflicted or unstable relationships and have young children.
Fighting in front of the children creates a family life where conflict is the norm – and this conflict can negatively impact the kids. Fighting with your spouse or partner – or ignoring him or her — will affect your children. As we blog this month, we will explore ways for parents to reduce disagreements with each other. We will also talk about the complex issue of parental conflict and its effect on children. Join us and share your thoughts and experiences as well.
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