I grew up on a farm in northeast Iowa and my summers were spent picking up rocks, cutting volunteer corn from soybean fields and learning from 4-H. 4-H was interwoven into the culture of rural life. Learning was at the center of summer and 4-H was the catalyst. Fair projects provided the incentive for me to learn many things. I learned about the science of cooking—why eggs turned green if boiled incorrectly, the process of canning and using a pressure cooker, tying a variety of macramé knots, the details of furniture refinishing, photography and the effects of different light exposures to only highlight a few. Learning didn’t stop when the school bell rang, in fact, learning moved into high gear. For me learning that was purposeful or necessary to do something was powerful. I learned early the importance of how to learn and the joy and satisfaction that can come from learning.
How can we encourage this kind of learning today? Kids are still joining and learning through 4-H and the Scouting organizations are still running summer camps. I’m seeing my 15 year old off to Scout camp this weekend for a two week stint and he can easily give testimony to what he has and will learn at camp. Youth programs like 4-H and Scouts offer valuable opportunities for youth to learn not only practical, technical skills, but life skills like communications and getting along with other youth and adults. Sadly, more should and could take advantage. Summer youth programs can provide a unique opportunity for youth to learn in a relaxed environment outside of school.
It’s not too late to get your child enrolled! It’s not too late for learning! Call today.
Classes are over, swimming pools are open and summer sports leagues are in full swing. But summer vacation from school doesn’t have to be a vacation from learning.
Researchers have documented that young people may lose some of what they learned during the school year if they aren’t engaged in educational activities during the summer. However, many communities, schools and youth organizations have summer learning opportunities worth exploring.
Parents are extremely important in encouraging and motivating their children during the summer months. This month, we will explore ways for parents to help their children discover the joys of reading and tips to keep those math skills sharp. We also will discuss challenges that parents face when trying to encourage learning.
I have two children that have graduated from high school and the youngest will start his sophomore year in high school this fall. So my parenting years are dwindling. Do I have any regrets? Well…I’m sure like many busy mothers; the years seemed to fly by and most of the time, I was blessed with children who were typically “easy” and didn’t demand intensive parental intervention. Somewhere during those early years I remember reading a book by William Doherty, Ph.D. about being “intentional”. Doherty’s book helped me to realize the importance of everyday rituals that could strengthen our family and marital relationships. I learned that I couldn’t do it ALL. But I also learned that being intentional meant setting priorities. And I learned that if I didn’t set goals, things just wouldn’t get done. But sometimes, I just got tangled up in the never ending details of family life and responsibilities. My kids have always been good at keeping me centered on what was most important. I learned that when they were most unlovable, they needed love the most. And when they were quiet and happily playing alone, they needed me just as much as when they were whining and pulling at my leg for attention. We have attempted to make our family communication a two way street. I know that I have learned as much from my children, as they have learned from me. One of my most treasured “ah-ah” moments for me came from a mother’s day gift—from my then 12-year old daughter. She framed a Dove Chocolate wrapper—with the fitting quote, “Life is more than a to-do list”. How shaming, yet so very spot on! I was taken back by her subtle communication tactic. But I took her advice to heart and I still have the chocolate wrapper as a reminder of the most important things in life. Be intentional and remember to take time for what matters most.
The temperament experts—describe three temperament types—feisty, slow to warm up and easy. I have blogged about my feisty 15-year old son, my slow to warm up 20-year old daughter and now I am going to share with you my experiences raising my 21- year old “easy” son. Has parenting him always been easy? Not in the least!
My first born son—Jared has always been an easy temperament kid. He really never cried. I fed him every four hours because that’s what the doctor said. He didn’t demand it. But I knew I should. He didn’t use a pacifier. He was content on his own. He smiled at everybody. He adjusted well, despite his parents’ inexperience. He was simply the most content, happy baby. His easy temperament was a good match for my sometimes “feisty” temperament.
My concerns with his physical development started at 10 months of age when I noted that he couldn’t sit up on his own. And at 18 months, I really began to worry because he still wasn’t walking. I remember our family doctor looking at him as he referred to a child development book and said, “Hmm, he really should be walking. “He looks strong enough”. As a first time mom I wondered, “ was he just “too easy-going?” , “ was he lazy?”, or “could it be something else?”. But his easy going style, and a long waiting list for the developmental clinic kept these questions in my mind for several months. And still he couldn’t walk.
Then at 20 months of age, Jared had his first of several febrile seizures. Most twenty month olds wouldn’t have tolerated that EEG cords, the IVs and the liquid epileptic medications. But Jared did. He Smiled, and actually seemed to enjoy the interaction with the nurses and lab technicians. The testing went on for a couple of months and then just prior to his 2 year birthday, we received his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a progressive neuromuscular disease that typically effects only males, because of the x-linked genetic mutation. Boys are sometimes slow to develop physically, sometimes have speech and cognitive challenges as well as cardiac and pulmonary issues, and lose the ability to walk around the age of 12. So at the same time that we celebrated his first steps, we mourned the losses that lay ahead his first future knowing that he would permanently lose his ability to walk. His easy going temperament has been the key to our acceptance. He has never expressed his desire to do anything physical that he wasn’t able to do. His positive attitude is infectious. His easy temperament is an asset. I hope that you can see the temperaments that your children have as an asset too!
Having an easy or flexible child doesn’t mean you get a free pass on parenting, it’s true these kids tend to be easy learners and they eat and sleep regularly. But because they’re so undemanding, their parents may not give them the attention they need and may unconsciously ignore them. Parents need to remember that an easy child needs a lot of parental time and attention.
Join us this month as we blog about the more flexible and easy temperament style.
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’?
Research shows that 10 percent of children have a feisty or spirited temperament type. These children tend to be impulsive, sensitive and intense. They’re easily distracted and they have difficulty adapting to change and calming themselves. Parenting them often requires a little extra — extra time, extra patience and extra strategies. However, with a little extra guidance, these children can become well-adjusted young people. Raising feisty kids isn’t boring. They’ll act out anywhere, whether in line at the grocery store or at home in your living room. Whether they are happy or mad, everyone around them will know how they feel. These children remain active most of the time, and can be seen as aggressive.
Join us this month as we blog about the feisty temperament.
…thats the phrase that came to mind when I thought about this week’s blog. Which, when it comes right down to it, I do want my child to be unique. A customized order. An individual. Not a cookie cutter replica of her friends. Having said that, I guess I should then expect myself to parent her as if she IS customized.
While we search for THE right answer to our parenting questions,we really do come realize that there isn’t just ONE right way, not even in a family with multiple children. Parenting is all about understanding each individual unique child and beginning to dance with their customized self. In the moments where parenting is frustrating, I have learned to give myself permission to be frustrated while at the same time learning to appreciate that I have created something unique. Customized. Created by me with input from her, her friends, her neighbors, her community and her world. Taking all those pieces and watching and wondering at the same time.
Sometimes its important as a parent to step back and let the child lead the dance that we have been talking about over the last several weeks. Other times it’s important to be the adult and make the decisions (and follow through). Parenting is a back and forth, leading and guiding and following all at the same time. THAT’s what makes it customizable. It shouldn’t look just like the next door neighbors family, or your own childhood experiences or the tv show on a popular network.
You and your child should customize your world together and enjoy the journey along the way.
How have you customized your journey?
When my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”
It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.
This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’. Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.
Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style. Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.
What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!
On our blog we typically discuss parenting from a science or research-based perspective. However, this month we will also discuss the “art” of parenting – how parents can tailor their parenting style to each child’s temperament.
Parenting style really isn’t ‘one size fits all. Styles range from overly involved ‘helicopter’ parents to ‘free-range’ parents who are more hands off, with a wide range in between.
The “art” of parenting comes into play as we figure out how to customize our parenting style to our children’s needs.
Join us this month and share your ‘art’ of parenting.
I like to think of learning about temperament as ‘cleaning off a window’. The window is the way we can ‘see into’ who our child is and how they respond to their world. At first, the window may be dusty or clouded and we aren’t able to see through it clearly. As we learn about our child’s temperament, we begin to clear the cloudiness off the window and can begin to anticipate the child’s responses or even predict a particular behavior. A clear view through the window can help us understand why they do what they do.
Like Janet said last week, allowing time to give the ‘slow to warm’ or ‘shy’ child a chance to ‘get used to it’ is important to supporting their self-esteem. The same can be true for allowing them extra time to learn new routines, try new foods or get acclimated to new clothes or shoes. It’s important to remember that for this temperament ‘newness’ of anything really IS a challenge. Allowing them the opportunity to try, test and experiment can be an easy way to show them you support their hesitant temperament.
One of my favorite things about temperament is that it starts with genetics. Ultimately our children respond the way they do based on the genes we gave them. As they grow, their temperament genes can be influenced by how the adults in their lives respond to them. As we encourage, support and dance with their temperament, we are guiding and influencing how they continue to respond to their surroundings. A supportive environment begins to create a ‘good fit’ between the adult and the child. That ‘fit’ becomes a piece of the foundation of the child’s self-esteem.
Share with us how you have encouraged and supported a ‘slow to warm’ or shy temperament?
My daughter is the ultimate “wallflower” when it comes to dancing through life. I am fortunate to have had the personal experience of parenting a “slow to warm up” temperament child. I will share some parenting strategies or “dancing steps” that I have learned over the years that I think have enhanced our relationship and her development.
First—as a parent I know Hannah well. I know when she is stressed. I know when she is scared. I know when she is apprehensive. I have learned when she needs support and when she needs a little push. I have learned how to support and not hover. This ability to read our kids temperament is the first and most important step in creating the “goodness of fit” that we discussed in our latest Science of Parenting podcast.
I lovingly call her my “wallflower”. Many times she was overlooked in classroom or in social activities because she was quiet and easily over powered by those with more eager, robust temperaments. She required more time to adjust to new situations, new environments, and new people. She was and continues to be highly sensitive to sounds, food, smells, and textures. She requires time to observe, and become comfortable. Large groups, busy places, and surprises were hard for her to adjust to. I learned early in her life—to provide early notification and discussion of what she was going to experience. Coaching and communicating were important for her comfort. She is almost twenty now, but still finds comfort in familiarity.
When parenting a “slow to warm up” child, it is important to nurture their development and self-esteem. They need acceptance. This means encouraging strengths ( for example- ability to play on her own, or to observe what’s going on around her carefully), and providing support when she needs it (visiting and exploring a new class in child care to help her feel comfortable).
When you notice and appreciate the similarities and differences between you and your child, you can adapt the way you parent in order to meet your child’s individual temperament needs. This helps your child feel loved, confident, important, and capable. Sensitive parenting helps your child know and feel good about themselves as they mature. Lastly, encourage your child to engage in activities that they enjoy. Avoid the “shy” labels. Give ample time to help them get used to the idea of doing something new. Advocate, coach and encourage.
American society tends to view sensitivity and “shyness” as negative traits, but as a parent of a —slow to warm up now adult child I have learned that they have much to offer. They are perceptive, observant, caring, empathetic and deeply in touch with their feelings and emotions and importantly those of others. Traits not always easily found in others. Love and value your kids for who they are. I love my wallflower….Hannah.
Parenting is like dancing: even with practice, the partners may step on each other’s toes. However, the parenting dance has a greater chance for success when the parent knows how to read and take the child’s lead.
The parenting dance is the mix between the child’s natural style, or temperament, and the parent’s approach and response. Getting the mix just right takes practice, particularly with a child who is shy or slow to warm up to new routines or environments. During February we will blog about temperament and explore ways for parents to encourage their children to try new experiences without fear.
Won’t you join us?