Son’s Easy Temperament an Asset for Coping with Physical Disability

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!

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Corporal Punishment….. ouch are we really gonna blog about it?

Should parents spank their children? This month that’s our topic~ yes we really are gonna talk about spanking and alternative ways to discipline children.

Listen to the podcast, check out the links and then join us for great discussion!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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You Go Girl

Boys and girls are different – well, that’s not news. But have you stopped to think about how boys and girls are different when it comes to sports. They have different attitudes about sports and they often feel differently about their physical development.

Let’s start with the attitudes. Boys really focus on their skills – how far they can throw a football, how hard they can hit a baseball, or how fast they can run. The boys work at constantly improving their skills to be a better player. Girls are people oriented. They want to be on the same team with their best friends. And girls don’t like being compared to others; they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

Boys are proud of their physical development. My grandsons are constantly showing me how tall they are, how big their muscles are, and how much they weigh. I notice the granddaughters are a bit more reserved about their developing bodies. The recent Olympics gave girls an opportunity to see physically fit women play sports with pride. That is a great model for girls and young women.

Data about successful women who participated in sports indicates they learned how to be authoritative, work on teams, set individual and team goals, and to be mentally tough.

What differences do you notice between boys and girls when it comes to sports?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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My fiancé coaches a ten year old baseball team.  Being a huge sports fanatic myself, I always enjoy going to the games to support my fiancé and the team.  However, I must admit that I secretly enjoy using this time to observe the parents.  Because I am so interested in parenting, and have so much respect for parents, I enjoy the opportunity to learn from others.

This past weekend, I found myself particularly interested in the parents’ reactions to a child’s unsuccessful attempts (for example, striking out or making an error).   Amongst the many different reactions, there were two extremes.  One parent did not hold the child responsible at all by stating things like, “I would have never swung at that terrible pitch either” or “I can’t believe the ump called you out.”  The other extreme was a parent who held the child solely responsible, and was often found yelling things like, “Swing the bat” or “Get your head in the game.”

Although there were many variations between these two extremes, I shared these extremes with my fiancé, and took the opportunity to discuss with him how we might handle this situation when we have children.  (With our competitive natures, it’s good for us to have a “stay cool, calm, and collective” plan before going into any sporting event, let alone that of our future child!)

After some discussion, we both decided that children need to be taught all aspects of playing a sport, including the physical, emotional, and mental aspects.  Every unsuccessful attempt provides an opportunity for parents to teach and children to learn.  The learning may come in many forms:  how to handle emotions, how to be a good sport, how to hit the baseball, etc.  We made it our goal that after each game, we would first and foremost teach our child about handling emotions and sportsmanship.  Our second priority would to teach the physical skills of playing the sport.

For example, if our child made an error in fielding, then sulked for two innings, our conversation might look something like this:

  • “It looked like you were upset after you missed that ground ball.  What was going through your head?”
    • This might lead to questions like, “What do you do when you’re angry with yourself?  How do you bounce back and get ready for the next play?”
    • We will then likely brainstorm some ways to handle tough, unsuccessful sporting attempts, like telling teammates, “I got all of the kinks worked out, and now I’m ready to get the next one!”

Obviously this approach will really vary depending on the age of the child.  I’m curious, how do you help your child handle strikeouts?  Errors?  Missed goal kicks?  Or any other unsuccessful sporting attempt?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Teaching children how to be grateful is a gift that will benefit them throughout their lifetime.

Gratitude, a sense of appreciation, joy, or thankfulness, leads to better emotional and physical health in adults and in children. While the bulk of research concerning gratitude has been conducted with adults, newer research has explored its impact on children.

Studies involving children as young as 10 years of age have shown that children also reap positive effects from being thankful. In one such study, adolescents who were grateful showed greater optimism, greater satisfaction with their family, friends, community, school and self, and an overall positive outlook on their life, including positive thoughts concerning their friends’ and families’ support. Research with older adolescents revealed that gratitude is positively associated with life satisfaction, social integration, and academic achievement, and negatively related to envy, depression, and materialism. Other studies have shown that children who express or acknowledge gratitude sleep better and have stronger bonds and relationships with others; these advantages also correlate with children’s development of competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring/compassion.

On the other hand, research shows that youth who are ungrateful are less satisfied with their lives and are more apt to be aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as early or frequent sexual activities, substance use, poor eating habits, physical inactivity, and poor academic performance.

Additionally, studies involving adults consistently show that grateful people are less likely to respond with anger after being hurt by others, have better coping mechanisms, and are more willing to help others than those who are not grateful. Interestingly, studies have shown that some of the positive benefits of gratitude last between 3 and 6 months.

Research has proven that individuals of all ages can learn how to become more grateful. Here are a few simple tasks that can help you and your child practice gratitude:
• write a letter of appreciation for someone.
• make a list of up to five things for which you are grateful (i.e., give thanks at meal time or bed time). Individuals who did this reported having more gratitude, optimism, and life satisfaction, as well as less negative emotions, compared to individuals who focused on things they found annoying.
• keep a journal of daily positive events or blessings. Those who kept a gratitude journal had a more positive outlook than those who did not keep a journal.
• think gratefully by acknowledging all of the positive things in your life. Individuals who focused on the positive occurrences in their lives reported more grateful thinking, gratitude, and happiness.

Because research demonstrates that gratitude is a positive state of mind that can be learned or enhanced, we should regularly focus on the positive occurrences in our lives and teach our children how to do the same. Research has provided us with this gift of knowledge about the importance of gratitude. Therefore, we should count our blessings for this research and pass this knowledge on to our children so they can become physically and emotionally healthier.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Bullying is one topic parents hope they never have to encounter. Unfortunately, it happens all too in often, in a variety of different forms. Approximately 75% of children report that they have experienced bullying. The most common type of bullying is verbal bullying, followed by physical bullying and indirect bullying (spreading rumors, excluding others). Cyberbullying is also becoming more common; however, I’ll save that for the topic of next week’s blog.

Sadly, children do not always tell their parents that they’re being bullied. As a result, it’s important for parents to look for signs that their child is being bullied. Your child may be experiencing bullying if he/she:

  • Takes a different or long way to/from school
  • Doesn’t like going to school; fakes illnesses to stay home from school
  • Doesn’t care about schoolwork
  • Has a loss of appetite
  • Doesn’t have friends
  • Has troubles sleeping, including nightmares
  • Comes home from school with items that are torn, broken, or missing
  • Acts nervous, stressed out, grumpy, or sad, especially when getting home from school
  • Comes home with bruises, cuts, scratches

If you think your child may be experiencing bullying, the first step is to sit down and talk with them. Ask questions about bullying, be a good listener, stay calm, and show concern for your child. If your child is experiencing bullying, here are some important steps to support you child in handling the situation.

  • Find out more information about the bullying situation – Who, what, when, where, how often
  • Explain to your child that you will likely have to tell others about the situation, in order to protect him/her
  • Notify school faculty, and other adults who may be present when the bullying is taking place
  • Explain that if the incident happens again, your child needs to report it to an adult; Remind your child that this is telling someone about a dangerous situation, NOT tattling
  • Take photographs and keep a log of any evidence from the bullying incidents – Bruises, cuts, torn or damaged items, harassment notes
  • Brainstorm and role play strategies for handling the bullying situations
  • Help your child make friends by getting him/her involved in an organization
  • Spend time with your child, let them know they are loved and supported

Click here for more information on bullying.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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