Seeing Through the Temperament Window

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?

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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Dancing with a Wallflower or Parenting the “Slow to Warm Up” Child

shutterstock_219620059My 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.

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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E, I, E, I, O…..

Admittedly I am going to be completely biased on this topic However, I am including the research information so you can look for yourself.

I LOVE pets. All kinds of pets. Lots of different pets. I have had – fish, dogs, cats, spiders, mice, hamsters, rabbits and I’m really trying to convince myself I need a horse!  Now I haven’t had them all at the same time nor would I recommend it! But having a pet does have some very important benefits.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry lists several benefits. They state:

“Children raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy.”  Facts for Families: Children and Pets

How have pets enhanced your children’s lives? What have they learned from them? Share with us!

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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Episode 12: How to Parent Spirited Children

When it comes to temperament, some kids are as dependable as pickup trucks, while others are as touchy as high-end sports cars. This month’s Science of Parenting podcast examines the “engine” that drives a child and how parents can manage spirited children.

ISU Extension publications

Related resources

Additional links

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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Are we overindulging our children?

Can we hurt our children by giving them too much?

Overindulgence is defined as giving children too much of what appears to look “good,” to parents or children. It also occurs when children receive too many “things,” such as material items, time, experiences, or lack of responsibilities, which are inappropriate for children’s developmental stages, interests, or abilities. More importantly, this provision of “too much” is oftentimes to satisfy an adult’s desire, longing, or need…not the children’s needs. For instance, adults may feel guilty for working and being away from their children, so they buy them an abundance of material items to lessen their own feelings of guilt. Another example is when an adult may feel badly about a life transition, such as a move, a separation or a divorce; the adult tries to reduce these feelings by not asking children to perform chores that are age-appropriate and beneficial for children’s development.

Researchers have identified three types of overindulgence, which have been classified as giving (a) too many material items, privileges, or objects, (b) too much nurturing, or (c) too little structure.

Overnurturing is classified as giving too much attention to children, doing too much for them, and helping them too much. This type of overindulgence does not allow children to learn developmentally appropriate skills or responsibilities.

Not giving our children enough structure includes not enforcing rules, not giving them responsibilities, such as chores, or not providing age-appropriate rules or boundaries.

All of these types of overindulgence can have serious consequences for children. For instance, children who receive too many material items or privileges may grow up expecting that items be given to them, as opposed to earning the items or privileges. Children who are given too much attention may develop abnormal expectations for future relationships. Also, children who have too few rules, responsibilities, or boundaries may not learn to respect authority or rules.

Research shows that overindulgence thwarts children’s abilities to develop important life skills and lessons, such as how to resolve conflict, how to persevere, or how to deal with normal life experiences. Overindulged children may not learn how to understand the difference between needs and wants and may lack social skills. Clearly, these can have serious effects that last through adulthood.

There are ways to determine whether or not an adult’s behavior is classified as overindulgence. If an adult’s behavior is characterized by a “yes” answer to any of the following questions, the behavior may indeed be overindulgence:

1. Does it interfere with the child’s development?
2. Does it use too many resources to meet the WANTS (NOT THE NEEDS) of the child?
3. Does it benefit the child or someone else (parent)?
4. Does it harm someone or something?

Because overindulged children have a tendency to grow into adults who have low self-esteems, problems making decisions, and poor social skills, adults should identify their own behaviors to determine whether or not they are overindulging their children.

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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