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Why Time-Out Doesn't Work for All Kids and Other Secrets From Temperament-Based Parenting (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Parental responses

A child’s reaction to a situation, particularly one that is stressful is likely to be consistent with the child’s temperament. In turn, the way that a parent responds to the child’s reaction can be more or less effective.

  • Counterproductive parental responses only make the situation worse. They are delivered in an angry tone of voice and include nagging, teasing, and retorting in an irritated fashion.
  • Adequate parental responses are clear directives that are delivered in a neutral tone of voice. They include such strategies as using clear simple language to explain a behavioral expectation to a child or using humor to lighten a tense situation.
  • Optimal parental responses are intended not only to resolve a situation, but also to foster the child’s maturation. They are said in a warm manner and often include statements which relay the parent’s recognition of the child’s temperament.

Temperament-based parenting strategies

No one temperament is ideal in every situation. Instead, each type of temperament endows a child with particular strengths. Responsive parents will praise or verbally acknowledge the positive temperament-related attributes that a child exhibits. The very same temperament characteristics, however, are likely to cause parents concern in other situations. For example, a child who is low in negative reactivity is likely to be cheerful and to get along easily with other children. The same child, however, may be of concern to his or her parents because in an effort to be friendly, the child may lack assertiveness skills. Another child might be delightfully high in approach and eager to try new activities. His or her parent, however, might worry about the child’s judgment when asked to participate in something that might be dangerous.

Once a parent recognizes a child’s temperament, child management strategies can be used that match the various dimensions of the child’s temperament. The following are samples of temperament-based parenting strategies. Children who are:

  • high in negative reactivity cannot be remade into a sunny person. Learn, however, to appreciate his/her honesty.
  • low in negative reactivity are likely to be consistently pleasant. They may, however, need encouragement to express their opinions and needs.
  • low in task persistence are helped when complicated responsibilities are divided into smaller, more manageable components. Also, develop an appreciation for the child’s creativity and divergent thinking.
  • high in task persistence may be self-directed. They are, however, likely to need your support before they can put closure on an activity that does not satisfy their own high expectations.
  • low in activity can sit quietly for long periods of time. He or she, however, may need encouragement to engage in athletic activities.
  • high in activity require adequate opportunities to expend their energy in a positive way. Such needs, however, should not be allowed to dominate a family’s schedule to the detriment of other family members.
  • high in approach need careful and constant monitoring. Such children, however, are likely to delight in opportunities to make new friends.
  • low in approach have a tendency to withdraw from new experiences. Providing goodness of fit often involves easing the child into situations until he or she feels comfortable.
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