Thoughtful Parenting: Help children handle difficult situations | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Help children handle difficult situations

As a parent, one of the most difficult concepts that I have had to learn is how to help each of my children handle difficult situations based on his unique temperament. Simply put, temperament is the fact that all children are born into this world with their own individualized blueprints for reacting to the world around them.

Temperament explains why some children are very easy-going while others tend to be more challenging for parents. Sometimes, you hear these challenging children being called "difficult" or "spirited." This is often because they have temperamental traits that make them more demanding to parent.

Child development research has identified 10 temperament traits that everyone exhibits to some extent.

• Activity level: Is it hard to read a book with your child because he is always on the go? Does your child prefer sedentary quiet activities?

• Intensity: Does your child show happiness or frustration strongly and dramatically? Does your child express those feelings mildly?

• Quality of mood: Is your child generally in a happy mood? Does your child seem more serious?

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• Regularity: Does your child eat and sleep at predictable times? Is your child unpredictable in terms of eating and sleeping schedules?

• Emotional sensitivity: Does your child react strongly to his own or other's feelings and emotions? Does your child seem unaware of how he or others are feeling?

• Sensory sensitivity: Does your child react positively or negatively to sounds, tastes and textures?

• Adaptability: Does your child have difficulty with changes in routines or with transitions from one activity to another? Does your child handle them smoothly?

• Approach/withdrawal: Does your child easily approach new situations or people? Does your child seem to hold back when faced with new situations, people or things?

• Persistence: Does your child react strongly when told "no" to something? Does your child have a hard time letting ideas go? Does your child seem to give up without trying their hardest?

• Distractibility: Is your child easily sidetracked when trying to do chores or homework? Does your child stay on task?

Knowing how your children respond to certain situations will help you and your children more successfully handle difficult matters. You can therefore modify your parenting strategies to meet your children's unique needs.

You can teach your children to manage their reactions, then both of you will be able to appreciate the positive aspects of that trait.

For example, children who are considered stubborn could be viewed as persistent. Similarly, children who are labeled negative may be thought of as serious.

Often, the same characteristics that make raising children difficult are the same qualities that serve them well as adults.

For example, a highly dramatic and intense child can be very entertaining even as a child and might become a successful actor, litigator or teacher. A very picky eater may become a premier chef.

By learning to work with your unique child rather than against him or her, parents can foster a sense of self-esteem and a more positive relationship.

To identify your children's and your own temperament, use Temperament Rating Scales found at centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/child-development/temperament-rating-scales. Answer the questions provided for each trait to guide you in determining where your children fall on each scale. You will then be well prepared to understand your children's temperament traits, which will enable you to help your children handle life's challenges in a more productive manner.

Jason Lacy is co-chairman of First Impressions of Routt County and president of Steamboat Springs City Council. Lacy is also a partner with Steamboat Lawyers Group, PLLC and he has been involved in numerous nonprofit and civic organizations in Routt County. Lacy lives in Steamboat Springs with his wife, Dervla, and their three sons, Declan, Ronan and Lochlan.