Raising different personalities

Some kids are harder to raise than others. Here are some suggestions of ways to modify your parenting style to suit your child’s personality.

Our personality traits have a great influence on who we are, how we get along with others and how we get along in life. In some of us, those personality traits seem to be an easy mix, but in others, those traits stand out much more strongly.

While the easy-going adults or kids seem to fit effortlessly in anywhere, most of us know someone who stands out as either a perfectionist, competitive, sensitive, very active or perhaps a bit anxious.

Early on, parents – and others – soon see personality traits emerging in youngsters. And quite often those characteristics will remind us of ourselves or our partner because our kids do inherit some of our own traits.

For many parents, the personality traits of their children may never be problematic. The very easy-going child, for example, is a breeze for parents to raise because he gets along well with everyone most of the time and therefore gets lots of positive attention. The conscientious child is quick and keen to get things done well. Toys are tidied up and she settles to tasks with no prompting from mum or dad – so she’s no
bother either.

But for parents of other children, certain strong personality traits may make raising their child more difficult. It’s common to hear parents lamenting that junior is too stubborn, too active, very adventurous and takes too many risks, or is perhaps too competitive, or even ‘too sensitive”.

It’s not the personality trait that’s problematic, rather it’s any behavioural issue that is a manifestation of that trait. A good example of this might be the competitive kid who has a meltdown because he or she is losing at a sporting event; or the highly active preschooler who hurtles around supermarkets and frequently creates mayhem with high energy antics.

It’s also unhelpful to get into negative thinking about certain strong personality traits, because although they may seem to be to blame for some difficult behaviour now, later in life they could be the very qualities that will make your child successful.

By taking a positive approach to raising their children, they can encourage behaviour they do want and manage behavioural problems when they arise. Or better still, prevent those problems from arising in the first place. By being constructive and using positive strategies, parents can help children to become socially and emotionally competent and learn the skills they need to succeed in life.

The strategies that work for managing behaviour and raising healthy, happy kids are based on these principles for positive parenting:

  • Create a family environment that is stable, supportive and harmonious
  • Encourage behaviour you like
  • Deal positively, consistently and decisively with problem behaviour
  • Build positive relationships with your children so that conflict can be resolved
  • Plan ahead to avoid or manage potentially difficult situations
  • Take care of yourself as a parent

By building positive parenting skills, parents can learn to maintain the more challenging behaviour of their kids at a level that is tolerable, or foster it (and manage it) as a strength.

Take the highly competitive child. As an adult, he might pit his ability against others to great success, but as a youngster he’s apparently finding it more difficult than others to handle the experience of losing in a competitive situation. When he doesn’t win, he might get extremely upset, abusive, aggressive or sulky. Both winning and losing can become problematic for kids if it’s too closely connected withy their self-esteem or sense of self-worth.

If your child goes into ‘meltdown’ after losing in a competitive situation, you need to help them cope better with their emotions. Get them away from the public setting and talk privately about the whole picture. Focus more on their skill development in a positive way, rather than on winning or losing. Suggest what they could do next time they feel they’re losing control in a competition. Like taking a deep breath, for example, and counting to 10. Once they get the idea that their behaviour wasn’t acceptable, reinforce the new approach by pointing out that there will be a negative consequence if that behaviour continues – like sitting out a game or not playing with friends. With this approach, you’ll ‘muddy junior up a little’ and steer him away from becoming a sore loser – the child who can’t cope emotionally when they don’t win.

The highly active child can also be a big challenge to raise if all that energy bursts out in overly boisterous and possibly destructive activity. Again, you don’t want to repress this great zest for life, but on the way to adulthood you’ll want strategies to manage the behaviour of this exhausting child. Typically, they don’t focus or sleep for very long, and they’re very easily distracted. So forget the reproaches and figure out a plan to work with that high level of activity.

Structured routines are an effective strategy for highly active kids. Make sure there’s plenty for them to do in a safe environment. Encourage them to plan activities too, especially in school holiday time when the boredom of being at a loose end can spell trouble. By planning ahead too, you can anticipate when trouble could arise and have a plan to cope with that, reducing the chance of the very sort of little eruptions that would frazzle any parent. Some very active kids will need more effort to be kept occupied than others. They tend to tire of activities fast and need something else to move on to. They’ll also do better if they get a few rewards for playing well, and more encouragement to keep up the behaviour you want.

There’s an old saying that your greatest strength is also your Achilles heel. It’s much easier for parents to guide their children successfully to adulthood if they are confident and positive as parents. Family life will be more fun and less of a battleground.

Triple P is the world’s most researched parenting programme with strategies that are proven to work. Triple P psychologists work with groups or individuals teaching them positive parenting strategies that make raising kids easier.

By being constructive and using positive strategies, parents can help children to become socially and emotionally competent and learn the skills they need to succeed in life.

www.triplep.net or email: info.nz@triplep.net.nz Ph: 09 579 1794

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