Cry in their cribs — or co-sleep? Let them potty train when they feel like it — or do the weekend “boot camp” approach? One way worked great for my neighbor, a different way for my mother-in-law. What’s THE BEST WAY to get my kid to sleep, poop, eat, or behave nicely, goshdarnit?
Finally, research is starting to find some answers. DIFFERENT APPROACHES WORK BEST FOR DIFFERENT KIDDOS. What works for your sensitive child might not work for your bull-in-a-china-shop kid. What works for your outgoing, social child will totally fail for your shy, “watch from the sidelines” kiddo. Personality and Social Psychology Review recently published work by Avinun and Knafo showing that our child’s genetics — which impact her behavior and her personality — directly impact OUR parenting approach, which in turn influences our child’s development. This is a complex, cyclical interaction of nature + nurture. A “both/and” instead of an “either/or”. My fellow geeks can read the whole article here.
So what does this mean for our daily lives as parents?
- Inborn personality and temperament can vary in many areas, including these: Activity level, Regularity, Sociability/Shyness, Adaptability, Intensity, Mood, Persistence, Attention Span, Distractability, and Sensory Threshold. There’s a lot of information jammed into the last sentence, so I suggest you go back and ponder each area in terms of each of your kids. (It’s something I ponder all the time.) Think of how YOUR kids — each one of them, individually — are in these areas. Adjust your parenting approach accordingly.
Once you have an idea about your kiddos’ personalities/ temperaments, try this:
- Talk with the kids about their personalities — and yours. Help them understand that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, strong points and “areas of challenge”. Helping them understand personality differences will help them be better in their relationships now — and later.
- Talk with their teachers about your kids’ temperaments, and trade suggestions about what seems to work best.
- Don’t worry about “fairness” (too much, anyway). My older son needs much firmer limits than my younger boy, but is much more perceptive with his friends — and a born leader. My younger son is easy-going and happy-go-lucky — but needs more help navigating social situations. We remind them that we try to give each of them what they need — not the same thing their brother got.
Read more of my thoughts here on how inborn temperament and personality make a big difference in how we parent our children.
Mom of Four, Parenting Expert