Intervention

Guiding Your Child's Temperament

Temperament 

~a person's or animal's nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior...

If there is one thing that I have begin to understand about my own style of parenting is that my personal attitude and/or biases have a personal effect on how I guide my children. I like to blame my horoscope to provide evidence to why some of my kid's behaviors affect me personally. I'm a fan of horoscopes, slightly because my mother's own biases, but mostly because they are so accurate. Maurice (my husband)  believes it's general information that fits the mold of all people. I like to think that our universe provides a reason for everything, so following my zodiac is a way to explain some of it. So for example, I am a Cancer, emotional at heart, very reactive, and quite tenacious. My eldest daughter is a Gemini, represented by 2 heads to show the prevalence of 2 personalities, so she is up and down. Very expressive, but can often times be very serious. And then there is my youngest daughter, an Aries, who is very determined and courageous, but can be very impatient.  

This was easily played out on the day of our family photo shoot. Here I am trying to work on the advancement of my family, and my children have the audacity to show their most challenging characteristics of their zodiac sign. Of course the OCD mommy in me, has been prepping my children for this day for the past few weeks. Making sure they knew what to expect, and just a little practice of smiling, lol. The day gets here and I wake up  super early due to excitement. Then I was quickly reminded that yesterday Karter didn't nap, and I witnessed Kennedy waking up on the wrong side of the bed (figuratively). I knew what type of day was ahead. It's funny because as a mother, I can innately tell when my children will have crummy days. So, as I run around with excitement, my girls decide to give me the blues. Kennedy dragging, not liking how her hair was done, upset because she couldn't have colored lip gloss. Karter refusing to eat breakfast, begging for a fruit snack instead, and with the energy of a 2 y/o (because she is 2). I wanted to scream. But I pressed forward to continue to make sure we would accomplish the task. As we begin to prep for pictures, I can tell Kennedy's body language screamed that she wasn't happy, all awhile Karter won't smile, and keeps playing a game of cat and mouse with her invisible friend. I keep pushing, but it was getting to be overwhelming. My husband is more worried about his shirt looking wrenkled and was at no assistance, lol, he was clearly excited.  So I started to get frustrated, I begin to address Kennedy, as she cried and ran upstairs. Karter begin to tantrum, and I just felt like I was going to lose my mind. Then in a moment of self reflection, because at my most challenging times, I have to self reflect to get re-centered. I  quickly reminded myself of my children's temperaments and how I needed to use that to get what I wanted.


Tips:

  1. Understand that temperament is biology. There is nothing you can do about it. It's nature's gift to us to show our individuality. There is nothing you can do to change it, so don't try to.  Your child's temperament is not a reflection of you. It's a reflection of their own uniqueness.

  2. Understand your temperament and how it is different from your child's. Use that to understand how to respond to make things more effective or more challenging. Ask yourself if my child is already over emotional, if I scream, I'm sure that is going to make them cry. We are able to tailor our responses from our children, even other adults. Be aware of how your personalities clash and/or compatible.

  3. Just respect it- it is what it is. And don't compare it to another child, as if one is better than the other. No one's temperament is better than the other just because it appears to be more tolerable. There is no competition when it comes to temperament.

  4. Always model what you want to see from your children. If I always go off when frustrated, it's natural for children to learn that same behavior. This is challenging because we are human. But we are our child's first teacher. You have to literally live in the light you want your child to follow.

  5. Avoid any situations that you know are a hazard. Some children are sensory sensitive. High stimulation, too much noise, lots of people, can be anxiety provoking. Find a way to prepare for the moments you know will be tough.

  6. Focus on the present moment. Key in to what is happening now. Don't project things in the future, and don't live in the past. Work on what's in the moment so that you always address things with a fresh perspective.

  7. Try to find a way to appreciate both negative and positive attributes of your child. Being emotional is not a bad thing. Always feed your child positivity, or find a way to refrain it. I also tell Kennedy when she is upset, that it's okay for her to be experiencing an emotion, but what happens if we stay in that emotion for too long? Never label your child as bad. Those thoughts stick in your child's brain, and children begin to believe what it is people they trust is telling them. Once you label a child bad, it can lead them to doing bad things, because they already have the title.

  8. And lastly SELF CARE- find a way to always recenter yourself by spending time apart from your child to be self reflective, and take a break.

We will never get it 100% right. But today I finished my first photo shoot with my crazy family. I don't care that it took 4 hours, I got it done, and that's all that matters. By understanding that my girls are human, and I am human. We cried, laughed, got frustrated, and ran around...but we ended happily. 

A few outtakes before I get the finished product :-)


"Feelings" Matter

Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared....

Yes, we all have had a mix of emotions experienced in our lifetime, but did you know that very young children do too?

Karter practicing her deep breathes at 18m.

Karter practicing her deep breathes at 18m.

As early as 18 months children start to display empathy. This is not to be confused with sympathy. Empathy is the ability to feel another person’s pain and having an urge to want to soothe it. Empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives connection. This is a way for children to begin to understand how other people feel, even when they don't feel that way. This concept is introduced in early infancy. For example, when a baby cries and mommy or daddy comes to soothe them, this begins the process of learning how feelings and emotions connect with others. This continues to develop, as a child learns that certain cries or screams deem different reactions from caregivers. i.e. I need to be changed, held, fed, sleep, etc. 

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Understanding one's feeling early on can impact the connections children make as adults. Studies show that children who are empathetic tend to do better in school, in social situations, and in their adult careers. These skills provide a more compassionate relationship between individuals big and small. Most importantly we want to raise children who want to help one another, so that they can have a better understanding of the world around them.

HOW CAN WE DO THIS?

I like to use feeling identification to continue to teach my children the importance of empathy but also how to process feelings for themselves.

 

It’s the power of understanding that it’s okay to experience an emotion as long as you know how to process it.
— Mommy Wells

 

For a young child who experiences several emotions daily, having adults who validate those emotions as "real" can be substantial and gives them the ability to transfer that same notion to peers. For example: Karter is into the "it's mine" phase, no matter if it's hers or not. She will take Kennedy's toys and claim them, as well as other children her age. I will begin to explain to her "that makes Kennedy sad when you take her toys." She has begun to understand sad and hates for her sister to feel that way. Therefore giving back her toy because she feels empathy for her sister.

Understanding feelings helps children problem solve. As adults we can introduce this concept by labeling and validating our child's feelings very early. When your child is feeling sad, tell them, wow you look sad. If they are angry, tell them that. This makes them feel important. For a child they feel as if my parent really understands me. The worst thing a parent can do is to tell a child that they are not allowed to feel a certain way because they are a child or to tell them to suck it up. This can be very dis-empowering. As parents we don't need to place band aids to cover up the feeling, we focus more on the healing process to encourage growth.

To take it to the next step, begin to offer coping strategies. As adults we can't be productive if we stay in a certain emotion...mad, sad, angry, jealous. I like to teach my children that it's okay to experience feelings but what do we do about them. For example, if Kennedy is angry about doing homework, I will acknowledge that by stating "wow you seem upset you have to do homework" (i.e. validate). Then I'll go on to say "what can we do to make it better for you" (coping strategy). Same with my toddler Karter, "you are so SAD you have to share your toy" (validate). "Can you give mommy a hug to help you feel better or take turns" (coping strategy). This habit will allow your child to begin to understand their own emotions, but also how to get relief.

Here are some strategies I use to help teach my children the concept of feelings and emotions. 

 

As adults we have to give our children the tools for better outcomes in the future. Leading to healthy adult lifestyles.
— Mommy Wells

1. Books!!! This is awesome for toddlers as well as adolescents. Reading is the tool to help spark conversation. At beginner level they can begin to learn what feelings are and the faces to match. For older children this can be more about how to process feelings. Here are a few books I love.

2. Feeling Flashcards! This is just a extension of a book. It is more specific in nature. I use flashcards as a way to have conversations about the "feeling" and the moments my children have felt that way. Sometimes kids will describe a feeling and it's totally different from what they are displaying. Kennedy gets frustrated and angry confused. Although they may look the same they warrant different responses. This is a great way to make sure your child's feeling matches what they feel so that they have a better understanding on what to do with it.

3. Feeling Charts! When a child is experiencing a emotion, this could be a great quick reference to help children process quickly. I hung this up in my baby girl's room. When she gets upset, I'll point and say the feeling, and then try to redirect her behavior, or offer her a coping strategy such as blow some bubbles, count to 10, get a hug, rest, etc.

NOTE: If we are asking children to process emotions, be mindful about  providing tools to help them process. Sensory items are great to help kids calm down, it literally slows down their heart rate. Offer a "calm space" for them to sqeeze a stress ball, hit their pillow, take deep breathes. Sounds familiar right? As adults we need to call a friend, listen to music, go workout. Same premise, same purpose. 

4. Videos! You wouldn't believe how my toddler is already obsessed with YouTube. She loves watching some of the most weirdest videos of people opening eggs, or people being silly. I use this to my advantage. I have found some pretty amazing feeling songs. This is another reminder of how great sensory integration can be. Music is tied to memory.  Check out "Super Simple Songs", they not only have an amazing "feeling song" they offer a palette of toddler/preschool friendly music. Check Karter out!

5. Pretend Play! Self explanatory, it's the foundation of learning for children. Use puppets to act out problem solving scenarios. Great learning tool and children love them!

 

Last Thoughts!

Our early childhood experiences transpire into our adult lives. The more that goes into prepping our children the more impact we will have regarding their future.

Please check out my Pinterest account for all great ideas in regards to childhood emotions and feelings!

Effective "Chart" Making

BEhavior Charts, reward charts, chore charts, potty charts just to name a few....

It's great that parents come up with many different ways to get our kids to comply with our rules. One way we do this is by creating a chart that is a visual reminder for kiddos to stay on task, or be motivated to do whatever it is we are requesting. Little Johnny goes to his room and the first thing he notices is his chart, and boom "magic" he does what is displayed and gets his sticker or candy, right? Wrong!! 

Online forums will tell you to make a list of all required task or chores you want done, and all day the child is to follow to your expectation to get the reward. Well this is not totally wrong, but can be totally unrealistic. How challenging is it to be perfect all day as a 5 year old? Even I as an adult cannot stay on task, or follow all orders requested by my boss daily. Sometimes as parents I believe we forget how young our child's mind can be, and how immature the brain functions. We expect for them to comply, 99% of the time, with little room for error. This can be a major set up for the child to fail, and increase stress on the parent. Well I am here to tell you we all have had it wrong. Allow me to share some effective tips when creating any type of chart that will increase the behavior you are seeking, all while making your child motivated to do so. 

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Chart Making Tips

1. ONE behavior at a time-This is the most effective tool of them all! Very challenging because most parents lump a lot of behaviors together. As parents we place every negative behavior on a chart, and tell Johnny if he doesn't do all those negative behaviors he can get a reward. For a child this can be overwhelming. It's just too much, and so when they fail at one they are not encouraged to do the others. I would start by thinking about your child's most challenging behavior, the behavior that is primary to the others or drives the others. For instance when Kennedy was in preschool she would bite and hit. For me biting was more "bad" then hitting. The goal is to focus on one, fizzle the chart out, and work on another. The child is empowered to complete the next task because they feel good about completing the first. If you're really effective, the most challenging behavior, if tackled, will diminish the others.

2. Positive Reinforcement-When you label the chart, use a title or word of the behavior you "want" to see. This is like the red button in the elevator. You're told not to press the red button and somehow it makes you want to touch it more. Stating what you would like to see, makes it easy for the child to follow. Example: When I tell Karter "no throwing", she immediately throws. But if I say "calm hands", she shows me her calm hands. This takes practice. Before creating the chart think about the behavior you want to see "more" of. Begin using it in your everyday conversation so your child understands what it is you're asking of them. So for a kid who doesn't listen, I would place "listening ears" on the top of the chart. "No hitting" change to "gentle hands", kids who scream "soft voice". Again this encourages them to succeed because they know exactly what mommy/daddy is expecting. It feels positive and promising.

3.  Small and Simple-Make the steps incredibly small and simple. I really like to allow my kids to feel like they can do it. Great to help build your child's self esteem! It can be tough to follow a rule all day. Notice the times your child negative behavior increases or is most present. So if your child screams more in the afternoon, simplify your chart only focusing on the 3 hour period in the afternoon and reward with a sticker every half hour. I love to do this for homework time at my house. Kennedy loves to complain after school about homework, even though she knows she has to do it. Her chart is labeled "Positive homework vibes"- the behavior I want to see. I created a chart that marks off 4p-6p, 30 min increments. Every 30m that Kennedy displays "positive homework vibes" she places a check mark. The more specific the better. Again be realistic, once the child has mastered a few hours you can continue to increase, and increase, until it is no longer needed.

NOTE: if your child can earn 6 stickers/checks/etc during the allotted time, I would not expect for them to get all 6 to get the reward. You know your child best. If your child is very defiant, start small allowing them to earn 2 stickers. This increases there motivation to want to strive for more.  Rule of thumb is to cut in half, and increase the challenge as you see them increase the behavior. This is the same for weekly rewards. Kids need to have a since of pride,"Mom I can do it, so I want to do it more" (hopefully).

4. Daily and Weekly-Make daily and weekly rewards. This is pretty self explanatory. Children NEED instant gratification. No way can a child wait until Friday for an accomplishment produced Monday. Similar to a dog, when he does the trick/goes to the potty we reward right after to encourage them to do it again. Daily rewards can be simple and no cost at all. Ex. Stay up 15 minutes past bedtime, read an extra story at bedtime, extra electronic time, etc. Most importantly allow your child to help you come up with rewards. Nothing is more painful then rewarding your child with something they don't like. This is the easiest way to lose the child's interest. Should you go out and purchase expensive toys, NOT AT ALL!  The point is to increase something they already enjoy. Weekly rewards can be low cost. Be creative and practical. 

IDEA: Together me and Kennedy made a list of fun inexpensive rewards she would like. Ex: Special play dates, pick her favorite meal for dinner, $1 Target section greatness, etc. We placed in a box, and she had the ability to pick out a reward weekly. Super fun craft idea as well (have the child design the box to their liking)!

5. No Double Consequences-Do not mix rewards with punishment. If your child does not do the task, they simply don't get the reward. Double consequences is never a good idea. Again this gives the child little motivation to start over. I love positive reinforcement. Kids know when they are bad, they rarely are praised for being good. Everyday is a new day to start over. Never allow the frustration from the previous day impact the child's ability the next.

6. Fizzle Out-Lastly! Gradually decrease rewards with social acceptance. Children are creatures of habit. After a few weeks/months of heavy rewards for a specific behavior soon it will become part of their routine. Just be aware of how much your child is motivated by the reward, and make sure it's more focused on accomplishing the behavior. Praise them heavily, continue to make a big deal out of it when they do it, but don't offer a reward. You can then begin your new behavior/task you want to work on.

Final Thoughts

We are all motivated by something. Adults work hard to get rewards out of life. This is the same for children. Some parents argue kids should do what's told simply because they don't have a choice. This is all well and good, but it's just not true. They do have a choice, and if they choose "no" each time, you are then left frustrated, and non effective. We are raising children in a different generation. Advertisements are heavy, and the need for gratification has increased. Allow this to work in your favor. In the end it will save you from lots of stressful moments. And at the end of the day, you're the one who really won!

FYI: All resources below we're found on Pinterest! Click my Pinterest link to see some of my favorite charts to use!