The difference between boys and girls

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This is becoming more evident and real for me since I am the only female in a family of 5.

On Sunday night we went out as a family to dinner, the table number stand had a pivot base and stood up about 10 cms with a clip at the top. Just before dessert, I started moving the top and turning it, then handing it over to my son (age 7), I said “here you go, why don’t you drive this like a car?” (as it looked like a gear lever to me). My son’s eyes lit up, “No, it’s a plane and it shoots”, there he sat turning the top and making shooting sounds, while I sat amazed and enchanted by his imagination which is obviously totally different to mine.

A similar thing had happened two weeks ago. I walked into my children’s playroom to find their whiteboard filled with words, written in neat columns. I thought to myself, wow, my boys have been hard at work learning and how great it was they found another use for the whiteboard. I remarked to my boys, “I see there a list of words on the whiteboard, that’s great work, fantastic, which of you wrote them?” My eldest son (age 9) says, “G* did that.” G* is a friend from school, a girl, who had come to play the day before. Mmm, backtrack mum, “Oh that’s great", I responded. Well the list lasted four days before being wiped clean by my boys and making way for swirls, pictures and the occasional ‘hangman’ game.

So these are my most recent examples of how boys and girls differ and that it’s okay to accept your child for who they are and relish what their imagination conjures up.

Parenting by Personality

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Temperament is a set of in-born traits that a child is born with. Temperament is influenced by genetic and environmental factors and as the child grows up their personality develops and becomes distinctive to that individual. The family and broader environment shape a child’s personality. Personality traits determine how a child interacts with others around them and how they learn about the world around them. Traits appear to remain constant from birth, however traits can be modified through experiences. The personality contains characteristics that are not “good” or “bad” but enduring traits that exist and develop as a child grows and interacts in the world.

A child’s personality can influence the interactions he or she has with others. It may also contribute to how the child is treated by others. It is possible that with the right approach and through education and development certain type of risks associated with some personality traits can be minimised. Personality traits may become apparent through a child’s behaviour and actions. As parents, if we want to modify our child’s instinctive way of being, we need to know early on and what their natural tendencies may be, so we can assist them to tailor their behaviour and traits.

What do you as a parent gain by understanding your child’s personality:

Parents can avoid blaming themselves for issues that may be normal for their child’s personality. Some children are louder or more boisterous than others. Some children are more cuddly or more clingy than others and some are more comfortable with routine or sleep more readily than others.

Parents can know how their child responds to certain situations, you will be able to anticipate and then prepare your child for a situation more efficiently.

Parents can parent proactively not reactively. You will know what your child thinks and what their personality needs are and how to use this knowledge to apply parenting strategies specifically to suit the characteristics or traits of your child’s personality. No more guessing about what your child needs or thinks.

Parents may be able to identify and accept that some behaviour traits are ‘normal’ for their individual child and that certain traits may not be pathological or require treatment.
Parents can understand and appreciate their child more fully and feel more effective as a parent and more in control.

Parents and children with awareness and acceptance of the role personality plays avoid ‘personality conflicts’. Children enjoy a greater sense of who they are and what their potential is when their personality needs are met. Parents can build their child’s self-esteem and encourage them to live true to themselves and less likely to be influenced by others.

Proactive or Reactive Parenting

Friday, September 3, 2010

Most of us plan everything. We are raised to plan. Our homework, our career, our study, our wedding, our work, even planning for our child’s birth and then we become a parent and almost everything we knew and planned goes out the window.

Parenting is like nothing we have experienced before: no excuses, no sick days and limited time out to think or make notes. No remote control or off/reset button when things aren’t ‘working’ properly. No manual or perhaps on the other hand too much information and we get numbed by what is right or wrong.
We become reactive as parents and start questioning ourselves. Our values, our approach, our upbringing and our abilities or potential and effectiveness.

Can we parent proactively? How do we parent proactively? In order to become ‘proactive’ as a parent you need to trust your maternal /parental instincts. It is very uncommon to find a parent who would not want the best for their child and do whatever it takes to provide that.

Parenting ‘proactively’ allows you to foresee issues and hopefully put together a plan of action for when that occurs, it may be a simple plan like, needing to buy a gate to keep a child safe or a floor mat so your child doesn’t mess when they start feeding themselves. It is knowing a hungry child may become angry or throw a tantrum and being prepared to deal with that issue as it arises. Parenting “proactively” is being aware of and trying to prevent a problem or deal effectively with a problem that could escalate.

A child under three months is very demanding, in the sense that they are very dependent on you to meet their basic needs of comfort and food. This is a time when you may be more “reactive” in your parenting. Reacting to their cries, to supply their need. Being reactive in this time is appropriate and your child learns that you are their source of safety and supply. I think it is at this time that we can get stuck in a ‘reaction’ phase. However, as the child gets older, a ‘proactive’ approach will make parenting less stressful and more enjoyable.

Parenting “proactively” means you -
• Are willing to try new things - because parenting involves learning on the job. Something we fortunately don’t need a degree for - but we do need to try and try again until something works. My son throws tantrums and as he is getting older and I’m getting wiser... or perhaps just practice makes perfect. Ignoring seems to be working best also sometimes he just needs “space” to deal with the emotions he is feeling at the time. I’ve learnt sometimes that simply saying ”mmm”or “it’s okay that you feel sad or upset”, given some time he eventually comes out with “Mum, I’m sorry for.....” what a day that was! It happens more regularly now and he is learning to accept what he is feeling and what is appropriate or not when dealing with intense emotions.
• Are flexible – routines are helpful but some things cannot be planned for and with children even small things like getting in our out of the car are going to take ten minutes longer.
• Know your child – you observe how your child behaves, identify “who” they are – so you know when something happens that is out of place or out of character, so you can follow this up with them.
• Know what you want - what are the important things for you or your family and what can you let go.
• Your children know what you want – you have expressed clearly, perhaps in steps and reminded them what outcome you would like to see or expect.
• Are prepared to hand over and accept responsibility.

A tantrum... now what?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tantrums, they can cause feelings of helplesslessness, fearfulness, anxiety, a feeling of being overwhelmed and even anger. That is just what the parents may be experiencing.
What do they mean for the child?

In order to properly deal with a tantrum, it is important that you as a parent remain in control and become aware of how you feel when your child is acting out. By being aware of your emotions you will become more prepared to handle situations including tantrums your child displays.
Being aware of your feelings when your child is acting out is important so you know what limits you have and where to draw the boundary for or with your child. Some parenting feelings may include feeling annoyed, irritated, manipulated, hurt, angry, frustrated, inadequate or even pity for the child. These feelings may also depend on whether your child is carrying out a specific type of tantrum, ie. The “helpless” tantrum, the “demonstrative” tantrum or the “silent” tantrum.

Some tantrums will require you to move toward your child to console them, other tantrums will require you to ignore your child but how do you know when to do what. Margot Sunderland, author of The Science of Parenting, describes tantrums that may be controlling or manipulating and other tantrums that may be emotionally fuelled. How to identify what is happening in a tantrum:

Is your child crying tears when the tantrum occurs? Yes No
Is your child arguing back or verbalise his/her demands when you say “no”? Yes No

• If your child is crying tears and unable to verbalise his/her demands, your child may be having an emotionally fuelled tantrum.

• If your child has no tears, can argue or make demands or verbalise during a tantrum it may be a controlling or manipulating tantrum.

Strategies to handle a tantrum:
• Be aware of how you feel.
• Don’t belittle or humiliate your child when they are having a tantrum. If your child is experiencing a ‘demonstrative’ tantrum he/she should ‘lose’ with dignity and pay attention to him/her immediately after they calm down. You are the adult and not in competition with your child.
• If your child is young and you can identify that the situation is difficult for him/her to understand and he/she may be feeling strong emotional response to a situation it is okay to provide comfort. It is impossible to reason with a young child and even more so when they are at the height of a tantrum.
• By ignoring the tantrum you will be less likely to give in.
• With an older child feedback what you saw happen or what you think the child’s emotional state was.

Why tantrums happen:
Some triggers for tantrums involve hunger, tiredness, tension, understimulation or boredom. Emotional triggers involve feelings such as frustration, disappointment or loss. Children may not have words to express their frustration so empathise with them and reflect back what you see.

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