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My 6 year old son, Zachary, personifies the word temperament...
Temperament and Parenting
A Newsletter About Caring for the High Maintenance Child by Kate Andersen, M.Ed.
Issue Theme: The Highly Persistent Child
Volume 22, Number 2, September, 2019
Letter to Kate
My 6 year old son, Zachary, personifies the word temperament. He seemed to be a well adjusted child (every once in a while he would have a tantrum) until about 1 year ago, when his behavior became progressively worse. The bigger his vocabulary became, the more well-defined his opinions and comments became (not that I'm against him expressing himself, I encourage him to do so). He is extremely persistent and bossy. He always wants things his way and gets extremely upset when it doesn't happen. He'll tell you what he wants 100 times, even though he knows what the answer is. I thought at one time that he may have hearing problems and had his hearing checked which was fine. His teachers can't deal with him because of his "nasty" attitude. He defies his teachers and myself and seems to know what he's doing and enjoying it. It seems that he lives to see whom he can make pull out their hair. I've tried everything. I asked him to make a plan for himself, as to what would make him happy, because I ran out. There is nothing else I can take away from him. He is a very loving child and I want him to grow up in a nourishing home. But I'm at the end of the rope. I feels he needs to respect his elders, no matter what.
Broken in the Bronx.
Dear Broken in the Bronx,
Thanks for writing. I am interested to know more about the time that Zachary changed - was this a big change in his behavioral style or just an increase in the same types of behaviors as when he was younger? You say Zachary personifies the word "temperament" so I will answer assuming that he has had this tendencies to be persistent for some time. And that he is negative in his persistence, with lots of complaints that are not really justified. Let me tell you, negative persistence can drive a parent nuts! I know. One of my own children has this trait in a big way. We learned the hard way that you can't get involved in arguing or reasoning when a youngster goes on and on. You have to cut it short early and move on. They may still be stuck (like a broken record it seems) but you can be doing something else. Here are a few other ideas that some parents have told me sometimes work with persistence:
1) Give the child five minutes to complain. Listen to every word and then say. "Okay. I heard you. Now the subject is closed."
2) Try to shift them into a different state by a complete change of scene, a nap or a big snack. Worth a try.
3) If the child can write, give them a pad and pen and ask them to write down all the things they need to tell you and you will read it the next day when they are out or at school.
4) Have the child make a fantasy wish list of all the things that would make their life better. Make sure they know it's just a fantasy, though. Then agree that it would be wonderful if he or she could have all those things.
5) Set aside a debating time to argue about something silly like "Is the moon made of green cheese?" This can turn negative persistence into fun and make you realize that these temperament traits may serve very well one day when Zachary is a lawyer or professor!
I still think my first suggestion is the best one. Just label the behavior to Zachary early on: "You have expressed your opinion and I hear you. Now you are stuck in and I am switching off." (Put earphones on your ears if you have to.) Let me know how you do. Remember that Zach doesn't mean to make life difficult. It's just as hard for him getting stuck as it is for you to hear it. Well, almost.
to some common questions about behavioral style.
Origins, impact on parenting, risk for behavioral issues, relationship to ADHD, and other topics.
Goodness of Fit
How temperament is assessed.
Poor fit can lead to stress and possibly emotional or behavioral problems
When professional help is needed
There are qualified individuals from several disciplines who counsel parents and children.