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Fussy babies-working with infant temperament

READER'S FORUM

Dear Kate,

I was concerned about the expectations of the parent who wrote to you in a recent issue. It seems that she was not aware of the impact of all the changes that her young son had faced (new house, baby and another baby on the way). She seemed to blame him for the fact that she was not able to teach him new skills.

Isn't it more important to suggest she change her expectations than to suggest her child may really be hard to teach?

Sincerely,

Educator

Dear Educator,

Without more information about the situation, it is difficult to know whether the main problem is excessive expectation or a child who has intrinsic difficulties changing behavioral habits. There are so many parents who have been criticized for having the wrong expectations only to discover down the road that their child has a learning disability or some other difference. In such cases, expectations often do need to be revised but without information about all the contributors to the problem, the parents and child may continue to struggle. In short, I believe that often parents are accused of having inappropriate developmental expectations when the problem is far more complex than that. Their expectations may be individually inappropriate, too. That was the thrust of my response because I think it's time that researchers and clinicians explored the role of temperament and other features of individuality in programs for changing behavior.

Certainly one has enormous empathy for the child coping with many changes in his life, especially given that he appears to have difficulty with adaptation. There are, however, vast numbers of young children who move house, have new siblings and a pregnant parent and who nevertheless remain on a healthy behavioral track.

Sincerely,

Kate