Temperament and Parenting

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Power Struggles

1. Make sure you understand your child's temperament. If a child is low in adaptability, switching gears is difficult. Be sure to provide plenty of warning before transitions. A persistent child will find it harder to stop complaining. Listen to the first couple of complaints. "Turn off your ears after that. Just ignore the resulting screaming and tantrums.

2. Plan ahead and determine what action you will take if your child continues to resist and defy you, even if you have given plenty of warning. Respond calmly. Don't overreact!

3. Remove a privilege or place the child in time out for defiant behavior. Leave the teaching (the talking about compromising, for example) for later, when you are both calmer.

4. Remember you are the adult, and your child is - well - a child. Don't try to get even. Try to teach compromising and negotiating.

5. Use books, puppets, and other occasions to discuss problem-solving and compromising with older preschoolers and school-age children.

6. When you see evidence of compromising, no matter how small, praise and state specifically what was praiseworthy: "I noticed you and Allison worked things out when you both wanted the swing. Well done!"

7. While consistency is important, it is also a good idea to apologize to your child when you are wrong. From time to time, agree to change a plan if your child comes up with a better idea. These actions model compromising behavior to your child.

8. Make it clear that you value getting along together more than winning. A home focused on high grades, winning at sports, being the best, having the most, and so on, reinforces controlling rather than compromising behavior.

9. Don't use your child as a battleground for avoiding dealing with other problems in the family.

10. Cultivate your sense of humor. It will get you through many rough spots.

Positive and Negative Indicators

Early Interventionist researcher and expert on family-centered practice, Dr. Carl Dunst, and his colleagues derived 20 indicators of empowerment based on parents' reports. They are listed below with some illustrations of negative indicators. These negative indicators may be helpful to you in identifying practitioners and programs who disempower you. Take action if you think this is happening!

1. Viewing parents in a positive light. Negative Indicator: Families are described as dysfunctional, needy or ignorant.

2. The professional does not automatically treat parents as the cause of the problem. Negative Indicator: Families are automatically sent to parenting programs without exploration of other causes of their difficulties.

3. Parents need to know that they can find somebody to care for a family member. Negative indicator: Parents are told that there are no services and they must rely on extended family for help.

4. Parents need to feel good about themselves when they make important accomplishments. Negative indicator: As soon as the practitioner hears what they've accomplished, they are reminded how much further they have to go.

5. Parents need to have positive feelings that are associated with 'doing a good job'. Negative indicator: Parents are reminded how much more help they need.

6. When parents know that the professional will find the type of child care needed. Negative indicator: The professional hints that the child would be better off at home.

7. The professional views parents as capable of learning new skills. Negative indicator: The practitioner implies that some strategies are too difficult for them to learn and they need to rely on a specialist.

8. The professional helps parents find solutions to their problems. Negative indicator: The professional suggests that only professionals can solve their problems.

9. The parent can influence the quality of child care. Negative indicator: The professional implies that child care professionals know more about children's needs than they do.

10. The parent knows about health services in the community. Negative indicator: The parent learns about a service too late.

11. The professional encourages parents to make their own decisions. Negative indicator: The professional states that a decision should be post-poned until another consultant has been involved.

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