WASHINGTON – The idiom, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” might apply to some parents and kids, but not all. In fact, in most families, the apple does fall far from the tree.
That’s because children and adults are born with different dispositions, according to licensed therapist and parent coach Kerrie LaRosa.
And this obvious difference in personality greatly impacts the relationship between a parent and a child.
“Understanding our own temperament is as important as understanding our child’s,” LaRosa says.
For example, if the parent has more of a slow-to-warm personality, it may be harder for that parent to keep up with a more active or outgoing child. If a parent is more on the active-end of the spectrum, it might be frustrating at times for him or her to slow down to the pace of a more mellow child.
LaRosa says there are generally three types of temperaments — although some children may not fall neatly into one category. These three categories include:
The active child: “The active child typically has high energy, intense emotional reactions and may be sensitive to sensory stimulation,” says LaRosa, who adds that most toddlers should not be mistaken for children in this active category.
The slow-to-warm, or cautious, child: LaRosa explains this child may be “clingier at times, reserved and (in need of) extra time to adjust to new surroundings and unfamiliar people/situations.”
The easy-going child: This child is “typically flexible, goes with the flow and tends not to complain too often,” LaRosa says.
If you want that more harmonious household, LaRosa suggests figuring out your child’s temperament. Then assess how his or her temperament matches up with your own.
And if your temperaments don’t match up? LaRosa advises the most effective method is to adjust your parenting techniques to match the temperament of your child, keeping in mind the following tips:
Active children: Give them plenty of options for active play, spend extra time preparing them for transitions to new activities and be creative with parenting. This many mean you need to exercise lots of redirection playful parenting and choices with your little ones.
Cautious child: Routine is particularly important, as is allowing some extra time to prepare for, and adjust to, new situations.
Easy-going child: Don’t worry because they are so flexible, right? LaRosa says “wrong!”
“It is especially important with the easy-going child to help them name their emotional state and encourage their expression of feelings because they are less likely to voice their opinion, even if they have one,” she says.
In addition to dealing with temperaments, LaRosa offers some basic tips that are helpful to children — and parents — of all ages:
Consistency: Children learn best through repetition and thrive on routine and predictability.
Model: Children imitate what they see parents do. Model the behavior you want to see in them.
Stay calm: Children sense their parent’s anxiety. When you are calm, you are able to make better parenting decisions and you act as an emotional stabilizer to help calm your children.
Acknowledge feelings: This helps you connect with your children and increase their emotional understanding.
Praise positive behaviors: Praise the specific behaviors you want your child to improve. For example, try saying, “Thank you for eating all your peas,” rather than simply, “Good job.”
Ignore safe behaviors: Children love our attention, positive or negative. Ignore behaviors you want to stop, as long as everyone is safe. As soon as they correct the behavior give them praise and positive attention.
Offer choices: Offering choices empowers children and prevents power struggles. Give two options: Too many choices can be overwhelming for children.
In the next Good to Go, LaRosa will offer tips on how to prevent family fall- out when falling back to Daylight Savings Time.
Editor’s Note: WTOP’s Katie Howard is a mom on the go. With two children under age 5, she’s always looking for ways to provide her family fast and healthy snacks, meals and activities. Katie shares her go-to food and family fitness tips on her blog “Good to Go.”