Monday, April 30, 2012

Personality and Temperament

This month, we have been talking about HEP. On Becoming Toddlerwise  talks about HEP--Heredity, Environment, and Personality. These three things work together to help shape and mold your child into herself. Today's topic is Personality.

Personality might be the most complicated of the three things. Heredity is out of your control once your child's genetic make-up has been formed in the womb. "You cannot alter the hereditary influences on your children, but you can minimize the negative propensities, strengthen areas of weakness, encourage areas of strength, and maximize areas of giftedness" (page 19). 

Environment is largely in your control--especially with a toddler. 

So where does personality fit in? Toddlerwise defines a "Personality is a composite of three variables: heredity, environment, and temperament" (page 18). So the genetics and the environment influence the child's personality. So does the temperament. "...you cannot change your child's temperament any more than a leopard can change its spots. You can understand it and cooperate with it, but not alter it" (page 19).

Temperament is why you cannot parent any two children the same way. This is why a parenting book or blog cannot say: Simply control the environment in XYZ way and ABC will happen. This is why different strategies work for different children.

"You can distinguish between a child's temperament and his personality by saying that temperament traits are inborn while personality traits are the result of nature and nurture" (page 18).

Remember Hogg's five general trait categories? Angel, textbook, touchy, spirited, and grumpy. She calls these Personality Types. This would be akin to what Toddleriwse is calling temperament. Being aware of temperament is super helpful in parenting your child.

Some children are "easier" than others. Maybe it is specific traits, maybe it is the way that child meshes with the parents. Maybe both. 

Some children are inherently obedient rule-followers. Some are logical. Some are more artistic. Some like to test limits. Some enjoy irritating people. Some are always happy. There are so many traits that a child can have.

"Your child's personality is greatly shaped by you educational fervency" (page 19). You teach your child how to behave. Even a limit-testing child can learn to listen and obey. Is it harder than getting a naturally obedient child to listen and obey? Don't I know it! I have one of each in my home. It can take more work and effort to achieve certain things with certain children, but those things are still achievable. And, happily, most children seem to round-out their difficulty. So one who was hard to get to be a sleeper is a super-obedient child. One who is an awesome sleeper might be a challenge in another department. 

Learn to recognize your child's temperament and then work with the given genetics and the environment to help your child maximize strengths and improve on weaknesses. Always remember your child is an individual and will react to live uniquely. Parenting more than one child is definitely an exercise in flexibility as you learn how to best parent each child as an individual.

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4 comments:

Hank said...

Great topic. The influence of temperament for both the parent and child is often overlooked or under estimated. My wife Sherry and I have done a two-hour live teaching on temperaments as a supplemental lesson to GKGW classes for years. We did an abbreviated version of the live teaching in a temperaments podcast episode back a few months ago if you are interested in hearing more.

Rhonda said...

Maybe off subject, but my 4-yr-old girl's personality is very bent towards talking ALL the time. I was the same way. :) How do I teach her to control it, without hurting her natural bent. Maybe she will be a great speaker one day and I don't want to squash her talking and make herf clam up. But there is a time and place and it could cause problems in school. Not to mention it can get on mommy's nerves. :)

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Hank! I will definitely listen to that.

Plowmanators said...

Rhonda, I think it would depend on her. I was also a big talker, but it was never an issue in school--I was a child who obeyed authority figures.

There is value in listening to others. I think I would work on teaching listening skills without putting down talking. Havin a child who talks to you is a blessing and I think it is something to hang on to. You want her to feel safe talking to you as a teenager. So I would focus on teaching her to be respectful of others, obedient to authority, and listing skills.

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