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New Research Shows "One Size Fits All" Parenting Approaches Do Not Work

Three of mine! EACH different from the start!

Cry in their cribs -- or co-sleep? Let them potty train when they feel like it -- or do the weekend "boot camp" approach? One way worked great for my neighbor, a different way for my mother-in-law. What's THE BEST WAY to get my kid to sleep, poop, eat, or behave nicely, goshdarnit?

Research gives us some answers. DIFFERENT APPROACHES WORK BEST FOR DIFFERENT KIDDOS. What works for your sensitive child might not work for your bull-in-a-china-shop kid. What works for your outgoing, social child will totally fail for your shy, "watch from the sidelines" kiddo. Personality and Social Psychology Review published work by Avinun and Knafo showing that our child's genetics -- which impact their behavior and personality -- directly impact OUR parenting approach, which in turn influences our child's development. This is a complex, cyclical interaction of nature + nurture. A "both/and" instead of an "either/or". My fellow geeks can read the whole article here.

So what does this mean for our daily lives as parents?

  • Know that EACH KID IS DIFFERENT. Therefore, we need to modify our parenting approach, depending on the kid. THERE IS NO “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” approach to parenting. That’s why what worked for one of your kids might not work for another. OR, why what worked for your neighbors’ kids might not work for yours.

  • For Example: The “3 Day Method” of potty training will work for SOME kids - but not for others. It all depends on their personality! So, it’s not YOUR fault if that “3 Day Method” didn’t work for your child. And it’s not your child’s fault, either!

  • Here’s the nerdy science part: INBORN temperament is PRESENT FROM BIRTH, and varies in many areas, including these: Activity level, Regularity, Sociability/Shyness, Adaptability, Intensity, Mood, Persistence, Attention Span, Distractability, and Sensory Threshold.  There's  a lot of information jammed into the last sentence, so I suggest you go back and ponder each area in terms of each of your kids. Know that INBORN TEMPERAMENT is the hard-wired contributions your child’s genes give to their behavior and demeanor. Temperament is the foundation of PERSONALITY, which a combination of TEMPERAMENT + LIFE EXPERIENCES. Think of where YOUR kids -- each one of them, individually -- rate in each of these areas. Adjust your parenting approach accordingly.

Once you have an idea about your kiddos' personalities/ temperaments, try this:

  • Talk with the kids about their personalities -- and yours. Help them understand that everyone has their preferences, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, strong points and "areas of challenge". Which is all NORMAL - and is how everyone is unique! Helping them understand personality differences will help them be more self-confident - and more effective in their relationships, and in life.

  • Talk with their teachers about your kids' temperaments, and trade suggestions about what seems to work best. For instance, some children do best if they sit near the teacher, who can give them extra hands-on attention. Others do better when they have some space and quiet to do their work. These tendencies will likely be CONSISTENT as your child grows up.

  • Don't worry about "fairness" (too much, anyway). My older son needs much firmer limits than my younger boy, but is much more perceptive with his friends -- and a born leader. My younger son is easy-going and happy-go-lucky -- but needs more help navigating social situations. We remind them that we try to give each kid what THEY need -- not simply the same thing their brother got.

Got questions?? Let’s discuss in the COMMENTS!


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