There certainly is no shortage of parenting books out there. These books show you the latest and greatest tips for everything from getting your baby to sleep through the night to good behavior in general. And, so often I am asked by my friends if I have read a particular book, and so often, the answer is that I have not.
The short answer is that there are tens of thousands of books on the subject. I recently listened to a lecture on discipline, given by a famous author on the subject, and he said that there were over 70,000 parenting books on discipline alone.
Book stores have huge sections dedicated to parenting strategies, sleep strategies, and feeding strategies, many of which are written by “experts” with credentials no grander than any other parent’s.
I have no idea how many of these I have read – probably a hundred or so, but I certainly have not read them all. I liked some of them and did not care for others. Not one of them contained a plan that was perfect for everyone. Certainly not for me.
I think that the hardest part about comprehending normal childhood development is the fact that there are many, many different ways of being normal. That means that there is a spectrum of normal development, which means that different children may achieve the same developmental milestones at different ages and still be considered “normal”. For example, there are several different normal feeding patterns and a lot of different but normal sleeping patterns.
To complicate things further, different families have vastly different expectations for their children. What is the expected norm for one family might be considered intolerable for another.
I’ll give you a concrete example. Many authors have gotten rich trying to tell you how to get your baby to sleep through the night (which means, of course, sleeping through the night without you being present or nursing all night long).
For most of us, the sleep-deprivation of parenthood is the hardest part, especially when you have to get up the next morning and either go to work or take care of older children in addition to an infant. However, some families do not care the slightest bit about this sort of thing. Some families have a “family bed” and actually expect their infant to nurse all night long for a couple of years. And, it works for them.
The same can be said about discipline strategies. Expectations (and family values), personality (both parent and child), social situation, and family structure all play a part in devising successful discipline strategies.
What I have learned is that parenting strategies depend upon so many factors: what your expectations are about your child’s behavior, what your expectations are about your child’s sleep, other commitments that you have (and whether or not you have to be somewhere the next day), how many other children you have, what your state of mind is (are you depressed?), what your child’s personality is like, and what your own personality is like.
What has personality got to do with anything? More than you might think.
When my son was little I was handed a book called The Explosive Child. Although, I had never thought much about my son’s “hot-blooded” reactions I was urged to read the book in hopes I would “become a better parent”.
Frustrated and feeling judged, I did.
However, half way through the book I felt as if I was reading a synopsis on both my husband’s and my own temper and personality traits. Not only that, I came to the conclusion that according to this particular book that everyone and anyone from the Middle East (well, maybe not EVERYONE but for sure a majority) is an Explosive Child!?
It got me thinking.
If you ask my mother about her experience with me as a child she would probably tell you “when my daughter was little, I worried because she was so argumentative. Exhausted from debating with a 5-year-old every day.”
Perhaps, she was envious of friends with more compliant kids? I don’t know. But, what she probably didn't understand that this frustrating part of my personality--my fierce independent streak--was a sign of strength. And, if she didn’t know then she certainly knows now!
Some children seem to be born willful. As infants they are difficult to comfort and push the spoon away while being fed. When they become toddlers they are disagreeable about everything, demand their own way, and refuse to cooperate. Tantrums may be a daily occurrence. As they move through their school age days, they seem to lose the ability to hear the simplest requests, arguments are frequent, and defiance is the norm.
There is no doubt these children are a challenge even for the most dedicated and understanding parents. But does that mean that there is something wrong with them? Not necessarily!
Scientists have found that the genes we inherit help determine whether we have a cool head or a short fuse.
The isolation of a gene for anger helps explain why some fly into a rage at the slightest provocation, while others can remain irritatingly calm.
To make the link, German researchers asked more than 800 people to fill in a questionnaire designed to gauge how they handled anger.
They also took a DNA test to determine which of three versions of a gene called DARPP-32 they were carrying.
The gene affects levels of dopamine, a brain chemical linked to anger and aggression. , The journal Behavioral Brain Research reports that those with the 'TT' or 'TC' versions were significantly more angry than those with the 'CC' version.
The University of Bonn study also found that the angry types had less grey matter in the amygdala, a part of the brain that helps keep our emotions in check.
Researcher Martin Reuter, a 'TC', said: 'In other words, they are not able to control their feelings as well as those without the mutation.
Those with the 'CC' version, however, may find it easier to keep their cool. The 'TT' and 'TC' versions are much more common in Western populations - perhaps because demonstrations of anger can help us get ahead.
The researchers said: 'High degrees of anger are of course of low social desirability but a certain amount of dominance-related behavior helps to assert position in a social hierarchy.'
But they cautioned that genetics only account for around half of our disposition towards anger that means the other half is dependant on the environment and other factors that can be “controlled”.
So, it is possible, not easy I might add, to modify your personality within the range given to you by nature. I'm still trying!
Everyone on earth has a series of good personality traits and a series of negative traits that they must master and recognize about themselves.
Don’t get me wrong there are no excuses for bad behavior. Research has even shown that being angry is bad for your health.
But, we should recognize that children enter into the world with their own unique temperament. It is an inborn trait that cannot be changed.
However, as parents we can learn to understand it, guide it, and mold it into positive directions!
Sometimes a parent's temperament conflicts with that of their child. Naturally this is going to become a battleground if your parenting style is not suited to this particular child.
If you are like me you will recognize that your expectations, your lifestyle, your child’s personality and your own personality are different from those of your friends, so it is not surprising that they might have dissimilar strategies regarding their children (and after all, successful parenting includes a lot of instances in which you cope with the issues rather than solve them)!
Parenting any child is challenging, but a strong-willed child adds a dimension not found in raising a more compliant child.
I know my husband and I are blessed with not one but three, 100 percent, genuine, certifiable, strong-willed, hot-blooded children.
I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree!
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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