Keeping up with Change: 5 Steps to Adjusting Your Parenting Style to Your Child’s Needs
Research studies conducted by Dr. Kyung. E. Rhee, a leading Boston paediatrician, and published in the journal Paediatrics showed that parenting styles have a direct effect on the psychological, social and emotional development of children. There is no straitjacket approach to parenting; you may need to constantly adjust your style according to the evolving need and temperaments of your children. Here are 5 essential steps to adjusting your parenting style to meet your child’s needs:
1. Understand Your Child’s Personality
According to child development researchers, children can be grouped into three lose personality categories: the easy to warm up child, the difficult child and the easy child. Other more traditional classifications of children’s personality are:
Phlegmatic: attentive, laid back but warms up to change slowly
Choleric: opinionated, explorative but can have too much energy
Melancholic: respectful, organized but can be difficult to excite
Sanguine: Friendly, creative and chatty but can be hard to contain in one place
Using both these categorizations, you can have a better understanding of your child and what parenting approach to use. For example, the Choleric child may need more freedom to explore while the easy to warm up child may need a more empathetic parent who allows him to adjust to change slowly.
2. Understand Your Own Temperament
Often, the parent is the one who needs to change her parenting approach instead of trying to change her child’s personality. To determine what will work for you and your child, you need to understand your own temperaments and parenting style. Are you the strict, perfectionist type with an authoritarian parenting style? Are you more easy going but with a need for order structure with an authoritative parenting approach? Or are you the very liberal type with a permissive parenting style? Studies show that the authoritative style that allows for independence but sets reasonable limits is a more desirable approach.
3. Find the Goodness of Fit
Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas authors of Goodness of Fit: Clinical Applications from Infancy Through Adult Life came up with the ‘goodness of fit’ concept in parenting to refer to the positive match between a child’s temperaments and the caregiver’s parenting approach. Studies show that a ‘goodness of fit’ can enhance the harmony between the parent and the child. If your parenting style does not quite match with your child’s personality or needs, it is best to start adjusting. If all along you have taken an authoritarian approach with a difficult child to get him to behave or with a choleric child to get him to settle down, and it is not working, a change of approach may be necessary. Changing your approach means being sensitive to your child’s needs.
4. Consider Varying Your Style
Different children have different personalities. Many parents believe that the parenting style they successfully used on their first child should work on subsequent children. However, when your children’s temperaments differ significantly, then you might have to vary your parenting style from one child to the other. This does not mean favouring one child or comparing your children. It means understanding each one’s disposition and moulding your parenting approach accordingly. This will leave less space for conflict, misunderstanding and resentment between you and your children.
5. Mind The Age
As your child grows, his needs and temperaments may change. While the toddlers, preschoolers and preteens may still need a supervisory parenting approach, teens may require greater independence. You may need to tell your younger children what to do but you may have to start discussing with your teen instead of lecturing him or barking orders. The bottom line is that you cannot approach your teen the way you approach your toddler.