I asked myself one morning after yet another power struggle with my younger daughter. Of course I immediately felt bad thinking it, but in that moment I really was questioning it.
Like many parents with two children, my girls could not be more different. They not only look different, but also have vastly different inherent temperaments.
Inherent temperament is that part of themselves of which they are born. Who they “are” at their core; the “nature” part of them. It also shapes how they make decisions, how they handle stress, how their respond to others and their environment and much more.
Whether they recognize it or not, most parents have a basic understanding of temperament from birth: Does their child sleep through the night right away or wake up every 2 hours? Do they cry only when hungry or all the time? Is he extra sensitive to light and sounds or does he sleep soundly in spite of these things?
A few months later when a child’s personality really starts to show up, there are more indicators about “who they are”. Do they warm to strangers more easily or are they more reserved? Are they more outgoing or do they like to keep to themselves? Are they constantly active or do they prefer more quiet time? All can be indicators of inherent temperament.
Often times during the parenting journey, parent and child will run into what is called a temperament clash. A temperament clash is when we recognize how our children “are” but feel that they should be different. This is usually based on the parent trying to move the child more towards their own temperament style. ☺
Temperament clashes between parent and child can begin early on. An outgoing parent with an outgoing child is an easier match than an outgoing parent with a reserved child; and a stoic parent with a child who is the same is an easier match than a stoic parent with an emotional child. As time goes on, these clashes in temperament can become bigger and more challenging as more of the differences in parent and child come forth.
Through a tool I use called the Temperament Assessment, I know that my eldest daughter has an interpersonal temperament. Interpersonals are gregarious, peacemakers and are intuitive to feelings. Conversely, my youngest has a “thinker’s” temperament. Thinkers are analyzers and rationalizers, they show limited emotions and expression (as they’re always in the head) and they need time and space to figure things out (think about it). All of these are wonderful traits to have, but the traits of my youngest clash much more so with my temperament.
My temperament needs to be in charge, to lead, to not be questioned, to be told I am the best at what I do and to solve problems quickly and efficiently. (Much of this sounds like most moms, but this is also a specific temperament type.) The clashes come from my needing to get things done quickly (she needs time), to be given positive feedback (she is limited with emotion and expression) and to not be questioned (she wants answers to everything). ☺
So the question becomes, with this knowledge and awareness, how do we work through these clashes? I have had to think about what I can change about my behavior so that I can better connect with this child. At her core, she is not going to change, but what can change are the choices I make about the ways in which I respond to her. As parents we can only be their guides along the way.