In my last post, we discussed the difficulties that caregivers have when their temperaments clash with a child’s temperament in their care. While it may be uncommon to think in these terms, it makes sense that negative cycles within a relationship can evolve quickly and powerfully if allowed. Negative cycles can occur when caregiver’s expectations differ from children’s temperaments and developmental capabilities.
Questions to help caregivers address difficult-to-understand behaviors
It is important that caregivers consider the following questions as they consider how to deal with certain behaviors that may be difficult to understand.
Question #1 What are the child’s characteristics? (Or, what physical characteristics or temperament traits may be contributing to the child’s behavior?)
For example, is he hypersensitive to touch? How does he process his world? Is it hard for him to concentrate? It is helpful to spend time observing the child to identify strengths and problems.
Question #2 What are the characteristics and history of the caregiver?
Does the child’s personality clash with the caregiver’s personality? Are triggers being activated from the caregiver’s own childhood memories? Does the child have similar background issues, such as an abusive parent? These questions can be significant in understanding a caregiver’s reaction to a child in her care.
Question #3 What is the nature of the caregiver-child relationship?
When a negative cycle is established, it is essential for a caregiver to find ways to repair the relationship. If the child does’t feel safe and secure, it is likely due to the caregiver’s behavior and the relationship will worsen without repair. It is imperative to break the negative cycle by creating happy, secure moments in which the caregiver is responsive, available and caring to the child. Both child and caregiver should enjoy their moments together.
Question #4 What is the environment beyond the caregiving space?
What kind of family does the child have? What are other influences in her life? Are other caregivers in her life creating a difficult environment?
Question #5 What are the structures, routines, limits and family atmosphere?
Children need stability in their lives. Predictable routines, clear structure and limits that are appropriate to their temperaments are extremely important to stabilize behavior. One is to examine how conflicts are resolved in the child’s home. Is negotiation calm? Or is it yelling, hitting or labeling? The home atmosphere can be particularly significant to a sensitive child.
Clarity about goodness of fit
As we consider these questions, we are seeking to develop a goodness of fit between the caregiver and the child. Clarity on the issues above will help caregivers discover problem areas and help alleviate some of the tension, stress and negativity in their relationship with the children in their care.
Changing the negative cycles of relationships into positive ones is best for everyone’s relational growth and certainly promotes more positive development in our children.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 48-49.