Now when you look at those you may have your own thoughts about them (or may not understand some of them - don't worry!). Psychologists are divided on their importance or even groupings.
They may be the result of a number of factors – inherited traits, and things learnt. But here’s the thing: you cannot say that one thing is right and another is wrong; they are just how people are - and they can change if they want – but if we, as a parent, consider one of those things in our child is undesirable, it may be simply because it is NOT what we are like and we find it strange to us.
Observing these things is not the same as our children going through normal developmental stages. This is just how our child is. For example one child might be quiet and naturally artistic and another very outward going and sporty. Neither is wrong. They may change or they may not; they are not in a process of change when we observe the particular trait.
Closely linked to traits are personality temperaments. In the same way as babies are born with their own physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour, etc., so, it is suggested they have patterns of behaviour or temperament that is unique to them.
The simplest form of this is the classification, Extrovert v Introvert, but there are a number of different forms of personality classification on the Internet.
Again the division of opinion is whether these are fixed - and therefore parenting should be adapted to the particular temperament - or whether they are fluid and can be changed.
We simply suggest that parents observe their children and respect what naturally seems to be part of them and not try to change those things unless you consider them negative influences towards the goals you have for your child.
3. A Matter of Belief in You
The goals you have for your child will depend on whether you think their traits and temperament are fixed, or whether they are fluid.
If you believe they are fixed, then we would suggest that the best general goal for any child, is that they grow up to become the person who is most fulfilled according to those natural traits which they have, and the potential arising from them.
i.e. your role as a parent is to find out your child's traits and then let them develop so that those traits are used to their best possible outcome and your child feels most fulfilled, e.g. supposing they are quite reserved, you may need to think what positive things come out of that reserve, and encourage those things.
If you believe that these traits are simply the starting blocks which can be changed, then your goal will be to enable your child to develop and bring about a balance of traits.
i.e. your role as a parent is to observe what you consider negative traits and encourage them to get a balance with the positive trait. e.g. you may consider your child is naturally trusting, in fact in your opinion too trusting so they could become prey to sexual predators. Your role would be to talk with them about risks and seek to encourage them to be more aware and vigilant.
Now there is something to be carefully noted in what we suggested above. In the Fixed outcome we used the words, “let them develop” and in the Fluid outcome we used the words, “encourage them”.
Your role is not to make your child conform to your expectations of them but to help them be themselves (there will be some caveats on this – see later).
The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK in 1991 declared that “the education of the child shall be directed to …The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.”
Whether our educational system does that is possibly questionable – yet our role is to enable our children to develop in all areas of their life to the best of their ability.
There are two opposite extremes to be avoided in parenting:
i) To neglect our child so their development is minimal
- most likely from over-busy or under-educated parents
ii) To force on our child like a hot house plant to achieve great and glorious things,
- possibly putting them under undue strain.
- most likely where the child shows a high level of aptitude already.
Note from the Report in British Journal of Sports Medicine (May 2006): Research from Michigan State University in respect of role of parents in the success of their sporting children:
36 percent of parents negatively influenced their child's development…. included overemphasizing winning, holding unrealistic expectations, and criticizing their child.
Don't be part of that third of parents who put their children under undue pressure to conform to their high expectations. Encourage them by all means, but not so as to put them under undue pressure that has negative effects.
So far we have considered a reasonable goal to our parenting:
“to raise a happy, healthy, confident, co-operative, responsible child who develops into rounded maturity”
We then considered traits and temperaments which are often considered as fixed things that go to make up the personality of your child and distinguished those from the developmental stages through which your child will pass, i.e. we noted fixed things and changing things.
Depending whether you consider their traits and temperament fixed or fluid, will determine how you may approach helping your child grow and develop.
On the next page we move on to consider the developmental stages in your child’s life and then think about some ways that we may help them through those stages.
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2. Traits & Temperaments (Continued)
The following is an example list, to give you an idea of these things, which are some of the things that some psychologists talk about when considering traits that originated with a psychologist named, Cattell: