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Keys to Parenting Infants and Young Children with Difficult Temperaments

Keys to Parenting Infants and Young Children with Difficult Temperaments 3/2/18“Following the lead of the child” is typically considered a key characteristic of “good” parenting.  However, if we follow the lead of a child who has a difficult temperament, they may lead us down a road of developmental difficulties.

Development tasks in childhood build on each other in layers.  Success and mastery at one level will predict success and mastery at the next level.  On the other hand, failure to successfully master one level is likely to create a weak foundation for building the next level. 

For example, how a child negotiates his/her relationship with his/her earliest caregiver lays the foundation for how he/she will navigate relationships with peers.

In the first three years of life, a child has many developmental tasks to accomplish.  Two of those tasks are connection and self-regulation.  Connection is how we negotiate and manage relationships, and self-regulation is how we negotiate and manage emotions.  The foundations for connection and self-regulation are laid through a process called attachment with your caregivers. 

Four requirements for healthy attachment to develop throughout the first three years of the child’s life are:

-          To be seen

-          To be soothed

-          To be safe

-          To be stimulated

“To be seen” means that the adult sees, recognizes, and talks the child through situations or experiences that are difficult, challenging, or frustrating for the infant or child.  For example, when an infant is hungry and wants to be fed now, but has to wait until a bottle is prepared. 

“To be soothed” means that the caregiver “downloads” their own calm to the frustrated infant or child while holding or cradling the child, taking slow, deep breaths, and providing calm, caring, compassionate verbal reassurances. 

“To be safe” means the caregiver is setting limits.  It is helpful to use positive language when setting limits.  For example, instead of saying, “No, not now,” or “Don’t hit me,” we say, “Yes, you can after we change your diaper,” or “I’m going to hold your hand and show you how to touch me gently.”

“To be stimulated” means the caregiver is providing the “just right” amount of stimulation by playing lots and lots of face-to-face games with the infant and young child.  Our eye contact, physical contact (touch), and presence in these playful situations wires the child’s brain for impulse control for the rest of their life and promotes optimal brain development.

For more information on these strategies and a brief demonstrations of each technique, watch the short video at this website:  https://consciousdiscipline.com/videos/bullying-road-sign-1-critical-interventions-for-0-3-years/.

Additional information about healthy attachment is available from NDSU Extension online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs617.pdf, and https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs631.pdf

For other practical parenting tips and interventions with children ages 3-12, take a look at the short videos available online at https://consciousdiscipline.com/video-categories/all-videos/.

Source:  Conscious Discipline video, “Bullying Road Sign #1: Critical Interventions for 0-3 Years.”

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/girl-child-blond-pout-offended-537104/  (downloaded 3/6/18)


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