Temperamental Differences in Young Children (Part 1)

Temperamental Differences in Young Children (Part 1)

There is an interesting concept in developmental psychology called “goodness of fit.” It involves the notion that a favorable match between a child’s temperament and the practices of his parents leads to healthy psychological adjustment.

It is clear that children are not all born with the same temperament. Some kids are sensitive and irritable, others are oblivious and calm. Some are outgoing and some are introverted. Some are cautious and some are fearless. And it is clear that not all parents are the same in this regard either.

So let’s consider the intrepid toddler versus the timid toddler. I’m sure you all know a young child who when you take him to the playground, before you can blink, has scampered to the top of the monkey bars and is swinging from his ankles. And I’m sure you also know a young child who will stand at the fence for a long time and will then slowly approach the equipment in small steps.

And let’s consider the daredevil parent versus the anxiety-ridden parent. You all know parents who despite the domestication imposed on them by having a child remain skydivers and bungee jumpers. And you all know parents who despite surviving the countless everyday incidents that befall their child still will rush him to the emergency room if he burps.

Now put together the intrepid toddler and the anxiety-ridden parent. The kid scampers to the top of the monkey bars and his parent runs after him screaming, “Stop! You’re going to get hurt!” And put together the timid toddler and the daredevil parent. The kid clings to the fence while his parent impatiently intones, “C’mon! What are you afraid of? C’mon!” It is clear that neither scenario is conducive to good psychological health.

So what should be done under such circumstances? Find out in my next installment on this important issue.