Families and Parenting: Goodness of Fit

“Goodness of Fit” is a useful concept for determining how temperamental traits affect the interpersonal dynamics within families. It is important for parents to consider how their own temperaments mesh with those of their children. For example, a very active, intense child can quickly spark an emotionally charged reaction from a parent with a similar behavioral style. The same child might also try the patience of a more relaxed, reflective parent but not provoke him or her to the same level of emotional intensity. Moreover, if a child who is vulnerable to rigid, inflexible reactions to novel situations encounters a parent with an inflexible, authoritarian parenting style, the interactions are frequently combustible. Conversely, the parent who possesses the ability to respond flexibly to the inflexible child will experience more success in steering emotionally charged situations in a positive direction. The parent’s flexibility will in turn facilitate the development of flexibility in the child over time. You as a parent may have to develop the very skills you are asking your son or daughter to develop. In order to have your expectations of your child successfully met, you’ll want to practice reflecting on your feelings in response to your child’s behavior, then accurately interpreting the motives for their behavior, instead of responding impulsively. Tolerating and reflecting on feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, shame, anger, disappointment and helplessness makes parents less vulnerable to being derailed by these difficult emotions. A word of caution, though. I am not advocating allowing a child to rule the household. Parents of children and adolescents with difficult temperaments are vulnerable to appeasing their children for the sake of keeping the peace, but, in the process, they often lose control. The child who is constantly appeased is denied the opportunity to gain successful mastery of new experiences. The appeased child assumes a position of power, leaving many parents feeling ineffective and helpless. The idea is to find the balance of reflective, thoughtful, yet firm when parenting challenging children.


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