Depending on your baby’s general temperament, you might find that parenting is easier or harder than you expected. If your baby is naturally even-tempered, parenting might seem to be a piece of cake and you might wonder why you were so worried before the baby arrived. You might even wonder why other parents seem to have such a hard time with their children.
A spirited child, on the other hand, may cause parents to wonder what happened along the way that produced the whirlwind that now inhabits their home. A curious, highly active child requires more time, vigilance and physical space than a less curious or more slow-moving child. An easily frustrated infant requires more patience and creative thinking from a parent than a child who’s more persistent or accepting of minor obstacles. And a child who resists change requires more advance planning than a child who easily swings from one activity to another.
A common cause of frustration in a parent-child relationship is parental expectations regarding how a child should behave. Things can be especially difficult if your temperament differs markedly from your child’s. Perhaps you had envisioned sitting quietly with your little one, working on a puzzle or reading a book. But what happens when your rambunctious guy or gal has not patience for being still and wants to be constantly on the move? Or maybe you’re outgoing and love to try new things and you’re disappointed or even embarrassed that your baby is so cautious and reluctant. Parents often find it difficult to slow their schedules to accommodate a less-flexible child’s need for extra time and preparation. Other parents feel inadequate because they don’t feel capable of keeping up with their child’s demands.
How you react to your child’s temperament is a key part of parenting. Instead of looking at your child as a direct reflection of yourself or your parenting skills, try to look at him or her as a separate individual with his or her own unique perspective. This slight distance between yourself and your child allows you to look objectively at your child’s needs and adapt your parenting style to meet those needs. Rather than trying to change your child’s disposition, you can focus on creating the best possible environment in which your child can naturally thrive. As a result, and with no feelings of guilt or failure on your part, you can swap the puzzle (which may have been beyond your child’s capability to begin with) for a swing or adjust your schedule so that you run errands before you pick your baby up from child care. With a little bit of trial and error, you’ll be able to determine what works best for both of you.
Parenting skills don’t come overnight, and some children require more of a learning curve than do others. If you can learn to step back and appreciate your baby’s temperament in a positive light, you’re more likely to feel closer to your child and confident in your parenting role.
MAYO CLINIC Guide to Your Baby’s First Year