Beyond Love and Logic: New Temperament Sorters Facilitate Parenting

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When it comes to parenting with love and logic, adult and/or child ‘temperament sorters’ can turn a dysfunctional family into a harmonious one. The authors of "Raising CuddleBugs and BraveHearts (Volumes I & II)" provide adult and child based temperament sorters that lay out a clear path for parenting with love and logic. Their research indicates that parenting with love and logic starts with an understanding and acceptance of differences in temperament.

It’s nearly 9 p.m. You are just now getting the last child settled in for the night, but the day’s troubles aren’t over. Your husband is once again angry because it has taken most of the evening to calm down your excitable five year old. Your eight year old, as usual, dragged his feet getting his homework done.

As you escort the eldest through the living room to finally put him to bed, you catch your husband shaking his head ever so slightly, glaring at you with that "get a grip" look on his face. His reaction prompts you to not only sigh but to wonder why he seems to care so little about the children’s needs and feelings. What makes matters worse, you know that after a few verbal jabs at one another, the two of you will probably stop talking again. You dread the idea of retiring to your side of the bed in what has become an all too familiar silence, but hold onto the hope that things will be different tomorrow.

"Raising CuddleBugs and BraveHearts (Volumes I & II)" and its companion website, ParentingbyTemperament.com, provide insights into human behavior and motivation that helps parents understand and deal with festering conflicts like this one. The authors, Dr. Nancy Harkey and her daughter, Teri Jourgensen, present a new approach to parenting that is based upon the belief that we are all born with a particular temperament - that temperament is innate.

Their research has not only tended to confirm that belief, it has led them to conclude that the key to successful parenting and a happy family life lies in an understanding the nature of temperament and how temperament influences behavior. "Whether you are trying to understand yourself, your child, or your spouse, an understanding of temperament is clearly the place to start," says Dr. Harkey.

"For example, couples frequently have different needs when it comes to orderliness in their daily lives and our research shows that the need for order is largely driven by temperament. Equally important, one person may greatly prefer a quiet environment, and socializing with a few close friends, while another longs for a more stimulating and ever changing social world. There are major differences in what has been called 'tough mindedness' and 'tender heartedness', and people at opposite extremes tend to see one another as too cold and analytical, or too soft and emotional. In reality these are inborn differences that need to be respected. Indeed, it’s gratifying to see how an understanding and acceptance of differences in temperament enables couples to make small adjustments to the daily routine that enable them to accommodate not only one another’s needs, but also the needs of their children," she says.

While an understanding of temperament and its affect on behavior helps build greater harmony between husband and wife, an acceptance of temperamental differences may be even more important in helping parents build more harmonious and effective relationships with their children. "Once you accept the fact that your children have different temperaments, you begin to understand why singular approaches to discipline don’t work very well. The child who is happiest in a totally chaotic environment has to be dealt with differently than the one who is predisposed to be tidy and orderly," she says.

Using the program’s temperament sorters, it is possible for parents to look at the world that their children prefer and the world(s) that they themselves prefer and see how varying temperaments work with or against one another. Questionnaires for children from 4-8 years and 9-12 years (the Harkey-Jourgensen Childhood Temperament Sorters) are available both on the Parenting by Temperament website, and in Volume I of Raising CuddleBugs: Measuring and Understanding Your Child’s Temperament. Adult Sorters are included in both Volumes and are available on-line.

The program’s sorters were developed through intensive University-level research by the authors, with over a thousand test cases. Parents first answer a series of questions about their child’s everyday behaviors, interests and preferences. From that, a basic pattern of temperament preferences emerges that yields surprising insights into a child’s unique sense of the world. For the child, the first of this two volume guide describes the most probable learning styles, relationship patterns, likely areas of parent-child conflict, and other aspects of development.

Next, parents do the same for themselves—taking the Adult Sorter and absorbing these findings as well. Descriptions of adult temperaments include the most likely relationship styles, communication styles and decision making, working, conflict resolving styles, as well as the potential strengths and weaknesses of each temperament type.

Using a strong, well researched model of ideal parenting, the authors then introduce the concepts of parent responsiveness and demandingness, and discuss the ways in which temperament may make a given parent highly effective in one area and relatively poor in another. Responsiveness includes all of the warm and supportive actions that parents take, while demandingness includes all of the rules, limits, and consequences that they use to enforce the behavior they expect of the child. According to authors, temperament has a tangible and significant impact on actual parenting style in both of these areas, regardless of the parent’s parenting philosophy and good intentions.

Just as adult temperament affects parenting style, child temperament affects the outcome of any parenting practice, these findings can have profound effects on family harmony and overall parent/child success. With great respect for temperament as an innate, lifetime reality, the authors discuss ways to compromise, ways to "stretch" if the preferences are too extreme or too conflicting, and ways to help children strengthen their non-preferred skills and behaviors.

Marcia Lasswell, Past President of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, believes the authors’ approach is groundbreaking. "These two volumes when used together provide a much needed insight into how the temperaments of a particular child and his or her parents work together (or against each other) to set the tone for harmony or discord that can last a lifetime. Oprah Winfrey should put these volumes on her ‘Must Read’ list for every parent."

Nancy Harkey is a recently retired psychology professor. Teri Jourgensen, her daughter, has over a decade of experience administering personnel tests and questionnaires. More recently, Teri has been devoting more and more of her time to Parenting by Temperament Workshops. Both books can currently be purchased on the publisher’s site, AuthorHouse.com or at Amazon.com. The authors can be contacted through their web site, ParentingbyTemperament.com, called directly at (909) 625-6819, or emailed using the hyperlink appearing in the right hand column.

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