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Anger Management: Understanding Your Temperament

3. Adaptability
How easily do you shift from one activity or idea to another? How easily do you adapt to surprises or changes in your schedule?

easily cope with surprises

easily change plans

shift easily from one activity to another

adjust quickly to changes in routine or schedule

      drained by the constant surprises you face as a parent

find changing plans distressful

find shifting from one activity to another difficult

find changes in your routine or plans frustrating

1 2 3 4 5
adapts quickly       adapts slowly

"Organized" and "predictable" are words that describe individuals who need time to adapt. It's easy for you to establish routines and rituals for morning and bedtime because you like them. If you know what's expected ahead of time, you have little problem adapting to changes. You're less likely to overprogram your child or fill your day with multiple transitions because you don't like them. You like to stay focused and enjoy the moment.

If you're a parent who's slow to adapt, you'll get pulled into power struggles when you're rushed or surprised. Unexpected meetings or appointments, a child who needs pants ironed or a diaper changed at the last minute, or discovering that the car is out of gas are all things that can upset you. You don't want to change your plans and may attempt to stick to your schedule no matter what! That means that when the school nurse calls and says your child needs to be checked for pinkeye today, you schedule the appointment on top of the normal piano lessons, rather than canceling the lessons for that week. The result is chaos, kids and parents on overload shrieking as you all dash down the highway.

Slow adaptability can also pull you into power struggles when your child changes the plans on you. You pick her up from school expecting to have a quiet evening at home. She wants to go swimming at the YMCA with her friends. Rather than shift, your first reaction may be to say no, and the fight begins.

If you are a slow-to-adapt parent, know that the more prepared you are, the easier it is for you to be an emotion coach. Set your clock ten minutes ahead so you always have a few extra minutes and won't feel so rushed. Talk with your kids about the day ahead. Share your plans and ask them theirs. Teach your children to avoid surprising you by asking the night before for your help ironing an outfit or packing a lunch. The more surprises you can avoid, the more energy you'll have to be there for your child. When you are surprised, remember to try to pause, take a deep breath, and tell yourself, "This is a transition. Transitions are tough on me, but I can choose how I wish to respond to this one," then decide if you need to shift and how you want to do it.

If you're a quick-to adapt individual, you don't have much trouble with transitions. You are very flexible and are comfortable switching plans; the last minute. You might even find the changes invigorating. You're triggered by those who need more time to adapt. You'd like them to hurry! Your first challenge is to recognize transitions. You probably don't think about them, or how many are in your day, because they don't bother you. Try to remember and accept that others, especially your slow-to-adapt child, can't transition as quickly as you can. She needs you to avoid surprising her. If you will simply forewarn her, am give her time to shift, you can win her cooperation and eliminate the power struggles tied to transitions. When you are quick to adapt, you child may also need a more predictable schedule than you're providing Remember, too, that spontaneity and surprises are not fun for family-members who need time to adapt!

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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.


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