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Anger Management: Understanding Your Temperament

If you prefer to jump into new situations quickly, your challenge is to understand that new situations can be stressful, especially if your child is a cautious kid. He needs time to watch before joining an activity, which might be difficult for you to accept. And because you're comfortable jumping in, you may move in so quickly that your child, especially a preadolescent or teen, may find your actions a bit invasive. Teach yourself to pause before you jump in to solve a problem for your child. And think about how many new things you're signing your child up for. These actions can reduce the number of power struggles you experience.

Putting It All Together
Now you have it, a picture of your first and most natural reactions. When you understand your own style and your own emotions, it's much easier for you to recognize your triggers, understand those of your child, and find ways to work together. So go back and total your score. Remember there isn't a good or bad temperament. Every style has its strengths and weaknesses.

Total Score

7-14 15-25 26-35
low-key spunky spirited
emotion coach emotion coach emotion coach

Once you've figured out your total score, select your top two "trigger traits." These are the traits that are most important for you to honor. The emotions and needs tied to these traits must be recognized and met on a daily basis; otherwise, you get drained and pulled into power struggles.

For example, if you know that you are very persistent, it is critical that you plan in your day the opportunity to finish something. You will be more able to deal with the interruptions of your day if you can tell yourself you've accomplished at least one thing.

Or perhaps you know you are very regular. Plan your meals, don't skip them. If you skip a meal, two hours later you're likely to lose your cool. Managing intensity in the face of hunger is a huge effort for people who are temperamentally regular.

If you're intense and active, plan exercise into your day. It's when you know yourself, understand, and accept your emotions and needs that you can open yourself to your child's.

Savor Your Success
Jessica honored her temperament and turned a potential blowup into a successful outing. "I took my four-year-old and his friend to the Children's Museum," she told us in class one day. "I take them their frequently, but on this day it was jammed. There must have been five hundred school-age kids, many of them almost too old to be then The noise and commotion were overwhelming. When we did the temperament charts, I had selected sensitivity as my trigger trait, but I didn't figure out that I wasn't going to make it through the museum until we were on the top floor. That's when I realized my intensity was rising. I couldn't focus on the kids. I knew I needed to leave while still had the energy to negotiate with them, get them three floors down, walk them across the parking lot, and get them into the car. I remember thinking, How can we get out of this building without major fight?

"I told the kids, 'It's getting close to lunch and it's too crowded in here. It's time to leave.' We have a rule that if you leave a place nice you can go back. Alex knows that, but he's persistent, and that day didn't work. He had a list of three things he wanted to do. 'Let's try two things,' I said, 'and then leave.' We did that, but he couldn't contain his energy. It was too much to expect him to say, 'Okay, let's go,' but I could tell I was running out of energy to cope. We just had to go. 'Finally, desperation, I pulled a coupon out of my purse for a toy store. I said 'Oh look, we have a ticket to the toy store. We have to go there right now before it closes. I'll bring you back here next week when it's quieter.' It worked. I felt all right about it because I didn't bribe him. I simply gave him information about the next thing that we would do knowing that it would interest him. We often visit the toy store, but we don't buy. He knows that. We did get out of that building and our fun outing didn't disintegrate into a power struggle because I recognized my trigger and made the decision to get out while I could still hold it together."

Understanding and working with your temperament allows you to identify your emotions and manage them. Often you've been told you should be able to block the noise or skip the meal. It's when you listen to yourself, accept your style, and work with it that you can truly connect not only with your child but with the essence of who you are as well

Coaching Tips

  • Know yourself.
  • Accept yourself.
  • Honor your feelings.
  • Identify your triggers.
  • Celebrate the person who lives inside of you.
  • Learn more about temperament.
  • Read my book Raising Your Spirited Child.
  • Listen to your feelings.
  • Exercise.
  • If you're persistent, allow yourself to finish something every day.
  • If you're sensitive, avoid overstimulating circumstances.
  • If you don't like surprises, plan your day.


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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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