The Science of Parenting

Tuning in with Temperament | S.9 Ep.4

June 23, 2022 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 9 Episode 4
The Science of Parenting
Tuning in with Temperament | S.9 Ep.4
Show Notes Transcript

Why does one of my kids gravitate toward tranquility while another gravitates toward tantrums? Because temperament. This week, the cohosts look at temperament traits, their influence on kids’ regulation tendencies, and practical strategies to help kids with any trait.

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Lori Korthals:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in two different life stages. Two are launched, and one is still in high school. And I'm a parenting educator.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator. Today we'll talk about the realities of raising a family, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. Hello, everybody, welcome back.

Lori Korthals:

Hey, welcome. Here we are in regulation.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, season nine still going. Still going. There is more to say. There's more to say. Well, last week we were looking at those developmental tasks. That was just a mouthful all of a sudden. But what are the things that our kids are working on when it comes to regulation based on their age? Right? What our toddlers are doing with regulation looks a little different than what our preteens are doing with regulation. And the other thing we talked about, we talked a little about dysregulation, which I kind of feel like maybe we'll talk about again this week with temperament.

Lori Korthals:

I think so, too. So yes, today, we are really going to zero back in on the research of Chess and Thomas, and look at temperament and how it really does play into our season topic of regulation. And you might be thinking, okay, didn't you just have two full seasons on temperament.

Mackenzie Johnson:

What else do you have to say? A lot. Yes, we have a lot.

Lori Korthals:

You know, we tackled it just by the nine traits themselves and we tackled it by the age of the child. And honestly, it's because we believe that learning about and understanding temperament is one of those really key essential pieces to understanding our children, and especially when it comes to guidance and discipline. Oh, absolutely. It is a huge piece of understanding who our kiddos are. So that's why we're going to talk about it again.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, there's more to say. And I think it's so interesting to think about it, you know, we've looked in the broad sense, like how temperament affects different things or what it is, and to look at it specifically and how our kids regulate. And yeah, like, how it looks different. And I think every trait is a little bit of a different piece of the puzzle of regulation. So we better remind everybody, right? It's been a little bit.

Lori Korthals:

It's been a minute, right? So every child is born, remember that every child is born with this individual way that they approach the world. And that's kind of what we call temperament. So it shapes the child's behavior. It really shapes their development in a significant way. And it really helps us understand, which is important as we think about nurturing, healthy development of our children. And it, you know, it helps us understand their regulation.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Sure does. Okay, here's a few more things that temperament also is. We love to describe it as a window to understanding. I love that word picture so much. But like, why do our kids do what they do? Temperament and understanding their temperament is gonna give us so much insight on that. Temperament is also kind of that oomf, with which kids express themselves and why some kids are very expressive while some might be a little bit tougher to read. One thing we always like to remind everybody, temperament traits are not good or bad, right? They all have assets and liabilities. They all have, like one thing we loved at one stage and another stage might present challenges for us. And so there's no right or wrong, good or bad temperament. Exactly, exactly. And then we do know that understanding temperament helps us as adults to guide our kids' behavior. Yeah. And to support that development.

Lori Korthals:

Because we have one, too. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We got one. All kinds of it. Yes. And we can't forget, I mean, Barb, our writer is always reminding us to remember it's a gift. It's genetic. We're born with it. And it's a gift that we get to go through life with and the way we react to the world will be related to our temperament.

Lori Korthals:

It is and like you said, it is genetic. And it's impacted by our surroundings, by our environment, how the adults around us work with our temperament. And one of the things we said, I guess it might have been the second season, so season seven, we talked about temperament as our factory settings. So especially when we're tired or scared or sick or having a big emotion, we tap back into those factory settings and when it comes to this season and regulation, when we get dysregulated, we revert right back to those factory settings, no matter how much we have, you know, worked on our temperament, learned about our temperament, you know, had our parents try to teach us about our temperament. When we become dysregulated, boom, we are right back to those factory settings,

Mackenzie Johnson:

Those defaults, right, the way we interact with the world. When everything's out of sorts, that's what we'll go back to, those defaults, for sure.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. All right. So why do you believe that temperament is such a key when it comes to understanding regulation and guidance and discipline?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, because Lori told me is one reason.

Lori Korthals:

And then you drank the Kool-aid.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yep. I'm drinking the Kool Aid, guys, I believe in it. No, as a parent, I've been in situations where I've really felt like I needed to advocate for my child. And knowing their temperament made me so confident to do that. I know my kid. I know I can anticipate how she will react, I can anticipate what he will do when we do this. Not that I know their every move, but I can anticipate the general patterns. And so it has made me really confident to be like, well, this isn't the best plan for my kids. Let's adapt that a little. And so that is one thing why I think it's so important. It gives us confidence to advocate. But I also think, you know, having two kids who are similar in some ways, but they definitely have their own little quirks. And temperament is how I can understand those unique qualities about them. And honestly, tailor my parenting, things that worked with my daughter when she was a toddler. I was like, okay, this is what you do with toddlers. Oh, no, not all of them. Yeah, that one, apparently, just that one. Just that one. Because yeah, those aren't the things that my son is responsive to. And I know temperament is a part of that. And so I think, yeah, advocating for our kids, and feeling confident about it. Like that's not something I would naturally feel confident about but temperament helps you feel that. And then yeah, just the ability to kind of tailor how understand my kid, I know that I can kind of tailor things to them. What about you, you have been a kool aid dispenser on temperament being important?

Lori Korthals:

The words you used were perfect, honestly, you know, tailoring and giving you confidence and predicting their behavior. When I think about, gosh, let's see, how old is my oldest daughter, almost 25. So 23 and a half years of understanding how temperament can create more positive interactions, not just between her and I as the adult child, but her and her friends, her and her teachers, her and her child care providers, her and her grandparents. Gosh, don't we all just have this inner need for someone to say, I get you, I get you. And I think that, honestly, is that piece where I think temperament allows me to say to a child, I get you, and then allows me to say to someone else, I want you to get my child, too. Yes. So I would say also, another word that maybe comes to mind is that personal feeling of self confidence, because someone gets me. It builds my self esteem when someone gets me. I internally believe that I am worthy when someone gets me. So that piece of it too where as a parent, when I understand my child's temperament, they have all of these internal feelings of self worth and worthiness as a human being.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, I mean, even in hearing you talk back through that, I think about the way it builds the relationship, right? Not just the feeling that it gives you when someone understands you, but like how I feel about that person who understands me? Absolutely. Yeah, like, you see me, I trust you. You see the good in me, you know, and I even think that with other adults learning to understand other people's temperament, or even like my nieces and nephews, the expectations I can come in with like, okay, your temperament is this way. You're slow to warm up. I'm not going to expect a hug when I walk in the door. You know, our high activity, okay, if we're hanging out, we're gonna do something physical. The way that we're building the relationship, whether that's with our kids for guidance and discipline, or anyone.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, it is. It's for everyone. Temperament's for everyone.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. One for you, one for you. Yes. So let's get back to regulation, right. Yeah.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah. So we're in regulation, right? So I think what we're gonna do is Thomas and Chess shared with us nine traits that we really talked at length about in season three. So if you want to go back and pick up really in depth information about each trait, go back to season three. And then when we think about each trait, we all get different portions, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, did we get a little or a lot?

Lori Korthals:

And when it comes to regulation, there's just several traits that become really important when it comes to our child's behavior, but we're gonna walk through them all.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We're gonna look at each of these traits, tiny bit of what it is, a little reminder, and then how does that play out with regulation? Yes. So I'll start with two that are, I mean, they're siblings. They're closely related. So approach withdrawal, how we respond in a new situation, or to new people. And then adaptability, which is about how we handle kind of the unexpected, or novelty? Is that exciting or is that draining? And so as we think about how our kids regulate, and remember, we talked about cognitive regulation or attitude or mindset or attention. We've talked about behavioral regulation, like our habits, and you know, also emotional regulation. And so, as we think about how those play out with adaptability and approach, I think of how it's basically what prompts you, right? So what bumps up against your temperament? You know, what are the types of things that get kids dysregulated? Or, even if a child is high approach, and they're ready to jump into a situation, they might get overexcited about something. And we might need to help temper them like, okay, remember the expectations when we get here, we're not just gonna run around. We need to slow down a little, or we have to sign in first. And so the way the types of things that get them dysregulated can vary based on whether they have a lot of adaptability or a little. And then same thing with approach withdrawal, whether they're approaching or withdrawing.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. So I see in my head, the child who is not adaptable, and when we asked them to do things spontaneously, boom, dysregulation occurs. Yes. Yes. Same thing with a child who is withdrawing, really needs to think about, I need a little bit more information before I walk in this door. And maybe we as a parent or caregiver say things like, hey, you know, I know we were gonna go do this, now we're gonna go do this, boom, dysregulation can occur in that child.

Mackenzie Johnson:

That happens in my house in our family, every second of every day. My high adaptability is like spontaneity, yeah. And I have a child that is like, absolutely not. No, thank you. And that child is the child who loses it when we go to the dentist. Yeah, right. New environment, unfamiliar people, literally in my mouth, like in my very personal space, yes. And she gets really dysregulated. She almost never behaves. And I don't even like to say behaves but she doesn't respond that way very often. But in that situation, she's so overwhelmed and terrified and dysregulated. Yeah. And so it is, that's temperament, that's approach, that's adaptability. So what about the next one? What's another one?

Lori Korthals:

So activity level. When we look at that internal energy, did we get a little bit of internal energy or did we get a lot? so I think of when it comes to regulation, being in those situations where we can expend the energy or the expectation that adults might have of a child to not expend the energy and sit still. So the child with a lower activity level, they can meet that expectation. They can sit quietly without fidgeting. The child who has a higher activity level, the adult has the expectation that they need to sit quietly and not fidget. That bumps right up into their highly active temperament and dysregulation occurs. A dysregulated child who is highly active, they might get the zoomies. They need something to do on long car rides or dysregulation happens. And so it's really about those expectations that we, as adults have that, you know, bump into their temperament trait where it is that allow those opportunities for dysregulation to occur. And then how do we respond? Do we respond and say, Hey, highly active child too bad, you need to sit here, and I'm not going to help you come down from your dysregulation. And I think that when it comes to temperament and regulation, these are moments that allow us to really help and model for our child how to work with the temperament that they got.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely, absolutely. Well and I also see activity as a way, like as a means to help people get regulated. Absolutely. So like, I think about after a big meal, if my co-parent and I, my partner and I, eat a big meal, I am like, oh, we gotta sit here. He is, like, we gotta walk around a little bit. And that feeling of, oh, I'm uncomfortable. He wants to move to get comfortable. And I'm like, I cannot move. And so how we regulate, and you said something, when you're describing this, click, temperament, regulation, light bulb, I have one.

Lori Korthals:

Okay, I'm ready.

Mackenzie Johnson:

The definition that I liked in the first episode was about adapting our behavior, our attitude, our emotions, to a context, to a set of expectations, to a situation. And you said when we have these expectations, and they bump up against their temperament, of course, it's dysregulation because the expectations don't meet their natural tendencies. Of course it is.

Lori Korthals:

That's my temperament. You are forcing my temperament to go against what my natural setting is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And when I'm a kid, right, when I'm a young child, I haven't learned a lot of skills yet about how to navigate the world with strategies to cope and adapt with my temperament. As adults we're like, well, yeah, sometimes even though I'm an active adult, I have to sit quietly. And yes, but you've had a lifetime of building skills and experiences to practice those things. Yes. Yeah, just absolutely. Okay. I have like a visual formula in my head of temperament, regulation, expectations, all of it. It all makes sense.

Lori Korthals:

Okay, so this is going to be the perfect segue into the intensity trait, because I think that you probably can, like visually see moments that your expectations or people's expectations of you bumped into your natural temperament setting of intensity. Got any examples?

Mackenzie Johnson:

A million, only a million. So I have high intensity. So that is our experience of emotion and our expression of experience and emotion of like, do we tend to be loud? Do we tend to be enthusiastic? Do we tend to be more on the lower end, a little more mild, subdued, easygoing, calm? And I even think of like, I've been in meetings where I'm getting idea, I mean, I've been in meetings with you where I get an idea and I can get so excited and enthusiastic. And I'm just talking fast, you know, basically yelling, sometimes actually yelling. And sometimes, you don't usually do this, but sometimes people are like, that is a lot. Which in all fairness, it is. And be nice to me. Like, have your expectations, adjust them. So that I don't feel because then I can feel like someone's really like be excited, but calm down, okay. If I feel like that, I can get really like, oh. And hurt and dysregulated and out of sorts, because the expectation didn't match my temperament my adaptability to that in that moment, so I have a lot of examples.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, if someone didn't honor your intensity, but instead, you know, kind of squished it down. I've seen your confidence just fly out the door, there it went. Like that was an amazing idea and now we can't follow through because your confidence just went out the door with that with that shushing or whatever.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think even like how I have two intense children, which is funny because my husband is very mild in his intensity. So we thought we'd get like a 50/50. But nope, we have two loud, beautifully intense children and you know, just the way they express, right? When my daughter is dysregulated, you see it, you hear it, it's right there. It's easy to read, honestly. Versus like, when my husband is out of sorts, we've had to work together and communicate because he has to tell me. He's, like, I'm having a hard time because I don't pick up on it because it's so subtle. And so I'll be like, here we go, going on about life. And he's like, okay, actually, I'm having a really hard time. I'm like, you are? But again, the way we express and experience that dysregulation looks different, and especially in our kids, with their intensity. Their intensity is in such raw form.

Lori Korthals:

And yes, yes. Okay, so I have a trait that I will share with you that you often can't see it, and that's regularity.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love when you talk about regularity.

Lori Korthals:

Regularity is those biological rhythms, right? Well, you can't always see them like you do intensity. So the our need to eat, our need to sleep, our need to use the bathroom, right? Those are internal things. And so, gosh, sometimes regularity is one of those first key questions that we might ask a childcare provider when they come and ask us about a guidance and behavior problem, or parents when they come and ask us a parenting question, let's talk about your child's regularity. Is their need to sleep longer not being met and that's why they're becoming dysregulated? So a child that has a very regular biological rhythm, they are the child that you don't have to set a watch to because they are your watch. They eat the same amount every day at the same time. You know, you have to change their diaper at the same time every day, you know what time it is based on what's happening with their body. So let's say the expectation is we're in a long car ride, and we can't stop the car. Right? The child who is very regular, now is hungry. And that might come out as, you know, screaming and crying in the car. And us in our adult mind thinking we only have five more miles, we only have 10 more miles. To the child who's very regular, suddenly, their dysregulation occurs in your, you're the adult thinking, can't they just wait, like just wait, just wait. Right? So their factory setting says, Dude, it is 11:10. I eat and I poo at

11:

01. So I love thinking about regularity, as again, one of those kind of that quiet, underlying temperament trait that has a lot of impact. You know, is that baby hungry? And we've tried some textbook that said you need to schedule your child, right? And you don't don't feed them except for on schedule. Well, the child who is irregular, like they're really hungry, they're not trying to not be scheduled. Their body, their biological rhythm says, gosh, I'm really hungry. So bumping up against that factory setting. You know, it's hard when it comes to regularity because as parents we want to control what three things.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Eat, sleep, poop.

Lori Korthals:

We need to control those three things as adults and when it comes to regularity and regulation. Whoo. Right. Like the temperament trait in this case wins every time.

Mackenzie Johnson:

XXXXYes, it just does. And everything I'm thinking of with the regulation component of it is, you know, we talked about behavior regulation often looks like habits. When our behavior is regulated in doing the things that we need to do, right, like we need to brush our teeth, like we need to shower, we need to personal hygiene type stuff, we need to eat. Those things can come more naturally, right? Regulated habits might come more naturally to someone who has a regular temperament like a regular rhythm. They can anticipate I wake up at this time regardless of if the alarm clock goes off. I'm hungry at this time. And then versus the irregular, those habits look different. I have to focus a lot on routines, because I will not wake up at the same time without an alarm. So I need the routine of the pattern to regulate my behavior rather than this is the time because my body won't always give me the same time. Yes. It looks so different for each of us. I'll say and there's mood, which I feel like is spoken and unspoken, like it's both. Yeah. And so mood is kind of that natural disposition. You know, some people say serious or silly, some might say optimistic or pessimistic. You know, however people kind of define it and look at it a different way but how we think about our attitude, right? And I think of that cognitive, that's where I really think about mood, is that cognitive part of regulation of people are like, well, you need to change your attitude. Well, you need to, and people just assume someone who's pessimistic is bad, right? Like it's negative, it's just negative. And I think we have even some colleagues who are low mood, and in some cases, I'm like, come on, chipper up a little. But I also see real strength in them, and that they can anticipate. They can see the worst case scenario and prepare for it. And that can be the case in kids too. That kid is like, this isn't what I wanted. This is not, I mean, it's not that great, right. But that kid also, they're perceptive of those things. They notice them. And so yeah, as we think about that cognitive regulation, I think a lot about mood. Yes. Does it tend to be a chipper? Or does it tend to be a little more serious? And again, thinking about our expectations as parents, and how they regulate and that attitude. They don't need to just be chipper cheery if that's not who they are. And if you have a kid that's always chipper, cheery, you might have to take them as Rob Copeland reminded us, to heed caution. Yes, yes. Yeah. So I think that mood is really closely related to cognitive regulation.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, I agree. I hadn't thought about it that way. But I definitely hadn't.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I hadn't until I said it.

Lori Korthals:

So yes, those things that pop into our brain, and we just never know what's coming out on this podcast. So I'm going to do the next two together as well. So this is persistence and distractibility. So distractibility is that idea that how much do you notice the little things. So distractibility, you're working on something and you catch the spider crawling down the wall out of the corner your eye. Did you notice it? Or did you not notice it? And then persistence says, do you keep working? Or do you go get rid of the spider or analyze the spider, whatever you do when it comes to spiders, right? So they kind of go hand in hand together, they're siblings, I like how you said that. So persistence and distractibility. When we look at that in regulation, again, two very key players in terms of how can we stay regulated if we are a persistent temperament. Things that persist that we can finish, finishing a task, we like being able to finish the task helps us stay regulated. If we're working on a task, and someone says, time's up, let's go change tasks. Now, let's say you're working on a puzzle and you're very persistent, and you want to finish the puzzle. Someone I know likes puzzles.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So yep, me.

Lori Korthals:

Someone says, Mackenzie, you cannot finish that puzzle. It is time for us to leave this place all together. And actually, you're never going to get to finish this puzzle because we're leaving. Dysregulation occurs in Mackenzie's mind, right? Look at regulation and persistence and distractibility. That idea that we can, I like what you said, utilize the temperament trait to remain regulated, or recognize that it is part of that trait that is dysregulating us. We can become dysregulated and become even more persistent. If I am persistent, and now I'm dysregulated, I will finish this puzzle. My feet are in cement and I am now so dysregulated, there is no way you're moving me away from this puzzle table.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yep. And oh, it's like 45 minutes past my child's bedtime and we're not home yet. Yes. I need three more pieces of this puzzle. Yeah, I still can't leave. And again, I can't meet the expectation of the situation. Or I could, I should. But when I'm dysregulated, right, that natural tendency of my temperament says like, I'm not going to meet that because I have a natural tendency to like, oh, I'll just find a few more. I'm not done.

Lori Korthals:

I can do one more thing. I can do one more thing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Well, that distractibility piece, too, and how easily we're pulled away from something and I think of Barb. Sometimes I'm like, Oh, poor Barb. She has to work with us all the time.

Lori Korthals:

We're so distractable.

Mackenzie Johnson:

But she has very low distractibility. And so she can just be like, Well, I'm just doing this, you guys are doing that. And I just think, what a strength that would be. You don't get distracted and out of sorts and all those things. But I mean, strengths in each one, right? Yes, absolutely. All right. And then our last one is sensitivity. So this a lot of times is related to our five senses. Some people also look at it as emotional sensitivity. Some researchers separate that and some put them together, right? Yes, yes. But thinking about the word that comes to mind is stimulation, like that response to stimulation. Does your body and your brain need a lot of stimulation to get a reaction? Or even just a little? Even just a little? And I think of, you know, we always talk about the line in the socks, the tag in the shirt, right? Yes. And so for a child or an adult who has very high sensitivity, those little, little perceptions of those things, right? I cannot think right now because it's freezing in here. I can't listen to this, like I can't listen to this speaker or pay attention. I'm freezing. Those types of things. That sensitivity to the sensory input, the stimulation around you, it can affect how easy or hard it is to regulate. Yeah, I think of people's attention and yes, our emotion.

Lori Korthals:

The baby that is in the room that is so loud that their dysregulation becomes that moment of they're totally shut down. They disappeared. Or the baby that is so dysregulated that they cry and cry and cry and cry and what are the tools that we use to get their bodies back into regulation? Because they were so sensitive to maybe it was a loud sound. Maybe, oh gosh, in Emily's case, it was the fire drill right at the school.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I also think of how, you know, we talked about each trait individually, but how traits paired together, right? And so I think of feeding my distractible infant in a loud place that was like, Oh, I gotta see everything. That was hard. But a child that is distractible and sensitive to those things. Instead of just needing to look around, they might be wailing, even though they're starving, but there's so much, right? Versus a child that's not distractible. And so we know that our traits interact. They don't just stand alone. So when we talk about one leaning this way, and one can affect this, sometimes they pair together to create a behavior. And it affects how our kids regulate and how we regulate.

Lori Korthals:

But we do want to take a little bit of time and just share that not everything is negative about traits because there are some super, like you brought out Barb's strength, but there is positive stuff and we can validate our children's temperament traits. And again, these are temperament gifts, like Barb says, and there are definitely strengths and positive things. So let's play a little game. Want to play a game?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I do. I love a game.

Lori Korthals:

I'm gonna say a word. And I'm gonna say the less positive word, the negative word, and you come up with a word that's more positive and can validate their temperament trait, right? Because sometimes we might just think well, intensity, it just makes them loud. Right, but we want to see that there are assets. Okay, so loud. Let's try that loud. Okay. Wow.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I have the flip side of this because I have been called this my whole life. I would say enthusiastic. Easy to read. Like I know where you're at. You're easy to read.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Oh, love it. Okay. Oh, they're so wild.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Huh? They're busy. Right that they have a lot to do. There's just so many things and is it like that curiosity. Oh, they're curious or their body loves to move. Their body feels so good moving.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Energetic.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Energetic. Yeah.

Lori Korthals:

All right, picky. They're so picky, picky, picky, picky.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They're careful and selective.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. All right. Last one. Stubborn.

Mackenzie Johnson:

My eyes immediately shifted to myself.

Lori Korthals:

We don't need to say stubborn.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Committed, right? In adults, we think that's a great thing. Like, they're really committed to those values, or they're really committed to that project. Not stubborn. No, really committed to that. Yeah. Yes. And as we think about, when you look at those nine traits, we're kind of like, this can get you dysregulated, this could get you dysregulated, which wasn't the intent. But that there are assets. And yes, in some cases, we talked about how if you're highly irregular, I can make it a little easier. Your natural tendencies lean toward developing regular habits, that can come a little more naturally for you. If you are a low persistence, I can go with the flow, right? I don't get too worked up because I can adapt to most changes and things. Or I don't feel too strongly about that. I have a sister-in-law, who is the easiest going person I've ever met. Lik sure, sure. High adaptability and low persistence. She's like, yeah, however it goes. And so there are strengths in our temperament that do give us positives for regulation, and they create situations that can make it more likely. Assets and liabilities, assets and liabilities.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. Okay, so let's talk about strategies, right? We have some excellent strategies. These are some of my favorite strategies to talk through. And maybe it's because it's one of my favorite classes to teach. I love this class. But okay, so Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has two books. She's got Raising Your Spirited Child and Raising Your Spirited Baby. She actually has more. But her basic premise is that adults can teach children skills and we should, that help them get through. How And that we have strategies that are informed by their do we work with the temperament traits our parents gave us? Yes, because we know naturally, we can look at any nursery in any hospital across the world and know that children come with their temperament traits. We didn't teach them how to be intense in the nursery at the hospital, right? They get this. It was a gift, it was a gift. So as adults, our job then is to recognize their traits, and recognize what are some strategies that we can teach them to support and honor the traits that we gave them. temperament that promote regulation. Yes, right. We can use that temperamental understanding to inform how we can help them regulate. Yes. All right. All right. Let's hear one. Okay. So one of my favorites to talk about is repetition. And I want you to think about this in terms of a repeated motion, over and over and over and over and over. Okay, so I'm gonna take you all the way back to in the womb, the child is in the womb. What is a repetitive movement? What's a repeated motion that the child in the womb feels?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think of two. Okay, they hear the heartbeat, but they also the walking. A fetus is getting swayed back and forth in the womb.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, exactly. So now, boom, they come out of the womb. Totally dysregulated. It is cold out here. So I am wet. I am not snuggled up anymore. So what have they heard for nine months. They've heard and felt that whoosh, whoosh. Right? So one of the first things that a nurse taught me on my first child was this idea that there are these Ss, and they're all repetitive. They're all repetitive, like, oh my gosh, their temperament, repetitive, regulation. The idea that we shush, shush, shush, sounds like the heartbeat. Shush. So when my daughter was dysregulated, I would shush shush. And I would sway just like it felt like in the womb, right? I would wrap her and swaddle her tight, and I can feel myself swaying back and forth.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right? I'm like doing a little.

Lori Korthals:

That rocking back and forth is something that babies felt for nine months. And then I know that when I'm standing in a grocery line or whatever, and I hear a child crying like Ah. But you know what, I enjoy a rocking chair as an adult. Right? If I feel dysregulated, frustrated, upset, I often find myself sitting in my rocking chair. Where did I try to put my babies to sleep? In the rocking chair. Where did I try to put my toddlers to sleep? In my rocking chair. Yeah, this idea of this repetitive motion, this rocking, rocking, swaying, swaying, repeated sounds and movements.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I even think of I sometimes find myself rubbing my daughter's back. She's a little older so we don't rock anymore. But yes, the repetition of just like, little circles and that we're giving that little bit of. I mean, I'm physically. But yeah, the repetitive motion.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah. Okay, so now I'm gonna bring you up to adulthood. Because we might say, Oh, that's so great for kids. Yes, that's a great idea. But as adults, we still do these things. Okay. And we typically do them because of the it's just how our inborn nature was, right? What else did infants in utero do? They suck their thumbs because sucking and swallowing is an essential need. They need to learn how to do that to eat, get nourishment. It continues. Sometimes infants still suck their thumbs outside of the womb. Sometimes we give them pacifiers, but sucking, part of that natural movement is repetitive, right? Think about that. It's movement. As adults, what do we continue to do? We chew gum, we suck on candy, we smoke cigarettes, right? And there's a little bit of scientific nerdiness to that. And that has to do with the soft palate in your mouth and the brain sensors that are so close to it. So there's your little nerdism.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love when you geek out about the brain.

Lori Korthals:

Those sensors are right there in the soft palate. So I think about how did I try to regulate my dysregulated child, I might give her her pacifier, I might put the thumb back in the mouth. My preschoolers, I might go have them sip on a straw, go and drink water out of a straw. I might walk with them to the drinking fountain and get a drink. Moving that mouth that repetitive swallowing, trying to use their mouth and those brain centers. And then when they get to high school or middle school and they've got those standardized tests. What do we sometimes allow them to do? We sometimes allow them to have water, keep hydrated but also that movement of swallowing. I've tried to convince my daughter's schools along the way to let them chew gum at least during test taking. Because I honestly again, helps them regulate, that repetitive movement, repetition, repetition. Okay, well, we got to move on. Next.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I don't want you to move on yet because I am having a moment. I also think, as adults, this happens, right? Like I think of the shaking leg or the clicking pen or that people as adults will do this repetitive motion. And I even think this is maybe a little bit of a stretch, but are habits repetitive. Like that's kind of by definition, right? Okay. Repetition. Anyway, yes, yes. Well, then the next one, right. Okay.

Lori Korthals:

I'm gonna back up one more time. Because what is the first thing that we take away from babies when they magically turn a certain age?

Mackenzie Johnson:

We take the thumb, we take the pacifier, we take the stuff.

Lori Korthals:

So we take the stuff that's repetitive that's helping them regulate. And do we make a conscious effort to give them something else to replace that repetition? Right, just a thought. I just want to toss that out there.

Mackenzie Johnson:

One more aha, okay. My husband and I have been talking about, my son has moved, he's a toddler, he moved to a twin bed. And he's having a hard time going to sleep at night. Like we've never had trouble with that. And he's just lays awake and he talks. We've stopped sitting in the rocking chair. We sit in his bed. We sit in his bed and we read a book and we you know, maybe standing or whatever. We've stopped sitting in the rocking chair. That's what's changed. And I literally did not think of that until right now. I need to call my husband.

Lori Korthals:

Let's finish recording. Okay, okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Now we can move on.

Lori Korthals:

Now we can move on. Yes. Oh, gosh.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So the next one is deep breathing. Which I mean, hello, our favorite strategy is Stop. Breathe. Talk. But encouraging that in our kids. I remember hearing you like vividly when I was an intern, I remember you teaching the class that focuses on these strategies and I remember you talking about even an infant or small child that we're holding in our arms, when you deep breathe, our heartbeats regulate together, right? Physically our bodies, that nerds me out real quick. But yeah, that like we can take deep breaths and especially If we're having physical contact with a child, we can take deep breaths that will help them take deep breaths. What else would you add about deep breaths?

Lori Korthals:

Oh, gosh, just last week, my middle daughter, she's 22. She was anxious. And I was getting dysregulated over something. And I was frustrated with her. And all of a sudden, I heard her shallow breathing, rapid breathing, and I thought, oh my gosh, she is super anxious and dysregulated. I cannot match that. I need to help her get more regulated. And so I started to do deep breathing. I was just next her. And I would take a deep breath before I would start to talk and let me tell you, I wanted to not speak so politely. Yes. But hearing her shallow rapid breathing, I thought, Okay, I need to take a deep breath and first regulate myself. And then I'm going to continue to speak slowly, with these deep breaths to try to help her get more air into her body because she's so dysregulated right now.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Need oxygen in your brain. Oxygen. Oh, yeah. Well, and then movement, right like exercise. And I mean, hello, highly active temperaments. But even for kids with low activity level, this can be a strategy for helping them regulate.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, yes, I used to do this with my preschool class. The class would be getting out of control, dysregulated, loud, crazy. And I would throw on a record. You know what a record is, right? And it was a record. And that was the only time I played that record typically was when things were getting out of control. And the super cool thing was it was a dance record with some characters and at the end, I would start to turn it down lower, and lower, and lower. And we would start to deep breathe at the end of the record. And so we got this twice. So we got the exercise and movement to help them start to reregulate. And then we would end all laying on the floor deep breathing. So that was even before I knew about temperament. We needed to move.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Well, you know, I've said my son hits, and that is hard for me. But even the expectation, the allowance, the whatever, of okay, we're having a time. Let's go outside. Let's go on a walk. I've had my daughter in the doctor's office in a situation she does not enjoy. I literally will stick my leg out from the chair so she can jump back and forth over it. And so just finding opportunities, like, okay, things are a little out of whack. For some kids let's get moving. Yes. And that can help us. I've skipped down the hallway on picture day with my child who was terrified to have their picture taken and we just skipped down the hallway together. Because we needed to regulate.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, which ties right into the next one, which is change of scenery. Okay, so this can be done with an infant, a toddler or preschooler, all the way up to an older teen, right? Older adults too. Yeah, I sometimes just need a change of scenery, right? And go hide in the closet. So we can literally just turn the infant to a different wall. We can literally take the toddler by the hand and do two of them, right, we can march to a different room. We can hop to a different room, but we're changing the scenery, so that they stop being in the middle of or seeing what it is that is making them so dysregulated. Sometimes we take the toy away. But what needs to happen is we need to move the child away. Yes, the toy is what's making the child upset. So I'm gonna take the toy away. Actually, it's the space, now this space, this whole moment in time, I need a different room to be in.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I actually just told you a story before we started recording about my son was just real mad about something. And we were out to eat. And he's doing a little screechy thing, and I was like, okay, this is really disruptive in here. And so I took him out, almost a little embarassing, that's too strong a word but just like, oh, this is bothering other people. Let's be considerate. And so I took him outside and then it wasn't too long that we kind of came around like yes, that change of scenery. Even like, I'm going to talk to you over in the hallway. Yes, I'm going to bring you with me to walk out to the car. And yeah, same thing with our older kids too like, you know what, let's not talk about this. If things were heated in the kitchen, even with my spouse, I got frustrated with you in the kitchen. When we talk about it, let's sit in the living room. Change of scenery.

Lori Korthals:

All right, you have to do the last one because you were telling me about how it really works with your son.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, my son and I pause...caveat, Lori and I and our colleagues, we have lots of parenting tools, right. We love sharing them with you all. We continue to learn them as we put together podcast seasons and things. We have all these tools. And sometimes I still feel like, I don't know what to do next.

Lori Korthals:

Oh, that wasn't the right tool.

Mackenzie Johnson:

That wasn't it. Or that wasn't it for this kid. I said earlier, that worked for my daughter when she was a toddler. Oh, yeah. Because that's not how it works for you. And so my son responds, the strategy is humor. That is, I've been in a lot of situations when he expresses frustration, and I'm having trouble helping you regulate, he responds to humor. We get silly, tickling to a point that he was like enjoying it. And just even the most ridiculous stuff like, you don't want to go to bed? Is it because you want to sleep in the garbage? Right? Oh, is it because you want to sleep in the tree? And it's like, no, no, but it gets silly. We talked about distraction being a great tool. And humor is a lot of times a form of distraction, and it alleviates some of the pressure of the conflict. And yeah, when we think again, conflict, the expectations aren't matching what's happening. That's prime definition of dysregulation. So how can we help our kids regulate? One of them is humor.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. And again, just kudos to Mary Sheedy Kurcinka for giving us these strategies, because they go a long way. Like I said, you can lump them together, do two or three at a time, one works really well for the particular child. And again, to me these are fabulous ways to really teach the child. I mean, what child can't learn humor, right? I mean, now he can learn to say to his buddy, oh, you didn't want to do that? Is it because you want to sleep in the garbage? These are all things that they can take on themselves. They can recognize they need a change of scenery. They can recognize they need to hop up and down. They can recognize they need to take a deep breath. You know, they can recognize I need to go have a big drink of water and take four swallows in a row.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yeah. We're building their skills.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we just love to talk temperament. We maybe love to talk temperament a little too much. We just got a little long. But we want to bring in our producer, well, not our producer this season, our writer, Barb Dunn Swanson. We love her thoughts on regulation and temperament. Hi, Barb.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Hey, everybody, I just think about everything you've mentioned. And the thing that resonates the most with me is experience. Oh, yeah, everything that happens for us is experience based. And when I think about young people, and the kind of behaviors we see or the emotions that they express. If we truly understand the temperament that precedes the emotion or comes before the behavior, then we can look at it as problem solving, rather than an issue for discipline. We look at things much less negatively if we can look at whatever behavior or emotion that's expressed, if we can look at it from a lens of their individual temperament. You've set the whole stage for that discussion. But I think another component is labeling. When others don't understand our individual child's temperament, they can tend to very quickly label our child. Yes, and those labels will not help any child to feel good about themselves or to become reregulated, if in fact, they've become dysregulated. So kind of removing the labels and yet having and honoring individual temperament is a wonderful resource to have as a parent.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Awesome. Thanks so much, Barb, that experience component.

Lori Korthals:

I love that word. Yeah, experience. Yep, definitely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. That's like perspective on perspective. Barb's giving us perspective on having perspective.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. That's awesome. Thanks, Barb.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Thanks so much. Yeah, so you know, we get chatty about temperament. And looking at how each of us and we're individuals and the way that regulation looks for us and the way that regulation looks for our kids. And the way that dysregulation looks. Temperament is a big part of that, and even how we regulate. Temperament is what is going to make it individual for each of us in regulation. So we get to keep looking ahead in the season. Our next episode coming right up.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah. And so we're going to look at how we can create an environment that promotes regulation. So what are some things that we can do around us that help to really promote regulation?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I'm so excited. We get to talk about a theory that I love. So stay tuned for that.

Lori Korthals:

Right. Yes. So thanks for joining us today at The Science of Parenting podcast. And hey, you know, if you like our content, please just take a moment to give us a five star rating in the podcast app. This actually helps other people find our podcasts and also helps our supervisors know that this is worth our time and energy, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.