The Science of Parenting

Preschooler Predisposition | S.7 Ep.4

October 28, 2021 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 7 Episode 4
The Science of Parenting
Preschooler Predisposition | S.7 Ep.4
Show Notes Transcript

Temperament impacts preschool behaviors such as play groups, physical activities, independence, and following directions. Parents can learn their child’s temperament and create environments that play to their child’s natural tendencies instead of struggling with them.

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in two different life stages. Two are launched and one is still in high school. And I am also a parenting educator. And today we are continuing our season seven by talking about preschoolers.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, preschoolers. I feel like every time we're like, oh, babies, oh, toddlers. There's great things about each stage but I love all of the learning about the world and the roles people have and gender and race. All these things. They're learning so much about the world as preschoolers.

Lori Korthals:

They are. And you know I said that toddlers are like science class 24/7, and I kind of see preschoolers as Little Einsteins, little scholars, you know. They're taking it in. It's all science class, but then they can sit back and ponder what they've just learned. Well, I just picture that. That's my little word picture. Yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

That visual is a good visual of Einstein, because, yes, we have curly hair in my house. And so when we wake up, my preschooler does have Einstein hair.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. It's awesome. So yes, here we are season seven. And what we're doing in season seven is we are taking two of our previous seasons and kind of smashing them together and taking a little bit of a deeper dive with both of them together. So temperament, season three from fall of 2020, and child development from spring of 2021. And we're talking about temperament based on the age of the child. And so while we have been spending time in infants and toddlers, this week we're going to really focus on the child development milestones and things that are happening in that preschooler, while at the same time, looking at how temperament comes into play with them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, how we see that temperament play out in preschool. Love it. So we, of course, are going to do the reminder like we've done every week, that parenting and interacting with our preschooler and all of our kids is a bi-directional process, which means it is a circle with arrows pointing both directions, all over, right? Our kids' characteristics, who our child is, their temperament, their health status, just who specifically that child is, is going to influence us as parents. You know, we think about the ways that we interact with our child. And our child influences the way we interact with them. And then we do things that encourage our children to act in a specific way.

Lori Korthals:

Whether we know it or not.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So it goes both directions and understanding that our kids' temperament alongside ours is going to influence that relationship and the interactions we have and why it can feel different, you know, people will be like, oh, your favorite kid. And it's like, well, the way that you love them differently is the same, like the same amount and in different ways. That is also part of that bidirectional, like this thing with this kid, our temperament, goodness of fit, and all of it.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. So just a quick reminder then about what temperament is, and we take our definition from Mary Rothbart and her colleagues and we look at temperament as this physiological basis for individual differences. So it's that internal, that bodily function in terms of reactivity and self regulation and it also includes motivation and affect and activity, as well as attention characteristics. And so in other words, what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says, is that we have the genetics, the genes within us that, PS by the way, we got from our parents, you gave them to your kids, right? Okay, so you have these genes, and then the rest of the environment interplays and interacts with it, and allows it the opportunity to kind of practice and grow and learn and gives us opportunities to work with what we got.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And so we do that temperament is, you know, born with it. We're gonna help our kids figure out how to navigate the world. We're gonna use it to help anticipate their behavior and the way that we guide them, for sure. And so, thinking about that temperament, you know, we're looking at it this week, specifically in the realm of preschoolers. So let's talk a little about what are these preschoolers doing, right, what are they learning?

Lori Korthals:

Yes, and I love that you said anticipate. So yes, temperament allows us that ability to anticipate and predict. So all of a sudden, it's like, oh, wait, we gotta say that louder. Louder for those in the back. We can predict our child's temperament because or we predict their reaction because of their temperament. So, yeah, preschoolers. So one of the things we shared in season three was the CDC Milestones website, the Milestones Tracker, and so that's what we're going to focus on. We look at that preschool age as being about ages three to five. And recognizing that as we look at child development, children go through these stages, these milestones that we call them. Not every child reaches these milestones at the same time. Those with diverse and special needs are definitely going to reach these milestones at different times, or not at all. But these milestones are things like movement, jumping, running, emotions, being able to name their feelings, language, being able to speak in longer sentences and follow longer directions that are given. And so those milestones, they happen at different times. And so for preschoolers, what we look at when we think about milestones, is the idea that they're starting to come into places where they're interacting more with those outside their family. So whether it's in formal places like preschools, or informal places, like local playgrounds. And so those milestones that happen interact with their body, their physical abilities become more enhanced than they were as toddlers. And as we look at those milestones, and we look at temperament together, we're going to spend some time thinking about what are the stages that are happening in those preschooler bodies as we filter in temperament?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think of all the things that assessment on the report card at the conferences, like using scissors, pencil grip, really specific fine motor. But also very specific gross motor, like hopping on one foot. I remember, this was such a first time parent moment for me, my daughter, who was pretty early to hit milestones with her spirit and temperament. The shapes when they did their assessment at the beginning of the year, what they knew about shapes. She said she had gotten all of them correct but she's like, a circle has one corner and I was like, man, she almost had it. But these very specific things, right, they're learning. Both the fine motor stuff, the gross motor stuff, the academic stuff, all of it, and there's so much about how the world works. They're trying out a lot of pretend play. I'll be the mom and you'll be the baby. I'll be the firefighter and you'll be the police officer. There's all these place schemas that are happening. And there is so much good stuff going on at

Lori Korthals:

Just that age. A d then I love that Dr. Lang, who preschool. shares with us in her book, she also shares about Thomas an Chess and temperame t. But additionally, what she alks about with that is that g odness of fit between the child s temperament and the parents' eaction. And if you think ab ut what's happening, okay, le 's get a little nerdy here, fr m a theoretical perspec ive, in preschool one of the the rists that we can look at is Er k Erikson and specifically in p eschool happening at that time is this idea that preschooler are creating and working o their own initiatives. They' e taking initiative, they're seeking and reachin out, versus are they feeling m re doubt? Are they not so sur about what they're doing? Do th y feel shame when they can t accomplish something? So you take that Erik Erikson initiativ versus doubt, and you toss t at in from Dr. Lang's book and s e talks about goodness of fi , and we say okay, so if we understand our child's t mperament and we begin to lea n about that, specifically at th s preschool age, can we offer our child more opport nities for initiative building a d self esteem building so th t as we learn more about the reactions, we can pull b ck and have them not experience o much doubt in themselves r shame themselves for what they can't do?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Pause? Yes, for like a second. I feel like we need a little example here. I have one that comes to mind. As you think about parenting your kids in their preschoolers, like a task, like an initiative versus shame kind of task. So the one that is going on in my house right now is around like coloring.

Lori Korthals:

Ah, yeah.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And my daughter will ask me instead of saying, Mom, I want time with you. It's like, Mom, will you color with me, Mom? Will you play with me, Mom, will you? But so that's the thing we've been doing is sitting at the table and coloring side by side occasionally. And there was this day, we were sitting together and I was like, yeah, we're here. I put everything aside. We're connecting. And she looks at my picture and she goes, oh, I can't color inside the lines as good as you can. I was like, no, you're supposed to feel good about us being together. And so I did take a breath. That's what her current thought is. Right? And I was like, well, not yet. You know. So I tried to reframe because I do want her to feel a sense of pride, growth, initiative. And I was like, you know what, you're getting better. Right? I'm a grown up. I've had a lot of practice at this. Yes. I have had a lot of practice coloring. That is the thing. But it was like, No, but not yet. Like we're getting there. But really, yeah. Do you have anything like that with your kids that you can think of around initiative and preschool?

Lori Korthals:

I do. So I actually taught preschoolers for a whole year, a whole school year, and they were three year olds. And so I used to say I love teaching three year olds, because watching that initiative, while at the same time recognizing those opportunities that when they feel doubt, I could jump in and be that cheerleader for them. And so I specifically can think about a day that we were getting ready to go outside, everyone was putting on their coats. And I knew that this little dude was gonna have a meltdown. Yeah, because everyone was taking initiative to try to get their zippers up. And I knew that he struggled with fine motor skills, and that that zipper was going to be an issue. And I could see it written all over his body language. I can't do this. I'm afraid. Everyone else is getting their zippers up. And I just went over and I got right down and real quietly, I said, I'm gonna start your zipper. And you finish it. And at that age, I saved him from shame. Yeah, you know, and I saved him from his own doubt. Like, okay, like, I'm not a hero. It was just a thing, right? This little boy. Yeah, at his age, at preschool everyone was taking that initiative and I knew his temperament. He was an intense kid. And I knew that we were going to be late to getting outside if your tantrum, if you melted down because he was suddenly embarrassed in front of everyone. And so I can even remember the color of his shirt. Yeah, that was one of those moments where like, yep, this is that exact initiative versus shame and doubt, Erik Erikson boom, right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Here it is. There's so many specific little tasks that kids are learning at the stage that, yeah, by the time you're in school age, for most kids, it's like a non. You don't think a thing about zipping your coat once you can do it. You don't think a thing about pouring your own milk once you do it. But it's such a unique age for all of that. Learning to do all that yourself.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, yeah. And then when you talk about Thomas and Chess and their goodness of fit, as a parent, as a teacher, as a caregiver, when you can recognize and adjust your behaviors, your reactions, your tasks, how you say things to them, all of a sudden that good fit happens. And even in moments like that, when he realized that I wasn't going to shame him. And not only that, I was going to save him from embarrassment from his peers. Dude, you don't even know how many things went right after that some days because he trusted me. He trusted that I wasn't going to shame him when he couldn't meet the initiative that everyone else was doing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And sometimes those things will sneak by us. You and I had this conversation recently. I don't remember what it was with my daughter that I was like, oh, she said something mean. I was like, oh my gosh, I should have anticipated that. Like I should have seen that coming. And then you were like, okay, but hold on. The story you just said, you came around and you repaired or you caught back up or you gave her a chance to process it. And so like, yeah, we don't have to plan to catch every single moment in our preschoolers' lives. There's benefits when we do and there's opportunities down the line. Absolutely. In the heat of the moment, too, for sure. Oh, yeah. So let's dig into this. Okay, how do we see this temperament play in these initiative type tasks and and other tasks, how are we seeing it play out with our preschoolers?

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely, so we're going to cover this just like we have the last couple of weeks through the nine traits, remembering that our nine traits are a continuum. We get them all, we gave them all to our kids, and we still have our own nine traits. And how much did we get? Did we get a little? Or did we get a lot? So did we get a lot of activity level or just a little bit? And once we know what our level is what we got, we can then begin to adjust and fit and understand is really the most important piece.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, so the first one is activity level. So did we get a lot of activity level that our body feels very good on the move? Or did we get a lower activity level? And so in preschool, I love how Helen Nevel and Diane Johnson, and how they describe, you can notice lower activity level kids, instead of doing a lot of movement with their feet, they'll do more movement with their hands. So like, tables, right, the kind of table activities like I'm doing crafts. I am putting together puzzles. I'm playing with these small blocks. I'm doing Legos, but you're going to see more of the activities they tend to gravitate to be kind of those lower activity. Versus our higher activity preschoolers are doing the skipping, jumping, sprinting. They gravitate toward that big body play. And I love they said, they talk fast and they move fast. So those high activity preschoolers, you know, they've got places to be, they've got things to go do.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I remember my daughter, which this is going to go right into yours, my low approach daughter on school picture day. It was a thing that parents came with in preschool for picture day. My daughter was just in tears. She was really scared. She'd never been in that room before. She'd never met this person before. It was all the stuff but my she's also active. And so we had to come back for picture retake day, because the first time was not happening. In fact, I wish I could show that picture that we got that first session. But the second time around, you know, ready, knowing I could anticipate her low approach. Right, it was gonna be hard. But we used that high activity level to get out some things it. So we were in a hallway while we were waiting and I remember feeling so ridiculous because the preschool secretary was standing right there doing the pictures. And I was like, no, we're gonna sing our favorite song and we're gonna skip down this hallway while we wait, instead of standing in line. So we were getting out some of that anxious energy and so yes, I could anticipate it because of her approach and activity level. Yes, but okay. So let's talk about that approach.

Lori Korthals:

That's awesome. Okay, so approach withdrawal is the next trait. It goes right hand in hand with the third trait, adaptability. Remembering that approach withdrawal is kind of that initial reaction to something new, someone new, while adaptability shares information about what's happening in those transitions. How comfortable do I feel in those transitions? So in preschool, we might see exactly what you describe, that low approach like picture day. Uh, huh, I'm not going to go take a picture with some strange person. If there are substitutes at preschool, if there are new people coming into our playgroup, if we are that new person in the playgroup. I vividly remember my preschoolers with low approach standing literally on the edge of the sandbox wanting so desperately to get involved in play. Like literally their front body was leaning into the playgroup, but their feet were like, stuck as if they were in cement, you know, and their whole body language is screaming, I want in, I want in, but I don't know how. I'm afraid. I don't know how to start. I don't know how to start. Yes, yes. And the preschooler that's approaching then, that might be the child that says, hey, come play with me. That might be the child that is the first in line to go on that field trip to the fire station. That might be the person that, you know, at the field trip is asking three questions a minute, right? And so that approach withdrawal in preschoolers plays into that ability to adapt. So how then do they transition? And preschoolers have a lot of transitions, just like we said with toddlers, where everything is a transition. We're moving from room to room as preschoolers. We're moving from activity to activity, from person to person. And so when we come along and think about temperament, we think about that low adaptable preschooler, we see that child who really does say no, I'm just really not interested in making this change right now. And I also like to think of it this way, like they're a planner. They have a plan and I love hearing you talk about, you know, asking your preschooler, okay, so what's your plan? Right? Because she has a plan. And you know that she's thinking about it. I also love in Helena Nevel's book, she talks about that that low adapting preschooler might be kind of bossy with their friends, a. because of that plan and b. because they know when their mind what they're comfortable with. Right? Yes. And so the adaptable preschooler, then is that preschooler that, you know, they're going to get along easily with others. You might see them go with the flow. They can change plans fairly quickly. It's raining outside, we can't go outside. Okay, no problem. I'll go do this instead. You know, that the whole idea of flexibility where you might have to teach the less adaptable preschooler to have some flexible thinking. That's not natural to them. It's possible. It's just not natural.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Yes. I regularly have been having I hadn't thought of it that way before that, that is totally me. conversations with my daughter, when like with her cousin, you know, kids she feels safe with. Yeah, you know, so she's like, well, they want us to do it th s way and it's wrong. And it's w ong. Well, it's not wrong. It's different than what you ha in mind. But so she needs hat coaching with her less ada table temperament. Coa hing her through, well, f you're agreeing to pla with somebody, you have to agr e on the same rules of your p ay, right? Like, how could you c mpromise? But it is differen than, you know, my niece you k ow, the one who conceded to y daughter. The one who was l ke, sure, you can be so and so. he one you can see is the more daptable often. Well, and then in intensity. I love how in the ook, Temperament Tools, that hey describe a more emot onally intense child, that ev rything is fabulous or horri le. And I will add, they thi k it's fabulous. Right, excited s ecstatic. And happy is throu h the roof and mad is also thr ugh the roof. Right? But those motions are expressed very vivid y, versus a less intense child or preschooler. I love how th y described it, that strong emotional expression is rare And when it happens, it of en will fade right back into c lm. I can think about the very few times that my partner and I ave had a disagreement that, y u know, I'm intense but he's ot. So we try to really keep it more level and like speak to eac other respectfully, but the fe very few times it has gotten heated, it's like whoop, and it fades right back down. B cause he does, he fades righ back into that calm like th t aggressive or very loud expre sion is very rare for my mil partner. Like when I blow, I blow, but I can go right back down. Yeah. Back into calmness. Yes. Okay. Another trait is sensitivity. So this is related particularly to your five senses. But I love that they describe, does a preschooler, do they notice things around them? And so we've talked about a more sensitive child is the one that you can give the look and that's plenty. Right? They're like, okay, you saw it. Okay, I'll stop. Versus the child that maybe you have a hard time even getting their attention. You know, the look isn't gonna cut it because they weren't picking up the memo. Right? They're not picking up what you're putting down.

Lori Korthals:

That picky eating with a sensitive child.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Do they notice the different textures and a thing about this that I have learned from other people is, a more sensitive child, why do they just want crackers? Because when you eat a cracker, every time you can expect it to be the same - crunchy. When you eat a blueberry sometimes it's juicy, sometimes it's sour, sometimes it's sweet. And so people are like, why does my kid just want mac and cheese? Because it's going to taste the same, right? So the adaptability as well as the sensitivity definitely feed that in preschool. And they can express you for sure, like, I want that. Yeah, yes, yes. That's a tough one. But anyway, so when are they noticing?

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Which you know, is similar to the next two, distractibility and persistence. Distractibility and persistence, that again is, are they picking it up? And then once they pick it up, how long can they persist with it? So if you think about a distractible preschooler, they're going to be perceptive. They're going to notice everything that others miss. They are going to be that child, I can vividly remember planning a super cool circle time in preschool with my three year olds, and I'd gone to the library. I had all the activities. I had the little finger play songs to go with it. And you know what, my little dude noticed a spider up in the corner of the room and that was the end of circle time. Because he caught everything. He was always showing us things that we were missing and you know, they do. They just catch things that people miss. Versus the child that's not distractible, they're going to stay on task and they can literally tune you out. And so sometimes we might take that personally, like they're being defiant. But honestly, if they're very, you know, very low distractible on that continuum. They're not distractible at all. They actually really may not be catching your subtle hint and then tap on that they're also less sensitive. They are in the zone going down and you're going to need to get in their space literally within their eye frame and be like, hey, yoohoo, here. But that's distractibility. They can tune you out if they are not distractible, and they notice everything if they are distractible.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So this is my daughter stopping to see the ants on the way to the car.

Lori Korthals:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, those itty bitty tiny ants. Yeah, absolutely. And then the persistence, so you know the next step then is persistence in terms of, okay, then, once they notice how much do they persist at it. And so a child that is persistent, they are going to practice and practice and practice sometimes to the point of perfectionism. And they really want to color in the lines. They might toss three papers away because they weren't coloring the picture like they wanted to. They didn't create the house. The smile was wrong on the face that they created. Their block tower, they might kick it over because it wasn't exactly how they wanted it. And so that persistent child is going to keep practicing through mastery, where the child who's not persistent, you know, again, thinking about child development, this stage of initiative versus doubt, the child who's not persistent, is really going to find frustration when things are hard. And they're going to probably back away from those hard things. They get discouraged quickly. They don't want to try hard things, Please don't make me. And again, we might think of that as defiance, where it might be a little self preservation on their part. Where I don't I don't want to feel shame. I don't want to feel bad about what I can't do. Please don't make me and so I'm just going to stand here with my arms crossed and say no. Okay, that's a little self preservation because they already know that it's not going to be the way that they want it to be in terms of, you know, it's not going to look right. It's not going to feel right like everyone else's.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Also, I think of the less persistent kid that and I think of painting pumpkins. We painted pumpkins with some friends and the more persistent child is there, is not stopping, needs a long time. Even one of my friends when we do activities like crafty stuff together, I want to be here for like three hours but she's done 10 minutes in. And so yes, in the types of project things that preschoolers do, the beautiful thing about a less persistent preschooler is like, hey, you know what, I tested this out. Good enough. Good enough, not for me. Our last few traits then are regularity and mood. So with regularity, you know, we think about that schedule piece. Are they the clock or are they the cue? That's what we talked about with babies? Yeah, all the clock or do you need to follow their cues because they're a little more irregular? In preschool it's easy to anticipate our more regular kids. The schedule comes naturally to them, and fits right in. One challenge is sometimes with our high or less regular or more irregular kids, I thought that was such an interesting thing, that they can get grouchy because of unmet needs. Yeah. But it's also like, okay, but that's not fair because yesterday when I fed them at noon, it was fine. Today they're falling apart by 11:15. And that's not fair. I'm not meeting their needs. But it's not going to be at a consistent time. For our less regular children. So I just thought that is a really interesting thing that like, it's easier for an irregular child to get overtired, to get overhungry. And if they're less sensitive, like, I tend to be less sensitive and less regular so I don't realize like, oh, I'm in a bad mood because I'm super thirsty.

Lori Korthals:

I think the beauty of this age is that you can offer them choices so they can serve themselves. So like, you know, you can have a snack drawer of healthy snacks. And, you know, lunch may not be served until noon. But now it's

11:

15 and because of their irregular temperament, they really are hungry. And you can have a snack drawer and you can say, you know what, you can grab a snack from the drawer. And I love your story about you know, that you could then take the snack to the table as well, when it was time to eat. Because, you know, just allowing that irregular preschooler some independence, some initiative, building that confidence that they do actually know when they're hungry and when they're tired. You know, offering that chance, you know, here's a soft pillow and blanket. It's not bedtime yet, because we're still at grandma's house, but if you'd like to go lie down in this quiet corner, you absolutely may.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Mm hmm. Yeah. And again, we want to be able to control that regularity. Yeah, we do. We're not ready to go yet. But I do think when they're preschoolers, they do have more skills than they did as toddlers, being like, yep, okay. I'm going to offer you the flexibility to say okay, some days you're going to be hungry, and some days you're not. And some days I'm gonna say yes to snack right after school. Some days I'm not. The rule is yes, you can have a snack. The rule is yes, you can. Just figuring out what makes sense for you with your kids, especially. Yeah, yeah. So it might require a little bit more adaptability from you. Yes. And then the last one is mood and I love in the book Temperament Tools, they were talking about, because they're preschoolers and they're more verbal, and they do more communication, that you can really get a better sense of their mood if they tend to be more glass half empty or glass half full. And so high mood would be more kind of the optimistic, if you would, glass half full, versus the lower mode, just, you know, being able to be a little more critical when they're looking at things that are happening around them. So yes, that temperament is totally like, everything that a preschooler is doing, this temperament is going to flow right through there, for sure.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, absolutely. And again, it shows us even talking through these that there can be both positive things about their temperament and difficult at the same time. And at different ages. So where we maybe, you know, when our child was an infant, that high activity level meant that, you know, they were going to try to practice those physical milestones quicker. Now, here they are in preschool, and we're kind of wishing they, you know, would sit still more or, you know, wouldn't race out ahead of us so far.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Don't run over the restaurant, please.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, exactly. So same kids, same temperament, just a different age. And now we feel differently about it. We felt okay with it when they were two, and now that they're four, we're not feeling okay with that. Just that recognition of that understanding is there.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And so, you know, as we think about some of the research around what are preschoolers doing, what is temperament, and then how these fit together. But then thinking about, let's take a temperament lens to a very specific preschooler issue, and I know you have another good one this week.

Lori Korthals:

I do and this is actually again from our Temperament Tools book from Helen Neville and Diane Clark Johnson, but we thought about, okay, what are parents surfing the net for at 2am? Right. When it comes to preschoolers, we really felt like still it had to do with emotions. Yes, managing strong emotions and toddlers was for sure, absolutely, 100%. But as they're preschoolers, now they still have strong emotions, and they're utilizing them in different ways. And there's actually kind of a phrase for that. And that is that emotional intelligence. And so yes, you've heard that as an adult, or if you're in your business, and you've heard about EQ or emotional intelligence, that's really a skill that we've worked on in preschool. And what that is, is it really is that idea of building that whole process of understanding not only our emotions, but the emotions of others. How can we have that flexible thinking. And then we're also going to bring in a couple of articles from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, she's had some blogs recently on her website, parentchildhelp.com, about aggressive behaviors in preschoolers, and how we can coach them emotionally through them. So we're gonna play around with those a little bit. You want to start with the skills?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I do, and I love that term emotion coach. That gives me a different perspective of like, what am I doing when you're falling apart? I'm gonna coach you through this emotional experience. Yes, one of the first recommendations that they have is to help kids name those feelings, right? They can tell you what they're feeling when they can begin to recognize it. And so, you know, there's some of the obvious feeling words like mad, happy, sad, right? But we know there's more complicated, right? There's disappointed versus frustrated. There's feeling left out, you know, or excited or proud or anticipating, right, like, oh, this is gonna be happening soon. Not that our kids need to have every emotion word ever in the vocabulary. But the more words we can build with them, right? So maybe we start when they're toddlers doing the mad, sad, happy kinds of things. And then we can get into some of those more complex ones, like embarrassed, but we can build that into their vocabulary so that they can tell us about it. That they can tell someone when they do need help navigating emotion like, yeah, I'm feeling kind of embarrassed. Or, you know, I'm feeling left out. And yeah, maybe that's why I was mean to so and so because they made me feel left out. Exactly. When I wanted to play with the kitchen set with him. Like, exactly. I mean, that feeling is a big one.

Lori Korthals:

Super important. And then the second step that we can do is we can help them to calm down and that includes ourself. And you might be thinking, okay, wait, I think that The Science of Parenting, they have a very, very important flagship strategy that they talk about when it comes to calming down. And that is that idea that we can ourselves and we can teach, especially our preschooler, how to stop, breathe, and talk. And remember that that stop allows us to gather ourselves back together, allows us to recognize, hey, wait, things are not happening like I want it to. Emotions are raging out of control. I am in my downstairs brain, my child is in their downstairs brain, we need to get back to our upstairs brain. Stop, take a breath, whether that's literally or figuratively. We can take a nice long six or seven second breath, which remember, research says it's super awesome for us. And we can begin to shift the dynamic or shift the direction of those feelings. When we stop, breathe, talk, what we are doing is making a purposeful connection with our child, with ourselves, with our emotions. And it's just this conscious effort to be able to say okay, things aren't going the way that I want them to. I'm going to bring it all back in and then go in the direction that I want things to happen. That's that idea of calming not only our child down but ourself as well.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, for sure. And, you know, that really does go right into kind of the next viewer to understand the feeling and to describe the feeling and to measure the feeling. And so this idea of understanding the feeling. When we stop and we're like, I have a feeling, big exclamation point, is one way to describe it. It's like, there is a feeling, there's a feeling for me. Um, but teaching that to our kids also helps understand them more. I feel like I'm still really learning this as an adult, the physical experience of a feeling. What is my body doing? I've realized I feel this particular emotion right behind my eyes. I feel tension in my shoulders. So getting more in tune and more mindful of what's happening of the experience you're having and understanding what it is. And sometimes it is explaining to your child, right, especially as we start to teach those more complex emotions of like, feeling embarrassed, feeling disappointed, you know. Those are essentially vocabulary words we're introducing to them. And so defining that so they can understand when I say, are you feeling left out? Right? Are you feeling disappointed? Are you feeling frustrated? Whatever those emotion words might be. And so helping kids understand the feeling, and then helping kids measure the feeling. And I love this that you can, you know, I'm a little disappointed, or I'm just really devastated. Right? They're both similar feelings, but the difference in the amount. And one of the other things I think goes right along with that, that we talk a lot about, we talk about a lot with our kids, is this idea of like, you can feel more than one thing at the same time. Yeah, so we talked about it with my daughter when we had gone away not that long ago. And she was like, well, I missed you. And I was having fun with Grandma and Papa. Like, she felt bad like I wasn't supposed to be having fun. And I was like, yeah, both of those things can be true, right? And so you can feel left out and feel glad I'm playing with this other friend. Yeah. And so I do think you can feel a little of this, and a lot of that, or a little of both. And so helping your kids measure, is this a little or a lot? And being cautious not to assume how much it is. Exactly. You're so upset, and they're like, well, I'm not that mad.

Lori Korthals:

Yeah. So these are ways that we can help our kids build emotional intelligence, right? We're naming the feeling, we're helping to calm down, we're measuring the feeling we're describing the feeling, and also understanding that there may be first feelings and second feelings. So maybe we see that our child is angry. But what was that first feeling that made them angry, so they might have been frustrated, or they might have felt lonely? And then they felt angry in their response, or their behavior is one of anger. But we can help them begin to understand well, what was that first feeling? And once we can understand what that first feeling was, we can then work on solving the problem. And that, I think, is where the Temperament Tools book and Mary's article on emotion coaching comes in, kind of ties in together. So as a parent, you can be an emotion coach, and you can help solve the child's problems by asking them some questions. You might ask them, like, what happened? And what did you think or what was it that you were worried about? And maybe they were worried that they'd have to play all by themselves? And so what did you do? I hit him. I hit him because I was worried about having to play by myself. And the emotion coach parent then says, well, what could you do next time? How could we solve this problem in a way that works better? And Mary talks about the importance of that emotion coach being really consistent. So you're going to help them solve the problem, but you're going to do it in a consistent way, so that you get the desired behavior. You want them to put their toys away the first time that you asked them to come to dinner. Okay, so they get angry, right? But what was the first problem? They were frustrated because they had to put their toys away. They got angry. I wasn't done. Okay. But the emotion coach then says, oh, I could tell that you were angry but it was frustrating to have to put your toys away because it was dinner. What could we do next time? And this is my expectation. Yes. And this is my expectation every single time. Yep. Not maybe today, and maybe in six weeks, but every single time, this is my expectation. And sometimes it's super hard for us to be consistent, but especially with intense kids, with non-adaptable kids, with kids who have high activity level, you know, those more challenging. As Mary calls it "spirited kids", they need us to be consistent so that they can expect our reaction to their behavior every single time.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, we can predict by using their temperament. Our consistency is going to let them predict which hopefully helps them get more consistent behavior. Right. Like, oh, they do come to supper when I call.

Lori Korthals:

They do. Yeah. Oh, gosh, we've covered a lot. Yes, preschoolers. Oh, we have.

Mackenzie Johnson:

But I know Mackenzie DeJong is sitting in the back waiting just on pins an needles just to ask us a qu stion.

Mackenzie DeJong:

On pins and needles indeed. For those who may not know, I'm Mackenzie DeJong, podcast producer and question asker. So, my question today comes a little bit from our friend, Barb Dunn Swanson. And something that is very unique to a preschooler is, it's that first time we have that word schooler in there, right? First time, either when they're going to preschool or maybe the first time they go to kindergarten, because even our kindergarteners fall kind of within this age, right? Yes, yes. Although I was an old kindergartener, I went when I was six. I had a lot of learning to do. So they're navigating that completely new situation and us as parents, we're helping them in that situation. So a few examples that either we talked about this or we talked about other things related to going into the preschool setting or into the school setting. Things that Barb gave us examples for this. So parents might find themselves helping a distractible child learn to focus as they navigate that new preschool environment. Parents might need to assist a low approach child with feelings of apprehension about going to school, when they'd rather be at home or where everything is familiar, right? Or that child who is somewhat loud or are intense people like Mackenzie, how to navigate in that classroom where sometimes we have to speak with those inner voices or have quiet time. That's our new reality. How as parents can we help our child and help our child's teachers navigate temperament?

Lori Korthals:

Okay, step one, do a temperament profile, right? I got it first! On... they have a temperament pr

Mackenzie Johnson:

That's what I was gonna say. file there. Temperament.com has rofiles, and we are sharing one n our blog or on our Facebook page. You know, just a quick, okay, here are the nine traits what do you think? And just all w yourself, if you can, take o e for yourself and your chil or your co-partner, and just l ok at the differences in there And then listen back to s me of the episodes in season t ree and talking about, okay, I oticed on the temperament profi e that I did, that my ch ld is highly intense. Okay, go

Mackenzie DeJong:

My child really struggles to be quiet back to season three and listen o the whole podcast where we alked about intensity the whole time. Because like Mackenzie sh red last week, temperament i like a window we see into ur child's behavior. And we ca clean off the dirty stuff on he window every time we talk a out temperament, and there is t mperament research. So researc tidbit number on a lower bound for the job that says that ust the mere fact of doing t e profile and starting to think about your child's temperament actually begins to improve he goodness of fit. So you don t have to buy a bunch of books, you don't have to, you know, go o a temperament consultation rivately. Research shows hat just that very initial step f beginning to understand your child's temperament hel s that goodness of fit, which when it comes to those fi st opportunities to go into sc ool allows you to say, I can pre ict my child is going to feel un omfortable in this situation. I hould let my child's teach r know. during...

Lori Korthals:

Yes, I should let my teacher know.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Apparently a warning didn't work for me in school. I was always kept inside. You know, when you get older, they consider that the quote most outgoing but also kept inside the most. But to prepare the teacher, say they're going to be loud, they're going to have a hard time being quiet to understand them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, well, and I think of the opportunities to communicate. You know, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka talks a lot about it. And when she talks about raising your spirited child, helping when you can frame your child's temperament in a positive way, can help other people see their strengths. And which for some, you know, for some teachers that might come naturally. And for others that might be hard, right, that there might be certain temperament traits that are especially challenging to them because of their temperament or their experiences. And so yeah, if you have a highly distractible child, right, and that may be you know, for a teacher that's navigating however many kids in a preschool classroom or in a kindergarten classroom, it can be like, come on kid. But helping the opportunities to communicate with your child's teacher about the beautiful gift of temperament that your child has. And so I really encourage, you know, we are kind of fairly early into the school year if you're listening to this as these are releasing, but you know, before the before the school year starts looking for opportunities during school conferences. But yeah, any of those chances you get, helping to kind of give the positive word. And you know, it lets teachers know, you know, I am in tune with my child. I'm here to help, like, let's talk through what's going on. We all want to see my kid be successful. Right? So that communication of finding the positive way to talk about it.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Yeah. And then you made me realize, maybe I should have talked to her positively about myself. Yes. The girl who talks a lot in school, she's on a podcast now.

Mackenzie Johnson:

There's two of us here.

Mackenzie DeJong:

But really, the idea of that is helping you realize and helping your child's teacher realize that, like we like to say, you're raising little adults? Like you're raising them, like successful adults.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Maybe they'll have their own podcast someday.

Lori Korthals:

Great question. Yeah. Thanks.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So much good stuff happening in preschool, you know, in the formal school environment. And if you've got, you know, your preschoolers that are at home, your kindergarteners, all that kind of stuff. But yeah, they're doing so much with the world and learning so much about it. So much initiative of like, I'm gonna figure out how to zip this, I'm gonna figure out how to cut this. There's a lot of skills that go into it. And their temperament is a huge part of how that plays out for them.

Lori Korthals:

It is absolutely. So thanks for joining us this week. Next week, we are going to be talking about those elementary school aged children or in season three, I think we called it middle childhood. Yeah. And so yeah, we're gonna be talking about the things that are happening developmentally with them and how temperament rolls in and interferes or interacts or implodes whatever their child's development skills are at that time. So thanks for joining us this week on The Science of Parenting podcast. We would love it if you are interested in chatting with us, you can email us at parenting@iastate.edu. Yes, we'd love to have you join us.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, you can email us questions anytime. So please do feel free to do that and 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.