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Handling an Intense Kid

Having a personality clash with your child? Parenting pro Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., solves this and other tricky kid problems.
 

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QUESTION: I’m pretty laid back, but my son is intense with a capital I: Competitive and a know-it-all, he loves being better than everyone. How can I relate to him better?

ANSWER: Here’s one of life’s dirty little secrets: Some kids are harder to parent than others — and it can be even more difficult when you and your child don’t naturally click.

The good news, though, is that you already recognize the style differences between you and your son, and that will go a long way to helping you maintain a positive connection and compensate for the disparity. (When that awareness is lacking, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a cycle of clash and conflict.) Here’s what you can do to stay close:

FOCUS on your child’s motives and goals as opposed to the frustrating methods he sometimes uses to achieve them. For instance, if he’s speaking negatively about others publicly, you can scold him for his actions, or realize he’s trying to (ineffectively) get social attention. With his motive in mind, you can help him to execute his goal in more positive and productive ways, like helping him see the good in people.

DEVELOP rituals that foster togetherness. Building a bank of shared memories will become the tie that binds. Make a date to do something he loves one week and something you both love the next.

ADJUST your parenting style to match his temperament. Does he manage his emotions and behaviors well and thus need fewer structured interactions with you? Or does he lose control more easily?

When you better understand his needs, you can pull back — or jump in — at appropriate times. That simple change clearly shows your child that you get where he’s coming from and are there to help. It also makes it a lot easier to forge a deep appreciation of who your child is, separate from the love you feel as his mom.


QUESTION: With summer fast approaching, I’m signing my kids up for camps that will cover the entire summer. We need the childcare, but it feels like they’ll have no downtime. Help!

ANSWER: One of the great things about summer is that it has downtime built into it — the warm weather allows kids to spend more time outside expanding their interests, even when they’re in camp all day. That said, there’s still a lot you can do to help your kids feel relaxed and free: The first is to involve your children while you’re planning their activities. When kids have a say in what they do, their schedule instantly becomes fun and exciting. If possible, try to plan a few weeks with less going on, whether it’s through a family vacation or by choosing a less structured camp.

Changing up the types of activities they do also provides its own sort of downtime, so mix things up a bit. And don’t forget about friends! Ask your kids if they want to sign up with a pal. It’s impossible not to have a blast when you’re with a buddy!

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