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Current Issue of BDINews
Caring for the High Maintenance Child
By Kate Andersen.

Coping with High Maintenance Traits. March, 2018.
Dear Kate:
Derek, is now two and has always been a "crybaby". As an infant, he would not nap unless someone held him......
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Coping with High Maintenance Traits: Shifting to a Positive Focus

Making the Positive Shift

One the most important things you can do in coping with a child's temperament is to celebrate the child's uniqueness. This is one way to send a child the message that he or she is acceptable and worthy. High maintenance children, by my definition, have more than just a challenging temperament - they also have some extra burdens, such as a learning disability or health problem. Sending a positive message to children about their individuality can be applied to learning differences as well as to temperament traits. It truly does take all kinds to make a world. Melissa tends to be impulsive and work fast. She gets a lot done, but she often misses a few details. Melissa worked on a project with Tom, a youngster who was cautious, careful and slow. Together they produced work that was much better than it would have been if either had been doing it alone!

Some parents and caregivers complain that they don't want to be seen as minimizing real deficits or abnormal behavior by being positive all the time. Certainly, you don't want to fool yourself that a child's cruel and aggressive acts towards peers are just a sign of healthy energy. It's important to make distinctions between behaviors that are innocent expressions of temperament or learning difference and behaviors that should be changed by intervention. If in doubt, go back to the list of the nine temperament traits and make sure you know what is temperament and what is not. Do the same for learning difficulties and health problems. Once you know what is part of your child's make-up and cannot be changed right now, then you can start looking for the positive sides of those traits.

How can parents and other caregivers convey their acceptance of a child's individual differences? The first step is to make sure you have changed your own attitudes and thought processes about those traits. It's easy enough to SAY "Aaron, I love your energy" but if you are gritting your teeth when you say it and thinking to yourself ("why can't he settle down?"), the child is likely to read the non-verbal message much more clearly than the words. I know it's hard to be positive when you have been worn down by tantrums and power-struggles all day long. Indeed, sometimes it's impossible. Many parents of high maintenance children are clinically depressed. (This is something you should seek treatment for, by the way. We will talk more about clinical depression in other newsletters.) It's okay to start out by ACTING positive as long as you change your body-language and tone of voice to match the pretense. Research has shown that by repeating positive thoughts and sending positive messages, we can change actually change our moods and thinking patterns. The more positive mood may help us to see our child more positively and when we see our child more positively, the child is often able to feel better about him or herself and behave more positively.

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