January 25, 2010

Twins Have Their Own Temperament and Risk-Taking Style

by Susan Davis and Nancy Eppler-Wolff

Lizzie and Lucy are 6 year old fraternal twins. Both have thick auburn curls and  chocolate brown eyes, but that’s where the similarity ends. They are fraternal twins, and like all other siblings they have different personalities, talents and temperaments. They are especially close, as most twins are, since they were born together, and together they learned that a cry leads to mommy’s attention, smiling begets another smile, and anger engages – and pushes people away. They are each other’s almost constant companion. Lizzie and Lucy know one other better than even their parents know them. They are exquisitely sensitive to each other’s feelings, wants and desires  – and they can also push each other’s buttons like no one else can.

When Lizzie and Lucy’s Mom, Jessica, supervises them on a playdate with their friend, Emily, she’s amazed by how differently the girls approach a social situation.  Lizzie Immediately greets Emily’s Mom with a resounding, “Hi!”, runs up to Emily and dives into plans for the playdate. “Lucy and I brought our new poly-pockets and we want to play pet store!” Lucy, on the other hand, hangs back with mom, holding her hand and staying quiet. Jessica, a relaxed and confident parent, allows Lucy to take her time to warm up to the situation, and respects Lucy’s own pace. When Emily’s Mom comments, within Lucy’s earshot, “Wow she is so shy!”  Jessica casually responds, “ Lucy has her own style — as we all do”. Jessica then offers to walk Lucy upstairs to Emily’s room where the other two girls are already playing. Lucy says ok, and then happily joins her sister and friend; quietly at first, then with joyful abandon.

Lizzie and Lucy were born with very different temperaments and risk-taking styles. This gets played out in the girls’ choice of activities and approach to situations.  Lizzie gets energized by stimulation, while Lucy withdraws from loud, fast-paced situations. Lucy thoughtfully thinks through a situation before acting, while Lizzie can be impulsive, sometimes acting out in ways that get her in trouble. Lizzie is  fearless in her gymnastics classes, ready to fly through the air at a moment’s notice, while Lucy loves her ballet classes in which she works hard to perfect her plie and releve.

Lizzie is a natural risk-taker, but can be prone to sometimes taking a dangerous risk. Jessica went on more than a few visits to the pediatrician due to Lizzie’s falls in the playground when she, for example, insisted on hanging head-first from monkey bars before she was able to hold on with her bent knees.  However, as time goes on and Jessica uses each situation as a teaching opportunity, Lizzie learns to first think through her actions before doing them. In contrast, Lucy needs to be encouraged to take good risks, and she tends to err on the side of caution. Each semester, before beginning a new dance class, Lucy worries that it might be too hard for her, and that she may not know any of the kids in the class. With encouragement and each successful adjustment to a new class, Jessica helps Lucy take on new challenges. She helps Lucy learn to tolerate the strong feelings of normal anxiety that comes with trying new experiences. Jessica has learned that different children require different parenting strategies.

Jessica’s twin girls who were diapered, bathed and read to at same time, require different parenting. Jessica is keenly aware of her daughters’ temperamental differences, and her ability as their parent to influence their development. By the time Lizzie and Lucy are 16, instead of 6, there’s a good possibility that  Lucy will overcome some of her shyness, and be the one to walk first into a social activity or speak up in class; and Lizzie, who has learned to think before she acts, may be the one to caution Lucy about taking it slow with a cute boy who asks her on a date. That’s one of the great parts about parenting. When we know our children well, we can guide them to take the healthy risks that are necessary to become thoughtful, balanced and confident people.

Drs. Davis and Eppler-Wolff are Clinical Psychologists and co-authors of the book, Raising Children Who Soar. You can visit their website at http://www.raisingchildrenwhosoar.com <http://www.raisingchildrenwhosoar.com>


January 26, 2010 at 3:26 am 1 comment

Raising Confident Children in a Risky World – Peer Groups

Social groups are important to children– especially  to tweens and teens Many parents wonder how they can equip their children to help them retain their sense of self awareness and individuality, and to resist negative peer pressure, even though they are part of a group. 

Sometimes these groups bring out very positive functions; protection from bullies; bringing together children with similar interests and values.  At other times, they may function to exclude and demean others so that members of the group may feel less insecure.   Children who are raised by parents who  understand the complexities of  these social pressures, and who encourage healthy risk-taking can help their children better navigate the complexities of peer groups.. Children who are good risk-takers are ready to cope with social and emotional issues that emanate from group mentality   They have the courage  and the confidence to risk their own position in the social hierarchy, and they are prepared to express their own convictions and feelings –  even if they go against the group’s norm.

October 13, 2009 at 2:44 am 1 comment

Parenting for Bully Awareness

upset boy against a wall

Unfortunately, bully behavior is all too common in our schools. Mental health experts recognize that the bully often suffers from feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, and he (or she) torments another child in an attempt to boost himself (or herself) up. This certainly constitutes bad risk-taking behavior. While bullies often benefit from individual counseling, research also indicates that bullying can be reduced up to 50% when there’s a school-wide commitment to ending it. 

To coincide with National Bully Prevention Awareness week, Center for Social and Emotional Education (CSEE) is launching a BullyBust Partner School Program on October 4th, which provides schools with free resources and activities to support their bully prevention and upstander-focused initiatives for improved school safety. BullyBust is an effective bully prevention awareness campaign because it is designed to help students “stand up” to bullying and become part of the solution to end harmful verbal harassment, teasing, and violence in our nation’s schools. 

If you’d like to join BullyBust (www.bullybust.org), and become part of a nationwide movement to stand up to bullying in schools, please click on the link for more information. This program is created by the Center for Social and Emotional Education (CSEE), For more information on bullies in school check out CSEE’s newsletter: http://schoolclimate.org/about/newsletter.php.

September 26, 2009 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

Children and Confidence

This is an excerpt from an article we wrote that appeared in The Christian Science Monitor in August:

New York – “NYC Prep” just had its season finale, and it seems everyone from high school students to TMZ is talking about it; the latest in TV reality shows. It’s a perspective on the seamy pettiness of a handful of wealthy teenagers.

These teens were filmed spending most of their time (when not in school) shopping, going to fashion shows, dining at expensive restaurants, and espousing their narrow perspectives on life. Though it’s certainly not life typical of all teens, the resulting banality is exactly what happens to you when you don’t challenge yourself, or your children.

The lives of the “NYC Prep” teens are largely devoid of healthy risks – so they fill their lives making poor choices. Their wealth pampers them and encloses them in a world of petty gossip and unhealthy risk-taking. One of the boys this season, for example, alludes to using cocaine. Another one of the teens holds parties in her apartment rather than focusing on her schoolwork.

Unfortunately, such unwise risk-taking is not confined to reality television or the wealthy. Any child who has not learned to take good risks will take poor ones instead.

Examples include the 10-year-old who rides his skateboard on a busy street to show his friends how “cool” he is, or the 14-year-old who doesn’t try out for the school chorus because she is afraid that she will be rejected. Left unchecked, these choices can severely limit a child’s success and happiness.

Children of all ages need to challenge themselves by taking everyday risks that promote confidence, accomplishment, and a greater capacity for tolerance and compassion.

To read the full article <click here>

September 4, 2009 at 2:01 am Leave a comment

Risk-Taking in School – Back To School Balance


September and another academic year are upon us.  Our  children  put on their new clothes, carry their lunches, and head back to school.  Are they motivated for achievement?  Will they be able to withstand the inevitable disappointments and failures that come with trying out new challenges in the classroom?  Parents who understand the importance of nurturing good risk-taking behavior are sending their child to class with more than the latest in footwear. 

Learning is a natural arena of growth – and risk – for children.  As our children put forth hard work and determination, they are also reaching into the unknown – without knowing if they will succeed or fail.  Sometimes,  doubts of being able to learn new material and articulating wrong answers cause  embarrassing situations that can make our children withdraw.  And, for young children there is the added risk of separation from the primary caregiver.

By nurturing risk and recognizing challenge and failure as a normal part of life, we can help our children make their way through another school year with all of its highs and lows.

For more information about Risk-Taking in School, see Chapter 5 of Raising Children Who Soar

August 26, 2009 at 3:33 am Leave a comment

Parenting For Good Risk-Taking

RCWS tree photo“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
-e.e. cummings

As parents we help create an environment for our children that shapes the risk-taking style they carry with them throughout their lives. We all want our children to be strong and caring. We want them to make good decisions in school, at home and with friends. Part of that ability comes  parents being able to see ourselves honestly. By honestly assessing our strengths and weaknesses, parents can more easily see  children for whom they are, rather than as an extension of whom we would like them to be.

Careful listening also nourishes our child’s decision-making abilities. With the myriad distractions of modern life, however, listening must be a conscious act. When we  pay attention to how  our children look when they are talking to us,  their facial expressions, body language and demeanor, we can often hear more  than the words they are saying. Renowned psychoanalyst and author Chaim Ginott (1965) wrote, “The beginning of wisdom is listening”. Listening must be an active process that involves focusing on the one person to the relative exclusion of other people and things. Listening takes practice and patience. But parents who are able to focus on what their children are really saying become better attuned, and more precise sounding boards for their children.

To read more, see Chapter 3, The Parent’s Part, in Raising Children Who SOAR.

August 23, 2009 at 5:29 pm

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