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Caring for the High Maintenance Child
By Kate Andersen.

Child with Short Fuse. February, 2018.
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We have a 5 1/2 year old daughter that has been chronically inflexible and easily frustrated.....
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Children with a Short Fuse-Negative Mood & Inflexibility

The Child With A Short Fuse: A Temperament Perspective

by Kate Andersen

Temperament research has revealed that some children are less adaptable, more negative, and more intense than others. Careful evaluation may reveal no allergies, learning disabilities, depression or history of abuse to explain the child's low tolerance of frustration and angry outbursts. Measurement of temperament could reveal the source of the problem! Negative, intense and inflexible youngsters are often described as having "a short fuse" when they are under stress. A common source of stress for such children is a "poor fit" at home, at school or with peers. When the source of frustration is a poor fit, the solution is simple in theory. Improve the fit and the child's symptoms will subside (though the temperament itself cannot be expected to change very much). However, accepting the basis of the problem can be harder in practice. Here are some of the common stumbling-blocks:

1. UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT NEGATIVE MOOD AS A TEMPERAMENT TRAIT AND NOT A SYMPTOM.

There are many professionals and some parents who simply do not believe that mood can have a basis in temperament. To these people, negative mood is always a sign that "something is wrong". This misconception can create many problems in the parent-child relationship. A common one is psychoanalysis - searching for the hidden pain or worry that just is not there.

2. THE FACT THAT NEGATIVE MOOD IS STRESSFUL IN RELATIONSHIPS.

Intense, inflexible and negative mood expression is wearing on parents and others. Interacting with children who display these behaviors often does not feel rewarding. In fact, some parents of such children become clinically depressed after years and years of unsatisfying interactions. The lack of gratification can make it difficult to motivate parents to change their ways of responding to the child.

3. FAILURE TO CONSIDER OTHER TEMPERAMENT TRAITS INTERACTING WITH THE MOOD.

For example, a child with negative mood who also has a low sensory threshold may become very negative and difficult to deal with after an overload of sounds, smells or other sensory stimuli. All of the child's traits and other characteristics need to be considered in a stress reduction plan.

4. PROBLEMS REALIZING THAT MOOD CAN HAVE A BIOLOGICAL BASIS AND FLUCTUATE THROUGHOUT THE DAY (OR WEEK) IN UNPREDICTABLE WAYS.

Some parents report that they can tell from the tone of their child's voice first thing in the morning how the day will go. When moods are being affected by a child's basic wiring, parents need to let go of the guilt and be prepared for "good days" and "bad days", "good hours" and "bad hours". Adults often expect others to know that their moods change for no good reason. Why is it so hard to accept this fact about some children?

5. PROFESSIONAL DISLIKE OF SUCH CHILDREN.

This is a painful issue for parents and a shocking reality. Some mental health professionals and teachers find negative, intense and inflexible children objectionable and do not try hard to hide their feelings towards these children. You may hear comments about your child's "attitude problem" or you may simply notice the professional shift into a negative mindset, often hinting that you have messed up your child. RUN, DO NOT WALK, TO ANOTHER PROFESSIONAL! REMOVE YOUR CHILD FROM THAT TEACHER'S CLASSROOM AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Your child has a right to be respected regardless of temperament.

 
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