Understanding Consent Theory Can Help You Be Better Parents

It is a cliché to say that every child is different, but it is undoubtedly true that different children need different types or support and will thrive in different environments. A child with a relaxed temperament can thrive in a traditional classroom setting, while someone who is energized can be destructive and someone who is struggling with social anxiety can find it all overwhelming.

As it turns out, the interaction between a child’s temperament and their environment (whether at school or at home) plays an important role in shaping how they grow up. Child development experts call this the theory of “consent” : a child who is well adapted to his environment will be able to cope with the demands and expectations it places on him. Poor seating can mean that the child is under stress and may be misbehaving.

Your child’s temperament interacts with the environment

Along with their ability to regulate their emotions, a child’s natural temperament influences how he reacts to a given situation. Temperament includes traits such as level of activity, level of distraction, ability to adapt to new situations, as well as their level of sensitivity and general mood.

When consent theory was first introduced in the 1970s, it focused primarily on the interaction between parents and their children: did the parent’s expectations and requirements for the child match his temperament? But today, the same considerations are being given to other areas of a child’s life, including the classroom. “We now also think a lot about [their] environment and how to make sure it fits,” said Melissa Goldberg-Minz, child psychologist and founder of Secure Base Psychology, PLLC .

Some children will have more difficulty in certain conditions.

The right environment for one child may be the worst environment for another. A child with a lot of energy can do very well in an environment in which he is allowed to be active, but fight in a quiet, balanced environment. A child with social anxiety can find it much more difficult in an environment where he is expected to have regular contact with more people, but does well in a more intimate environment. Meanwhile, a relaxed child can find himself in a dynamic, stressful environment.

“The key for parents is to meet their child where he is and accept him as he is,” says Goldberg-Minz.

Often the key to ensuring a good fit between your child and his environment is to make the child feel accepted and understood. This may seem difficult if your child’s temperament is very different from your own – for example, if you are very outgoing and they are very shy – but in reality, the key is simply to understand what kind of environment and what types of interaction are best for your child. instead of imposing your expectations on them. You may not fully understand what your child is going through, but you can do your best to embrace them and support them as they are. “It’s about the flexibility of parents who can meet their child wherever they are and find a way to make sure their needs are met,” Goldberg-Minz said.

What to do if the environment is not right

In his practice, Goldberg-Mintz meets many parents who are under intense pressure to get their child to meet social and academic expectations, some of which may not always match their child’s temperament.

This may take the form of feeling the need to nudge their children to socialize, take extra extracurricular activities, or try to get them to sit quietly in class. Even for the most well-meaning parents, this can lead to pressure on children that will only exacerbate their struggles, as the real problem may be that they are poorly suited to, say, their particular classroom environment.

While encouraging your child to step out of their comfort zone can be a rewarding experience, Goldberg-Mintz recommends prioritizing acceptance and understanding.

“If your child feels like you are taking him, it will be easier for him to try something new,” she said. “If they feel a lot of pressure [from you], they won’t like it. The more they feel supported and accepted, the easier it will be for them. “

Even if a child is in a difficult situation that they cannot get out of, parental support and understanding can go a long way in helping them cope. “If a child feels seen and understood, it makes it much easier to transfer the burden,” Goldberg-Minz said.

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