2.4. Uninvolved Parenting
An uninvolved parent has few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. These parents fulfill the child’s basic needs (like food and shelter) but they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, they may even reject or neglect the needs of their children. Uninvolved parents are emotionally distant from their children, offer little or no supervision, show little warmth, love and affection towards their children, don’t attend school events and parent-teacher conferences, and are often too overwhelmed by their own problems (e.g., being overworked, coping with depression, struggling with substance abuse) to deal with their children. (Cherry)
The children of uninvolved parents:
- Must learn to provide for themselves.
- Fear becoming dependent on other people.
- Are often emotionally withdrawn.
- Tend to exhibit more delinquency during adolescence.
- Feel fear, anxiety or stress due to the lack of family support.
- Have an increased risk of substance abuse.
These children generally perform poorly in nearly every area of life and display deficits in cognition, attachment, emotional skills and social skills. The complete lack of boundaries makes it more likely that these children will misbehave and have difficulty learning appropriate behaviors and limits in school and other social situations. (Cherry)
3. Understanding the Child
When asked, most parents would say that their job is to help their children to become independent, self-sufficient, and productive members of society or some variation of this response. Ultimately, what parents do has a profound effect on whom their children grow up to be but that isn’t the only part of the equation. In Know You Child, Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas explored personality in their longitudinal study of the nine major temperaments found in children. These temperaments – qualities and characteristics that contribute to their individual personalities – describe three types of children, the “easy” child, the “difficult” child, and the “slow to warm up” child. (Nelson, J., Erwin, C., & Duffy, R., 1998) This section will discuss the influence of temperament on the needs of the child. It is not intended to label children as good or bad but to help parents understand the uniqueness of every child and help them to respond in ways that encourage development and growth.
3.1. The Influence of Temperament
The nine temperament traits are as follows. All children possess varying degrees of each characteristic.
- Activity level – Is the child always moving and doing something or does he/she have a more relaxed style?
- Rhythmicity – Is the child regular in his or her eating and sleeping habits or somewhat haphazard?
- Initial Response (Approach or Withdrawal) – Does he/she tend to shy away from new people or things or enjoy meeting new people and challenges?
- Adaptability – Can he/she adjust to changes in routines or plans easily or does he/she resist transitions?
- Sensory Threshold – Is he/she bothered by external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, or food textures or does he/she tend to ignore them?
- Quality of Mood – Does he/she often express a negative outlook or is he/she generally a positive person? Does his/her mood shift frequently or is he/she usually event-tempered?
- Intensity of Reaction – Does he/she react strongly to situations, either positive or negative, or does he/she react calmly and quietly?
- Distractibility – Is he/she easily distracted from what he/she is doing or can he/she shut out external distractions and stay with the current activity?
- Persistence and Attention Span – Does he/she give up as soon as a problem arises with a task or does he/she keep on trying? Can he/she stick with an activity a long time or does his/her mind tend to wander?
These traits combine to form three basic temperament types:
- Easy or Flexible – Children who are generally calm, happy, regular in sleeping and eating habits, adaptable, and not easily upset.
- Difficult, Active or Feisty – Children who are often fussy, irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, fearful of new people and situations, easily upset by noise and commotion, high strung, and intense in their reactions.
- Slow to Warm up or Cautious – Children who are relatively inactive and fussy, tend to withdraw or to react negatively to new situations, but their reactions gradually become more positive with continuous exposure.
Understanding the child’s “style” and temperament encourages acceptance instead of unrealistic expectations. An awareness of temperament helps parents understand why different methods are more effective than others. Each temperament, and child, possesses strengths and weaknesses. Parents can help each unique child build on his/her strengths and manage his/her weaknesses, while providing opportunities to learn new skills. It isn’t only important to understand the child’s temperament but the parent must try to understand their own temperament. This can reduce the amount of conflicts that arise due to temperament clashing. When a parent understands the child’s temperament, they can organize the environment so that “goodness of fit” happens. (Oliver)