Each child is born with genetic predispositions for a specific behavioral style. Your child’s behavior style is described by her patterns of reactivity, regulation and flexibility. Reactivity describes how intense a response your child will show to a stimulus. Other components to reactivity include sensory sensitivity and overall motor activity level. Regulation describes outlook and how emotions are expressed.  Lastly, flexibility describes his ability to relate to change and transitions in terms of schedules, routines, rituals and social interactions. These patterns are commonly described as either happy, mellow or fussy babies. As a child grows older we describe more complex mood patterns as well as attention profiles, motor skill performance and sleep habits.

These genetic predispositions can be influenced by environmental stimuli, historical events and interpersonal relationships. The influence can either inhibit certain predispositions or accelerate and enhance patterns of response. The result is described as a layering of new circuitry within the brain. This circuitry allows new skills to develop. These new skills can reflect past genetic predispositions or not. The attention and stimulation you provide your infant and child will determine what response patterns are
expressed. Your responses may be positive or negative. Children respond to both. It is important you avoid negative or aversive responses. The greatest success is seen with a positive supportive focus based on love, safety and security. Without this support no alignment with or attachment to new patterns of behavior will occur.

One of the most important environmental stimuli is your own temperament. How you respond to your child depends not only on the sought after behavior but also on your own temperament. Take time to understand your own behavioral style. Examine your own mood patterns, attention span, flexibility and overall ability to control your own impulses even when you would prefer not to. It is this combination of temperaments that  determines the family environment which also provides a direct influence on behavior style.  In addition, your perception of your own parenting skills is strongly influenced by your child’s temperament and the family environment.

This reciprocal reaction between your temperament, your child’s temperament and the family environment are the prime determinants of the behavioral style your child will develop. Will he be agreeable, confident, happy, internally motivated and competent or will he be irritable, restless, unsettled, withdrawn, angry, easily frustrated overcautious, unpredictable and withdrawn. Your involvement in the development and support of these skill sets and new brain circuits is one of the most important duties of any parent. Your awareness of the complexity of these interactions allows you to influence your child to grow up with compassion and respect for himself and for others.