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Temperament Tools
by Helen F. Neville, B.S., R.N. with Diane Clark Johnson, CFLE
Helen Neville

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Feature stories:
Your Baby's Not Who You Expected? Temperament Is Why, Says Helen Neville
Parenting is a tough, tough job, says author Helen Neville

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Feature Story
Your Baby's Not Who You Expected?
Temperament Is Why, Says Helen Neville

Ask Helen F. Neville why the newly revised Temperament Tools: Working with Your Child's Inborn Traits is an essential guide for parents and she's quick to reply, "A majority of parents don't end up with exactly the baby or child they imagined. Temperament Tools describes how children are different and tells us how to bring out the best in the child we have."

Another important point to understand inborn temperament traits: each child is a new experience. "What we learn about managing the first one's temperament won't necessarily help with the next," says the author. "In addition, the job description keeps changing because as soon as we feel competent with one stage of development, children have moved to the next."

Tailored for today's busy parents and early childhood professionals, this revision of Neville's much praised temperament guide is succinct and clear, providing practical strategies for understanding and managing temperament.

"Creating a good fit between temperament and environment is crucial to well-being," emphasizes Neville, who started her career as a pediatric nurse and has spent decades studying temperament. " Parents need tools that suit each child's temperament."

Temperament Tools explains the connection between inborn temperament traits and behavior: for example, why mellow children whine while intense ones scream. The author also discusses how toddlers who hit need to be taught ways to manage their strong emotions while cautious children must learn to cope with the stress of new environments and activities. "Slow-to-adapt children—I call them 'natural planners'—need a clear vision of what lies ahead and are much easier to deal with when they get it."

Temperament, which is inborn, affects how each baby and child interacts with parents, siblings, education, life situations and culture. "All these factors combine into a final personality, which current research describes as approximately 50 percent nature and 50 percent nurture," Neville goes on. "Understanding temperament is crucial to understanding both children and families. A child may be like Mom, Dad, or Auntie—or have his or her own unique set of traits."

The author has taught temperament management since 1990 at Kaiser Permanente in northern California, in Bay Area preschools and family support agencies, and at professional conferences in the U.S. and abroad. Her early years at Kaiser were spent as a pediatric advice nurse, handling parents' concerns about illness, development and behavior. Because of her interest in the mind-body connection, Neville began offering both stress management and parenting classes, which led to the research about temperament. "Individual differences are all about finding your niche in life, and luckily I found mine," she tells us. Temperament Tools contributor Diane Clark Johnson has a similar personal affinity for studying inborn traits. A parent educator, she has brought to Temperament Tools personal experience in managing children with challenging temperaments.

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