Goodness of fit and shyness: Apology example

Discuss how the goodness-of-fit model can help a child’s shyness.

As per the concept of “goodness of fit”, enumerated in the book, (7th ed, pg 417-19), the answer is immediately apparent.   To briefly explain:  Babies are born with a temperament.  This can by itself make a child easy or difficult to take care of.   An easygoing, calm, and cheerful baby is easy to love and makes taking care of it very rewarding.  If you have a difficult baby, its harder to consistently respond sensitively to it, if it is constantly fussing and nothing seems to calm them down.   A parenting strategy that would suit an easy child will not work well with a difficult child.   There are fewer people that have parenting styles perfect for difficult children, therefore this explains the increase risk that these types of temperaments have for certain negative outcomes.

However parents, if invested enough, can change styles to fit the temperament of the child, and decrease the risks associated with the temperament, “while encouraging more adaptive functioning.”(417)

In the case of a shy child, parents can modify their parenting styles to account for this, and make sure to pay particular attention to their child’s social development, making sure to provide a safe and secure base, providing safe environments and ample opportunity for interactions building social skills and competency, while recognizing improvement and helping them feel proud, and adding to their perceived competence in social situations.

These opportunities for interaction need to be based on the parent’s judgment of the child’s comfort level(regarding the situation) and the child’s ability.   It will NOT help to put a child in a situation that causes so much stress and discomfort that any action besides withdrawal has a probability near zero.  Nor will it help to expose them to situations that are beyond their skill to handle.

As an example, making your child apologize to a neighbor for breaking their window.  The child is already embarrassed, and that they are shy makes it worse.  For this situation, the best thing, given the child’s temperament(and young age), may be to first give them a pep talk, so they don’t feel like breaking the window has made them any less lovable.  Then to handle the shyness, help them plan what they ought to say in advance.  Practice saying what they come up with with them, role play with them giving the apology to you, let them pretend to be the neighbor and You pretend to be your child, and model an appropriate apology.   This is all preparation, that is part of letting them practice the skills while in a safe and secure environment.  They can predict your behavior more than the neighbor’s, and they are pretty sure you love them more then the neighbor does.  You are the secure base, as well as the new experience  Make sure to give feed back and help them feel competent.

Since this is very stressful, It would be good to go with them to the neighbor.  Maybe give them a pep talk before they ring the doorbell.  (It also might be good to talk to the neighbor before hand to make sure the neighbor can act out of understanding for the child’s shyness, and embarrassment. [it would be horrible to go through all that effort just to have the neighbor act in such a way that your child feels even worse.])   Be there, introduce your child, and let them apologize.  Gently prompt them if they suddenly have difficulty remembering what they planned on saying.  Let what happens happen, and once the door is shut and your on your way home express how proud you are of them, for doing the right thing(apologizing) and how brave they were in being able to do it by themselves.   Make sure you point out that they are still alive, the neighbor did not blow up at them, and that after apologizing, they feel better(“gooder”).

Note that at any point, Parental insensitivity for the shyness, or embarrassment of the child could have easily made the experience go from manageable, to “nightmare”(“I’ll do everything possible to avoid or get out of having to do this again.”) for the child.   Also note that because the child was shy, the parent took the extra time and effort to help the child face a stressful social interaction with a stranger, rather than the easy way of apologizing on behalf of the child. In addition, the parent is letting the child put together the apology, and letting them speak for themselves: both send important messages about their ability to handle, and meet the challenge of a difficult social interaction.

Going back to goodness of fit, the Parents are changing their styles to fit and match the child’s needs(influenced by temperament.)   Hence, adapting to produce a “good fit”, may be necessary, if the fit doesn’t come naturally.

Stuart Walker

(Note: this has all been what I would imagine would be a good fit, for the situation.  However, I have no expereince with children, and I highly discourage anyone from thinking that my above example is authoritative, or well informed.)


~ by havok43v3r on October 9, 2009.

3 Responses to “Goodness of fit and shyness: Apology example”

  1. Never had I thought that temperament was a characteristic of the born. It would seem that temperament would be assumed to be that of behavior, as behavior is based upon habit, whereas habit is taught and thus, behavior is not. I wonder how temperament could go hand and hand for both that of nature and nurture.

  2. I think you’ve done an excellent job here Stuart. I think hurdling situations with support as a child, such as the example of the apology, is very important. It is difficult at times for an adult to do such a thing, and absolutely overwhelming to a child. With the support of a parent, the child is able to learn and build confidence, and perhaps as an adult will have an easier time in situations like these, when they come up again. I believe this kind of approach would also help the shy child gain confidence.
    Jennifer Poulos

  3. Great example of goodness-of-fit!

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