5 Aspects of Your Child You Can't Change – But Can Support

Published on 20 June 2024 at 16:02

Over the last two decades, brain research has consistently shown that as parents, we have a significant influence on how our children develop. We shape how quickly they learn, the skills they acquire, their values, self-perception, emotional regulation, and their ability to build relationships. However, there are certain aspects of a child's nature that we cannot change or mold to our expectations. Instead, we should focus on supporting these inherent traits.

Here are five unchangeable aspects of children's nature and how we can support them:


Children are born with a specific temperament, which includes the structure and functioning of their nervous system influenced by genetic, neurological, and hormonal factors. Temperament dictates certain behaviors and characteristics from the earliest weeks of life.

Children with high sensitivity:

  • Have heightened senses and react to various stimuli, such as noise and temperature changes.
  • Cry in response to sudden temperature changes or raised voices.
  • Wake up immediately after being put down.
  • Prefer to be held rather than lying in a stroller.
  • Struggle to fall asleep, especially when overtired or overstimulated.
  • May wake up crying and often cry themselves to sleep.
  • In later development, exhibit high physical activity, dislike diaper changes, dressing, and sitting still.

Children with lower sensitivity:

  • Can fall asleep without rocking or feeding and stay asleep after being put down.
  • Have a consistent daily routine, eating and sleeping at regular times.
  • Lie quietly in strollers during walks, not demanding to be held.
  • Respond more calmly to loud noises, like a blender or vacuum.
  • Can sleep even in noisy environments.
  • In preschool and school, they can focus amidst noise and complete tasks in various conditions.

Understanding these differences helps us recognize that trying to change a child's temperament won't benefit anyone. Instead, we should support their natural temperament to help them thrive.

Natural Predispositions

Each child is born with certain talents and abilities that become apparent as they grow. There are various theories about supporting natural talents, some emphasizing genetic predispositions and others focusing on the brain's plasticity in early childhood.

Studies show that both genetics and early childhood experiences (like the bond with parents and their responses to the child's needs) influence development. These experiences can activate or suppress certain genes based on the child's needs and motivations.

While we can encourage learning and skill development, it's crucial to follow the child's interests. Forcing a child into activities they aren't interested in can be harmful. For example, pushing a child to play the violin because of family tradition, despite their lack of interest, can be stressful and counterproductive.

Supporting a child's natural inclinations and interests at each developmental stage is essential. If they show an interest in a particular activity, facilitate it. According to Montessori, if neural connections are not formed during sensitive periods, they cannot be created later. Thus, respecting and nurturing their interests when they emerge is crucial.

Expressing Needs and Emotions Through Crying

Crying is a natural means of communication for children, signaling needs such as hunger, discomfort, fear, or the need for close contact. It's not a manipulative behavior but a genuine call for help and support.

Ignoring or responding harshly to a child's cry can disrupt their hormonal balance, brain function, and overall health, leading to long-term issues like heightened stress reactivity, cognitive and emotional difficulties, and health problems.

Responding to a child's cry with attention and sensitivity lowers stress hormones and fosters brain development supporting emotional regulation, learning, and overall health. By understanding the importance of crying, we can make informed parenting choices that benefit our child's well-being.

The Need for Movement

Children have a natural need for movement, essential for their physical and mental development. Restricting this need, such as requiring them to sit still for extended periods, can lead to boredom, irritability, and hindered learning.

Studies show that physical activity enhances brain development, memory, and learning. Children who engage in regular movement have a larger hippocampus, essential for cognitive processes, memory, and emotional regulation.

Respecting a child's need for movement by providing ample opportunities for physical activity, both structured and unstructured, supports their overall development. As parents, we can balance this by creating spaces where children can be active while also setting boundaries to meet our own needs for rest and order.

The Drive for Autonomy

Children naturally seek independence and develop their identity. This drive becomes particularly noticeable around the ages of 1-2 years but continues throughout childhood.

During this time, children may seem oppositional, saying "no" frequently, asserting their will, and exploring their capabilities. This phase, often mislabeled as rebellion, is a critical developmental stage where children build their sense of self and independence.

Supporting a child's autonomy involves accepting their emotions, providing opportunities for independent activities, and allowing them to make choices. This approach helps them develop resilience, problem-solving skills, and a strong sense of self.

Balancing autonomy with safety and guidance fosters a child's ability to navigate challenges and build healthy relationships. It strengthens the parent-child bond and supports the child's growth into a confident, independent adult.

Understanding and supporting these unchangeable aspects of a child's nature is key to fostering their development. By respecting their temperament, natural predispositions, need for movement, emotional expression, and drive for autonomy, we can help our children grow into healthy, happy, and resilient individuals. Embrace these traits, support them, and watch your child thrive.


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