The other day, I was reading a lovely post by Jamie at Steady Mom on raising strong-willed children and it made me think about the Goodness of Fit theory and why it matters.
What is Goodness of Fit?
Here is the official definition, taken from the book, Goodness of Fit: Clinical Applications, From Infancy through Adult Life:
“Goodness of Fit results when the properties of the environment and its expectations and demands are in accord with the organism’s own capacities, characteristics and style of behaving. When consonance between organism and environment is present, optimal development in a progressive direction is possible.”
Okay, now in everyday terms:
Most parents have this intuitive sense of providing the best environment for their child. For example, new parents set up the nursery before the baby comes and try to make it as lovely as possible. We read books, scores of books and get ourselves ready for the task of caring for a new child. We even go to classes, talk to other moms, get all the baby gear we think we need (and most of them we actually dont’!) So it doesn’t seem like a topic we need to be reminded of, since it’s something we are inclined to do without even trying.
What it isn’t: Providing the “Perfect Environment”
The problem is that these days, it translates to exposing our infants to Baby Einstein, to Gymboree Classes, to strollers hooked with MP3 players and speakers for a much more soothing ride, ridiculous expensive shoes before they even learn to walk, and so much more. It’s easy to laugh at these attempts, but in one way or another, most of us find it a hard inclination to overcome. And underneath the surface, all it means is that parents want what is best for their children.
But We Miss One Big Simple Point
One of the things this theory boils down to that I want to focus on today, is to nurture your child’s nature. Your child has to be the starting point. Because your child, although impressionable, comes with his/her own innate “capacities, characteristics and style of behaving.” The environment, meanwhile, is something that we can shape to an extent. And that environment includes US, mainly, our attitudes and expectations for our children.
As a new mom, I remember many times that I’ve had to apologize for my little girl when I shouldn’t have to. That she is somewhat cautious and reserved towards strangers. That she takes awhile time to feel safe and familiar in a new environment. That she is very attached to mom and finds comfort primarily when I am near her. But this is part of who she is, and by apologizing for her, I am invalidating her essence instead of celebrating the gift of who she is. Her cautious and reserved nature is a wonderful quality to have and when nourished rightly, will be a gift to many. Her cautious and reserved nature is much needed in this world of the hasty and the extroverted. Her cautious and reserved nature is not worse or better, just different from what we often extol.
And so I’m learning that as a mother, perhaps one of the most important tasks I have is to nurture my daughter’s nature. To truly embrace her for who she is and give her the space to fully grow into the person she is supposed to be. Not who I want her to be. I am perhaps a pretty major chunk of that environment that will have to adjust attitudes and expectations every so often so that her natural God-given strengths can fully flourish.
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