What is “goodness of fit”?

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How can we improve the fit between ourselves and our child, and between our child and their environments?

Goodness of fit is how well an environment—and the people in it!—match a child’s temperament. Just like that beloved toddler toy, the shape sorter, we can imagine that every child’s temperament has a unique shape that fits well in some spaces, and not so well in others. 

The quiet library Damien visits with his auntie every Saturday afternoon is a great fit for him, but the loud, bright-colored new adventure gym is not. 

And our own temperament may fit more or less well with our child’s, too! 

Maya and her daughter Cecily are both highly active, and love to spend the afternoon playing catch or just about any outdoor games. It’s harder for Maya to sit still with her other child, Jesse, who could build blocks in the same spot for hours. 

So it’s also valuable to know and understand our own temperament, along with our child’s. When there’s goodness of fit, it can feel a bit like fitting a cube in just the right square space. Goodness of fit allows a child to experience connection, learning, and challenge with greater ease. And we parents feel more ease, too. When the fit is not so good, it can feel like trying to push that square cube into a triangle-shaped hole. 

The good news is that unlike a shape sorter toy, goodness of fit is malleable. We can adapt the environment and our own behaviors to improve goodness of fit for our child. And over time, our parenting choices can help the child adapt to their environments, so that they can: 

  • Honor their own temperament
  • Adjust to the surrounding environment, and 
  • Find a unique space and place in the world.