Lately, I have been observing that there is such wide variability in children’s temperaments and personalities. In our house, they run the gamut from headstrong, lovable, button pusher to incredibly easy going. It got me thinking about four distinct questions. Is the temperament you exhibit as a child the one you keep? How does temperament differ? What are the different characteristics that make up temperament? How do you work best with different temperaments?
In looking at the first question, experts say that temperament is present in infancy and remains consistent throughout life. It is innate in an individual, but can be modified by her experience, environment, interaction with people, and health. Thus, the easygoing baby tends to be the easygoing person. The fussy baby often has the more challenging temperament as a child and an adult.
Generally speaking, there are three loosely categorized temperaments: easy, slow to warm up/shy, or difficult/challenging. What is perhaps more beneficial for parents and educators is to look at what makes up temperament. Citing the same website, experts say that there are nine factors that influence temperament. They include: activity level- is your child calm or very active; approach and withdrawal-the way a person responds to a new stimulus; adaptability; intensity; mood; attention span; distractibility; and sensory threshold. By being aware of how your child’s temperament is affected by these factors, a parent can be more understanding of her child, her uniqueness, and areas of temperament that are not a “good fit” with her as a parent. Often conflict arises with our children when our temperaments differ from our child’s. But sometimes conflict occurs when they are too similar.
Elizabeth Pantley, parent educator and author of The No Cry Sleep Solution offers practical tips to use when dealing with these temperamental factors in an article titled ‘Understanding Your Child’s Temperament’ . For example, the child who is bothered by tags and itchy clothing, (a child with a low sensory threshold) might just need some tags cut or different clothing options. If we look at our “difficult” child with this understanding, as opposed to just thinking they are difficult, it can be tremendously helpful. Parenting with temperament in mind can ease the great task of parenting. It can bring us peace of mind.