Thoughtful Parenting: Temperament is just 1 aspect of your child’s design
When I was growing up, clowns were popular. A family friend had a job as a clown and she came to one of my birthday parties.
A minor glitch: I was wary of clowns — the makeup was bright and not at all like my mother’s and I wondered, “how big are those feet?”
I was completely mesmerized by the balloons transformed into animals, but I’m pretty sure I approached this entire situation with some caution. I imagine the other party-goers clamored, unafraid, for attention. What made us approach this situation differently? Likely our temperaments.
You’ve probably compared your child’s behavior and needs with other children’s. Maybe he needs to stick to a regular schedule for the day to go smoothly, or maybe he can go-with-the-flow. Maybe she gets upset with lots of noise and crowding or perhaps, more excited and happy.
Temperament is a biologically-driven human trait — it’s how we are uniquely designed.
Researchers Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess were among the first to categorize nine areas of temperament that help explain why children do what they do.
Consider that your child’s temperament traits can help you respond to behavior from a place of understanding and confidence. If you have more than one child, you’ve probably found that interacting with each child in different ways is helpful because they need different approaches. Perhaps you provide more quiet time for one child to recharge, and for another, more physical activities.
Your child may have varying expressions of each of the following traits depending on the situation.
• Activity level: Wiggly and busy to quiet and watchful?
• Distractability: How easily sidetracked when it’s not helpful (e.g., doing homework) or when it is useful (e.g., you can find several activities to soothe him when you are in a restaurant)?
• Intensity: How strong are reactions to either positive or negative situations? Powerful and loud or quiet and subdued?
• Regularity: Does your child prefer predictability in eating, sleeping and toileting?
• Sensory: How does your child respond to sound, taste, touch, smell, temperature? No big deal or, you’re late for work because she had to wear the soft fleece that was still in the washer?
• Approach and withdrawal: Eager to approach something new or slow to warm up?
• Adaptability: How do unexpected changes in the schedule go?
• Persistence: When something is difficult, how long does your child continue to do the activity?
• Mood: Happy? Sullen? Serious? Light-hearted? How does your child view the world?
If you have concerns that your child’s temperamental traits are interfering with relationships and school performance, check with your medical provider or a child development specialist.
You also can consider how your temperament “fits” with your child’s. For information in this article and more, check out http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/temperament_and_your_child/temp2/. I also like “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and “Quiet” by Susan Cain.
Barbara Gueldner, PhD, is a licensed psychologist specializing in children and families. She is a member of First Impressions, the Early Childhood Council of Routt County. Find her at http://www.successfulkidstoday.com.