Temperament is made up of innate characteristics that affect the way we respond to the world. These traits are particular to each individual, and parents of multiple children say that no two children have the same temperament. Parenting styles must be flexible to meet the needs of each child based on the latter’s temperament. Knowing your child’s temperament is important. Knowing yours is equally important.
Conflicting temperaments can affect how you respond to your child’s behaviors and how children internalize your interactions. Here are some temperament traits to look for:
A reaction to emotions of self and others. Are feelings demonstrated mildly or strongly/dramatically? Is the person aware of the feelings of others?
Whether a person has an active or sedentary lifestyle. Always on-the-go or seeking quiet and calm activities?
Sociability/reaction to new people
The way in which people respond to social situations. Can easily approach new situations and people or more reserved when around new people and places?
Quality of mood
The typical mood a person displays. Is usual mood happy and relaxed? Serious? Stern?
How easily distracted/how long the attention span lasts. Able to stay on task or moves from one activity to another?
Sensitivity level to sounds, touch, and smells. Reacts positively or negatively to textures, tastes and sounds?
A preference for a predictable schedule or is unpredictable in terms of routines. Is predictability or spontaneity preferred?
Ability to stick with a task. Reacts strongly to being told ‘no’ or gives up easily or has a hard time letting go of ideas?
Ability to cope with change. Is there difficulty with changes in routines and transitions or is personality more “go with the flow?”
Having a different temperament from that of your child can be a cause of stress. If your child’s temperament is one of high activity level who is always on the go, whereas you seek quiet activities and prefer to be more sedentary, your child’s energy level may be exhausting and frustrating to you. If you easily approach new situations and people and your child is shy and reserved, you may feel insecure and unsuccessful when trying to help him socially. In not understanding what he is feeling or what worries him, you may question your ability to help. If you can sit and focus for long periods of time and you have a child who finds it challenging to complete a task, you may be easily irritated when helping with homework; this may lead to consistent conflict. A parent sensitive to sounds raising an active and noisy child will likely have a high stress level. Having the same temperament as that of your child can also be a source of tension. If you are both highly reactive, disagreements may be heated between you two.
Being aware of a child’s temperament is important in understanding how to effectively parent your child. No temperament is good or bad. We are adaptable beings capable of flexibility. In understanding your child’s temperament, it is possible to adapt and create a better fit. Some parents will have to work harder as it may not come naturally. With awareness, effort and an understanding of how your temperament style fits with that of your child, you can become more effective in your parenting and feel higher levels of satisfaction and connection.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed parenting educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher.