February 2, 2022 — By Wendy Sachs
Temperament refers to the way that a child responds to the world. It can be used to describe their general mood and activity level. It is the way they handle emotions and regulate behavior.
Often temperament is described in kids as a child is “dramatic” or “easy going”. Understanding a child’s basic temperament makes it easier for us as caregivers to anticipate how a child will react to change or how to set up an environment that will help children grow and learn. For example, if you have a child that is very active, it will be even more important for you to allow for unstructured outdoor play every day. Or if you have a child that is less assertive and shy you may want to help set up situations where your kiddo can practice advocating for their needs.
While there isn’t a good one or a bad temperament, all children are individuals and we work to accept them for who they are. Some temperaments may seem easier to handle but once we identify and consider our kids, we can adapt situations to allow everyone to be their own true self and thrive!
As you are thinking of your kids, consider how they cope with change. Is it hard for them to transition, even from just one activity to another? Are new people or places difficult for them? If so, consider using familiar objects like a security blanket or stuffie to ease things. Prepare kids in advance with a plan when possible.
Consider your child’s ability to deal with frustration. Do they shut down when things seem difficult? Or are they more persistent and are slower to melt down? If you have a child who has trouble dealing with frustration, remember to offer emotional support thru the frustration, but allow them the power to practice problem solving. Coach a child thru steps instead of fixing things whenever possible. If a child is persistent, be sure that help is available when needed, as they may resist letting anyone help even when needed. We need to make sure kids know that frustration is ok, and that everyone feels this, even adults!
Notice your kid’s activity level. This one is easy to identify!! Some kids just move at a faster or slower pace than others. Organizing your day to allow for more physical play or slowing things down when energy is low will ease your stress as a caregiver. Giving the observant child the agency to sit and watch will help them develop confidence and focus. Similarly, letting kids stand to eat, act out a story instead of sit or push heavy objects from place to place will help those more active kiddos to explore their world at their own faster more active pace.
Observe your child as they interact with other people. While kids will go thru periods of being shy or more outgoing, most kids develop a preference eventually and will be either slower to trust others or more outgoing. It’s important to respect this and give those who are more cautious plenty of time to warm up to new people. Enthusiastic kids need practice at “reading the room” to not be too aggressive. Creating social spaces where kids can be around others in the way they feel most comfortable can build confidence.
The real takeaway from all of these observations is that we as caregivers and parents want to adapt the situations and schedule as much as we can to accommodate a child’s temperament. By looking at things this way, we convey to our kids how much we love and appreciate them as they are. A truly powerful message to convey! It also allows us to create situations where there is less stress for us. A true win-win for all!