Article written by Brenda Nixon - Click here to listen to Heartline Podcast Episode 29 - "Knowing Your Child's Temperament" with Brenda Nixon.
Temperament is a fascinating subject. I love learning and talking about it to parents because it provides self-awareness; parents gain understanding of their personal behavior as well as their childrearing style.
Knowing about temperament also assists parents, educators, childcare professionals, counselors, therapists, and health care providers who can use this insight to improve understanding of and relationships with children.
Nine categories of temperament traits were identified by researchers Drs. Chess and Thomas.
1. Activity Level:
The general drive of motor activity. Is your child very busy and quick moving or does he have a more relaxed, sedate style?
2. Regularity (also called Rhythmicity):
The predictability of daily functions and how kids organize their behavior. Has your child achieved a biologic rhythm for behaviors such as eating, sleeping, using the toilet or is he unpredictable and random?
The initial response to new stimuli. Does he tend to hesitate and shy away from new people or things or is he outgoing, social, and excited by novelty?
How easily a child adjusts to changes or transitions. Is your child a “creature of habit” who resists transition or one who readily “goes with the flow?”
5. Sensory Threshold (also called Sensitivity):
How a person responds to sensations such as touch, taste. Do external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, or food textures bother him or does he tend to ignore them? The sensitive child feels the seams in seamless tube socks.
6. Quality of Mood:
Basic disposition regardless of conditions. Does your child express a chronically negative, apathetic outlook or a positive, “sunny” nature?
7. Persistence (Attention Span):
The ability to “stick with” a task even in the face of obstacles. Does your child give up as soon as a problem arises or is he goal-oriented and keep on trying?
How easily a child becomes distracted by surrounding circumstances when engaged in an activity. Is your child easily diverted from what he’s doing, a daydreamer, or is he driven and focused with ability to shut out external distractions?
9. Intensity of Reaction:
The level of response to stimuli. Does he react passionately and with drama to situations or with mild reactions?
Of course, I share with parents that any temperament can become a setback or area of conflict. For example, in a fast-paced, two-working parent home adaptability is valued. Kids with an adaptable temperament can get to the end of the day and quickly adjust to their surroundings. But, those who are slow to make changes can become overwhelmed, resistant. However, DNA isn’t destiny, parents can learn to modify their response to children (nurture) and help them develop within their temperament.
Here’s the important bottom line in my opinion: parents who adjust their responses to meet each child’s individual needs find that each child feels valued, understood, accepted, and respected. When parents respond to kids for who they are, not for what they want kids to be, kids grow up with healthy self-respect and a greater tolerance for the different people who come into their lives. Now isn't that a beautiful gift to give children?
Brenda Nixon, M.A., is a popular guest on radio, TV, and the Internet, and author and conference speaker. As host for The Parent’s Plate Internet radio show, Brenda gives parents an hour of empowerment every Tuesday at 10 am (EST). Brenda’s books include the award-winning The Birth to Five Book, available directly from her by mailing $14 (U.S. currency only) to P.O. Box 1302, Mount Vernon, OH 43050.