As early on as the first few weeks after a mom brings her baby home from the hospital, a child's personality and preferences can be observed. Moms may describe their baby as easy-going, sensitive, or even difficult. Just as we can’t pick the color of their eyes, we don’t choose their temperament. It is an innate quality, something a child is born with.
Temperament is the way a child interacts and responds to the world around them. As a child grows up, their temperament may change somewhat through their experiences and environment. There is nothing wrong with any temperament, as they all have strengths and challenges. The world benefits from the uniqueness of each person, so it’s best not to go about attempting to “change” your child’s temperament. Value and love your child for exactly the person they are.
Experts suggest accepting your child’s temperament and nurturing their personality, rather than seeing it as something to fix. Learning more about their child's temperament will help moms to adjust their expectations for parenting.
9 Temperament Traits
According to Parenting for Brain, there are 9 observable temperament traits as defined by doctors and psychologists, Chess and Thomas.
- Activity. A child's physical motor activity level and duration.
- Regularity. The degree of regularity with basic needs like eating and sleeping.
- Initial Reaction. A child’s response to a new environment or a new person.
- Adaptability. How a child regulates behaviors when a change occurs.
- Sensitivity. A child’s sensitivity to stimuli (input received through the 5 senses).
- Intensity. The level of reaction a child shows in response to stimuli.
- Mood. Overall disposition or attitude of a child.
- Distractibility. How easily distracted a child may be from the task at hand.
- Attention span and persistence. How long a child can sustain attention and persist in an activity.
With these 9 traits in mind, parents can determine a child’s temperament type.
The 3 Temperament Types
According to Better Help, the three temperament types describe common patterns. About 65% of children could be placed into one of the three categories below:
- Easy temperament. This child would be described as flexible and generally happy. They adapt to different experiences well and can self-regulate emotions.
- Difficult temperament. A child with a difficult disposition is physically active, spirited, and emotional. They will have a difficult time with changes and can be negative.
- Slow to warm temperament. Slow to warm children are calm and display low activity levels. They are cautious or shy in new settings, and their mood can waver from positive to negative.
Parenting A Child With An Easy Temperament
A child with an easy temperament is generally content and agreeable. They like to go along with the plans, socialize with others, and adapt well to change. They are open to trying new things but may worry they need to be perfect or excel in all things. Moms will want their children to know mistakes are learning opportunities.
This child may have difficulty asserting themselves, saying no, or communicating negative feelings. Parents may need to teach them how to disagree when necessary and speak up for themselves. Although it can keep the peace in the home to have a child with an easy temperament, you will still want to help them foster their own interests.
Parenting A Child With A Difficult Temperament
A child with a difficult temperament will display strong emotions, be willful, and be highly sensitive. Per Raising Children, a difficult child may react strongly when things don't go as planned or to their liking. Moms can help their child to develop coping skills to identify feelings and communicate them appropriately. This child will likely be physically active and parents should allow them time to play outside or get involved in sports. A difficult child may need encouragement to focus on a task and follow through with non-preferred tasks.
In social settings, moms will want to model and help their child to take turns and show an interest in the activities of others. Provide your child with choices whenever possible and focus on the positive things they do! A difficult child is often a natural-born leader. Fostering skills like cooperation and emotional regulation will help them make friends and adapt to new settings.
Parenting A Child With A Slow-To-Warm Temperament
The slow-to-warm child will be an observant, calm, and cautious child. To prepare for social settings or new experiences, moms should talk with their children before to let them know what to anticipate. When a slow-to-warm child goes to a new place, rather than encouraging them to leave mom's side, allow them extra time to feel comfortable first.
Trying new things may be difficult for the slow-to-warm child. Helping them find their own interests, hobbies, or activities will build confidence. Follow their lead and join your child in their preferred activities whenever possible. Prepare them ahead of time to ease transitions or changes to their routines.
Children are born with their unique personalities and simply won't fit neatly into our preconceived expectations. The great news for moms is that if you give way to plans and embrace your child as they are, you will likely find they are even more amazing than you could have imagined.