Why are some children easy going and others are, what we might call, more “challenging”? Why are siblings so different from one another? It all comes down to temperament.
Temperament is innate, something we are born with. It’s part of the unique wiring of each individual’s brain. Your child did not choose his temperament, and he is not the way he is because of something you did or did not do –although the experiences and interactions with other people during the early years could modify it.
By the school years, your child’s temperament will be well defined and easily detected by those who know him. It probably won’t change a lot in the future. As we mentioned before, these characteristics are innate, something your son is born with, and are separate from your own parenting skills. However, the way your little one adjusts to his environment does depend a lot upon the interaction between his temperament and yours, and how the people around him respond to him. A child that is comfortable in his environment and the people around him thrives!
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are nine key characteristics that make up temperament.
- Activity level: What’s your child’s level of physical activity in day to day life? Is he restless or fidgety or more calm?
- Rhythmicity or regularity: Does he have a consistent pattern for basic physical functions such as appetite, sleep, and bowel habits?
- Approach and withdrawal: How does your son initially respond to a new stimulus? Is he rapid and bold, or slow and hesitant to warm up to it? It can be people, situations, places, foods, changes in routines, or other transitions.
- Adaptability: How easily does your little one adjust to change or a new situation? Can he modify his reaction well?
- Intensity: With what energy level does your child regularly respond to a positive or negative situation?
- Mood: Is your son generally pleasant or unfriendly in the way he communicates and acts? What’s his general mood like?
- Attention span: Is your kid able to concentrate or stay with a task, with or without distraction?
- Distractibility: How easily can he be distracted from a task by environmental stimuli?
- Sensory threshold: How much does your son need to be stimulated for a response? Some children respond to the slightest stimulation, and others require intense amounts.
By being aware of some of the characteristics of temperament, you can understand your child in another level, learn to accept him, and, more importantly, appreciate his uniqueness. Then, starting from that point, you can deal with problems in a way that is more sensitive to him, fostering a healthy social and emotional development.
Keep your child’s temperament in mind when you make parenting decisions. The goal is not to change him, but to help him adapt and thrive. Make sure you let him know you accept him for who he is through your words and actions.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). How to Understand Your Child’s Temperament. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages- stages/gradeschool/Pages/How-to-Understand-Your-Childs-Temperament.aspx
Zero to Three. (2016). Temperament: What Makes Your Child Tick. Retrieved from https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/159-temperament-what-makes-your-child-tick