Your child’s temperament is unique and is part of what makes him who he is. Some parents find that their children have inherited their temperament, and others find that their child is almost their polar opposite. This could be a good or bad thing depending on how you view your own temperament!
If you have a short temper and find yourself flying off the handle more than you’d like, you may not be pleased to see your child has inherited this trait. Equally, if you love being active in the great outdoors, you might be a little disappointed to discover your child is more of a homebody.
It helps to understand more about temperaments as a parent. Here’s a guide that will help you understand more about your child:
What Is Temperament?
There are widely believed to be at least nine characteristics to temperament, including:
- Activity level – this is simply the level of physical activity a child engages in. Whereas some children are happy with minimal amounts of physical activity, others end up bouncing from the walls.
- Rhythmic – some children seem to have a regular pattern for when they feel hungry, tired or need to have a bowel movement. Other children do not have routine in this way.
- Approach & Withdrawal – some children approach new stimulus confidently and with ease, whereas others withdraw slightly when confronted with new people, situations, foods or other stimulus.
- Adaptability – some children adjust to change with ease, and others do not.
- Intensity – this is characterised by the amount of energy a child applies to a situation.
- Mood – some children spend most of their time in pleasant moods, whether others can usually be found in a bad mood.
- Attention Span – some children have shorter attention spans than others.
- Distractibility – this refers to how easily the child get distracted from a task.
- Sensory Threshold – some children respond to light stimulation (such as gently saying their name), whereas others require more (such as repeated shouting).
The nine traits above make up your child’s temperament. Some children are considered ‘easy’ (that’s an official term); they are predictable, in control, and are positive in their approach of new experiences. Other children are considered to be less easy; they may not be able to manage their emotions as well and may struggle with new experiences.
When Will I Know My Child’s Temperament?
It is believed that temperament is something you are born with, and it is even thought to be inherited. However, it is also believed that temperament can be influenced during the early years of life. Though they are thought to be born with temperaments, this is not apparent in the behaviour of young babies. A fussy baby will not necessarily grow into a difficult child.
By the time your baby is around four months of age, you should be able to notice some of his temperament. He may be happy and contented, or difficult to please. Over the next few years, you may find that this temperament changes as he grows older. Age appropriate behaviour is easily confused with temperament, and you may find that your child’s behaviour changes frequently. By the time your child is ready to start school, his temperament should be a little clearer.
Can I Influence My Child’s Temperament?
Experts believe that your child’s temperament can be influenced by his relationships and how easily he gets on with those around him. You cannot turn your child into an easy one, but may find life becomes easier when you accept your child’ temperament as an ingrained part of his personality.
If your child is sensitive, make sure you give him the extra reassurance and security he needs to feel safe and confident in new situations. Don’t force your sensitive child into a situation that makes him feel uncomfortable. Instead, offer him the support he feels he needs to tackle the new situation. If your child is full of energy, don’t waste time wishing you had a quieter and more peaceful child. An alternative approach may be to find a balanced mix of outlets (outside and inside) for all his energy.
Don’t think of your child as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and definitely don’t label him as such out loud. Labels can affect your child’s self-image and there is always a risk that they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember that the character traits that are difficult to deal with in childhood, such as strong-mindedness, are often those most valued in ‘successful’ adults.