A while back I mentioned that I would do a post about temperament and then life happened and I haven't had a chance to sit down and write a really good post about it. Well right now N is sound asleep for atleast another hour, my laundry is going, M, J, and O are playing nice so here you go!
Understanding temperament is HUGE in my opinion because it helps you establish expectations of your children that are reasonable and that your child can meet. If you have a child with a difficult temperament then you are not going to be disappointed in them when they don't behave in an easy way. Temperament is not something that is learned, but rather is something that all children are born with. A child's temperament is visible as early as 3 months of life. Temperament is similar to the idea of personality traits except for the fact that a temperament trait (shyness or aggression) is not learned where a lot of personality traits are (honesty and humility).
In a classic study called the New York Longitudinal Study (NYLS) researchers found that "each newborn has distinct traits that are coded in the networks of his or her brain" and from this study we receive the categories of easy, slow to warm up, difficult and hard to classify. In the study they also discovered nine dimensions of temperament which I am going to discuss in this post! As you read the following dimensions answer right down which one suits your child best for each individual dimension:
1. Activity level: motor activity and the proportion of active & inactive periods. An example of a child with a high activity level would be then when a friend comes to visit your child immediately starts a game of running around wildly. An example of a child with a low activity level would be that given a choice of activities, your child usually selects something quiet such as drawing or looking at a picture book.
2. Rhythmicity (Regularity): The predictability or unpredictably of the timing of biological functions such as hunger, sleep-wake cycle, and bowel elimination. An example of regularity is if your child's big meal is always lunch time. An example of irregularity would be if your child sometimes fall asleeps right after dinner and other days she is up until 9 or 10.
3. Approach or Withdrawal: the nature of the initial response to a new situation or stimulus. Approach would be when you go to a playgroup and your child jumps right in and withdrawal would be your child started preschool and taking a week before beginning to participate
4. Adaptability: what is the nature of a child's long-term responses to new or altered situations? Here the concern is not with the nature of the initial response. High adaptability would be a child who moves from playing to having lunch, adjusts to new surroundings right away, leaves school willingly, eats chicken even if promised burgers without complaint. A low adaptability would be a child who doesn't like school at first and takes the entire fall to become content with it, protests when new children enter a game, protests loudly when having to stop playing when it is time for lunch, protests loudly when they are given chicken instead of promise burgers, cries when has to leave school.
5. Sensory threshold: what is the level of stimulation it takes to evoke the child's response to sounds, smells, sights, movement, textures, other people's stress, etc. A high sensory threshold would be whether clothing texture is smooth or rough doesn't make a difference, she seems comfortable in every type and a low sensory threshold would be that she complains about any pants if the waistband is the slightest bit tight.
6. Quality of Mood: is her typical mood positive (expressing pleasure, joy, optimism and friendliness) Or is it negative (more serious, analytical, less joyful and friendly) A positive quality of mood would be getting new shoes and running around showing them off to everyone and a low quality of mood would be coming home from school full of complaints about the other children.
7. Intensity of reactions: the energy level of response, both negative or positive. A high intensity would be that as soon as she has trouble with a puzzle, she screams and throw pieces. She gets so excited when she finds something she likes. A low intensity would be that you know she likes a new toy because she smiles quietly.
8. Distractibility: how easily an outside stimulus can interfere with the child's ongoing behavior. A high distractibility would be that your child will ask for cookies once or twice and if you don't have them they will accept a substitute. A child will have a low distractibility if she decides to go out and play but can't because it is raining, she will fuss and won't accept any substitute.
9. Persistence and Attention Span: persistence is the continuation of an activity in spite of difficulties. Attention span refers to the length of time a particular activity is pursued without interruption. A high persistence level is if a child's wagon gets stuck they will struggle with it until it moves again and doesn't give up. A low persistence would be asking for help in drawing a dog and then losing interest after the first try. A child with a long attention span would get absorbed in playing in the sandbox for almost an hour and a child with a short attention span would like to play with a new toy but concentrates on it for only a few minutes at a time.
"Easy children are typically happy and outgoing most of the time, and adjust quickly to almost any change. Difficult children are the opposite, irregular, intense, unhappy, disturbed by every noise, and hard to distract . . . Slow to warm up are unwilling to adapt to new people and experiences at first but they do adapt with time and patience." (The Developing Person)
You cannot change a child's temperament it is who they are and has nothing to do with nurture but is solely nature. However as a parent you can learn what your child's temperament is and teach them to cope and handle situations in a more positive way. M, O and N are all my easy children. They make being a parent incredibly easy because they are just go with the flow kind of kids and don't make a lot of waves. J, however, has gone from being an extremely difficult child at birth to now a difficult child because I have remained patient with him and taught him ways to manage his emotions and feelings. He still challenges me daily but it keeps me on my toes! It is so important that if you have a difficult child you learn to maintain your cool, and keep your patience because the more you reassure them that it is o.k. and not pressure them to be something they are not then the easier they become. It is also important to not cave and just give the difficult child what they want so you don't have to deal with it, because by doing that you will ALWAYS have to deal with it. I will go more into ways on how to handle a slow to warm up child and a difficult in another post, but I am curious to know what your kids are so leave a comment and let me know if you have a slow to warm up, an easy or a difficult child! If you aren't sure leave a comment and I will help you figure it out!