Tuning Into Temperament

Every child is born with his own individual way of approaching the world—also known as “temperament.”

Temperament shapes a child’s behavior and development in significant ways, so understanding a child’s temperament is very important for nurturing his healthy development. For example, if you know that a child has a difficult time with changes, you can anticipate and understand why drop-off time in the morning is so difficult for him. You might talk with his parent(s) about ways to make this morning ritual easier. For example, his mother might create a good-bye routine (like a special song and hug) that is especially comforting for her child.

Children Can Adapt

A child’s behavior and temperament are shaped by her experiences, including her interactions with you. For example, children who are slow-to-warm-up to new people and experiences can become more comfortable in these situations when their parents and caregivers slowly and sensitively help them adapt.

There Is No Right or Wrong, Better or Worse Temperament

Temperament is neither something a child chooses nor something that parents create in their child. It is very important for children to be accepted for who they are. It is true, though, that some temperaments are easier to handle than others. An intense, reactive child can be more difficult to soothe than a more laid-back child; a child who is very shy and slow-to-warm-up may require more time and support to feel comfortable joining a group of children.

Remember, the goal isn’t to change the child, but to help her thrive by nurturing her strengths and providing support when needed. By watching and learning from each child, you can begin to help each adapt, learn, and feel more confident in the world.

Temperament Characteristics

There are five primary temperament characteristics, which are:

  • Emotional intensity and reactivity
  • Activity level
  • Sociability
  • Coping with change
  • Frustration tolerance

The Temperament Characteristics