Is your child growing up to be very different than you expected? Do you sometimes wonder where your daughter learned to be so outspoken and strong willed, or your son so quiet and reserved? Understanding temperament can help you step back and see a child’s unique style more clearly.

“Temperament” is a person’s first and most natural way of responding. It’s the way we move in the world. Just as some children are born with curly hair and others with straight hair, some children are high energy right from birth and may want to run and jump non-stop, while other babies are happy to play quietly with their toys while you make dinner. Children come into the world with a style all their own. There are many factors that influence your child’s behavior, like your parenting style, their environment, siblings, and friends…but temperament is a key part of the equation.

There are no good or bad temperaments, but some children are more challenging than others. So much depends on your temperament, and how well you and your child “fit” with each other. For example:

  • Your high-energy daughter may want you to practice soccer with her when she wakes up, but you may have lower energy and want to sit and read the paper or sleep in. Her high energy might bother you, even though it’s normal for her.
  • Your son may be slow to warm up and sensitive to new places and people, so when you go to a friend’s house he may want to sit on your lap. Just because you’re outgoing, doesn’t mean that he will be.  Give him time to get comfortable, and then he’s bound to venture out and play with the other children.
  • You might be intense in your reactions, and yell, just like your parents did. Your child might be low in intensity and sensitive to loud noise. When you yell, he may cry easily. Do your best to lower your voice and talk to him after you’ve calmed down. On the other hand, you may have a child who is loud and reactive. If so, take 3 deep breaths before responding. A yelling match always ends with everyone feeling bad.
  • Some parents are fast adapting and impatient with a child who’s slow to get out of the house in the morning. Get up a few minutes earlier, slow down a bit, and give your child clear instructions about what you expect.  Use a timer so everyone will know when it’s time to move on.

Understanding temperament is a tool to use in the never-ending process of building a healthy relationship with your child. For more information check out, Raising Your Spirited Child, and Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

By Rona Renner, RN.  For information and inspiration, go to www.childhoodmatters.organd tune into “Childhood Matters,” Sundays from 7-8AM on 98.1 KISS FM.