What is the Temperament of Your Child?

What is the Temperament of your Child?By Abby Bordner

Temperament is personality. Your child, and all of us for that matter, are born with certain personality traits that define how we interpret the world and our own place in it. When I had only one child and he was three and four years old, I often thought it was because of ME and MY parenting that he responded in his particular ways. He was shy. Perhaps, I thought, because I was too overprotective. He was adorable and smart. Probably because I am such a good parent (wink, wink, thumbs up!). I took all the credit… and all the blame. Until I had a second child and I realized, here are two children with relatively similar circumstances, yet they are SO different.

Yes, in fact, children are born with a temperament that they will have their entire life. As a parent, knowing your child’s temperament helps you understand him. Then you can figure out how to respond to give him the best support, guidance and skills to manage his temperament in the world around him.

Here are descriptions of three basic temperaments.

Feisty: Feisty children have lots of energy, require lots of space and can be loud and vocal. The have a high activity level, are not easy to schedule, often go toward newness and have intense emotions. These statements describe a feisty child:

  • My child “jumps right in” to new situations, engages quickly and is stimulated by busy environments.
  • My child doesn’t always respond to me when I speak to him and can focus intensely on something of interest.
  • My child isn’t hungry or tired at the same times every day.

Parenting a feisty child takes patience, a sense of humor and consistent interaction with a parent to monitor and direct his behavior. Your environment needs to allow for vigorous and active play and room to move his body. Give information and direction in close proximity to your child. It helps to use gentle touch (a hand on the shoulder) when you want his attention and make eye contact. This will make it easier for your feisty child to hear what you’re saying. Don’t shout from a distance to your child, it’s hard for them to focus and understand what you’re saying. Prepare your child for transitions ahead of time. Take advantage of your child’s quiet time as an opportunity for interaction and learning. Feisty children love affection.

Slow to Warm: These children are “watchers” in a new environment. They stay close, cling to your leg and need time to adjust to a new situation. Once they warm up, this child begins to engage at a slow pace. He likes routine and predictability; knowing what is going to happen next. These statements describe a slow to warm child:

  • My child tends to be quiet, doesn’t have strong emotions unless pushed to his/her limits.
  • My child is upset if something unpredictable happens or if something is different than planned.
  • My child is called “shy” and doesn’t engage with others quickly.

Parenting a slow to warm child takes patience and observation. Keep consistency in their routines; eat, sleep and activities. Your child wants to know what to expect and doesn’t like surprises. Move slowly, don’t push or force participation until he is ready. Once ready to participate, you can back away and don’t hover.

Flexible: The flexible child is easy going, adapts to change without a problem and is mild in their reactions and emotions. These statements describe a flexible child:

  • My child is happy most of the time.
  • My child follows directions and does what I ask.
  • My child plays alone for long periods of time.

Parenting a flexible child feels easy most of the time. Remember, don’t take them for granted or push their limits beyond what they can reasonably tolerate. Check in with your flexible child regularly and look for opportunities to interact and stay tuned in to their emotional needs. They often aren’t very demanding about their needs but, nonetheless, still need connection and affection to feel secure.

This perspective of understanding your children can be extremely helpful. It also shows that you really can’t respond to all of your children in the same way. They each need support in bringing out the best in their unique personality.

What is your child’s temperament? What is YOURS? Post your comments.

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Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)

  1. maria
    3 years ago

    Hi Abby. On any given day, my daughter can display several characteristics from all three of these basic temperaments, but is not entirely any single one of them. Is that usually the case? She’s a perfectly normal child, but having to constantly change my gears to keep up with her changing temperaments can be challenging and frustrating at times. It also feels like I need a PhD in child development! What are some of the other temperaments and tips on how to parent that child? I would love to find a temperament that really fits so I can understand and support her better (and save my sanity). Thanks!

    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Yes, Maria. That can be true for some children. In fact, there are many more specific personality typing that can be identified in child development. A good way to gauge strong temperament traits are what your child does in new situations. For parents, finding your child’s unique way of feeling connection with you is the best place to focus your efforts. We’ll definitely talk more about it in our upcoming private session.

  2. Julia Gay
    2 years ago

    Hi Abby-

    My kiddo is totally feisty, which is great but a little trying as my husband and I are not. Recently, he’s been showing signs of anxiety. Lots of fears, lots of lashing out, lots of confusion around what he wants to do. It’s hard to engage with neutrality because I was a very anxious kid and I want to help him in a more productive way than I was given. Making the inside space more conducive to physical activity seems like a good idea. Any suggestions or links?