Try and try as you may, it’s a futile attempt to try to change your kids. Better to teach them how to use their traits for the better.
Children have a set of in-born traits that organize the children’s approach to the world. It’s their factory installed wiring that remain pretty consistent from birth.
When you look at all of these traits as a whole, you’ll discover your child’s temperament. While we cannot change temperament, we can affect how our children express or use their traits. This becomes their personality.
Traits vs. Personality
How well their temperament fits with the environment and how well they are received by the people in the environment will determine how a child sees himself and others. Helping your child to positively manage his temperament is a huge gift!
There are innumerable ways to look at temperaments, preferences, learning styles and personalities. For the purposes of this course, I used the Nine Traits of Temperaments described by Dr. Thomas and Dr. Chess.
Nine Traits of Temperaments
They described these traits as characteristics in behavior that land on a spectrum somewhere between mild and intense. Every child has an aspect of all nine. You need to determine where your child is on the spectrum of each trait and then synthesize them to have a full picture.
Warning: As you read through these traits, remember that there is no right or wrong end of the spectrum. Every kind of temperament trait can be used in good ways if we learn how to use it effectively. By understanding our children’s traits, we can help them better understand themselves. This awareness improves learning, behavior, and happiness.
- Activity Level – Many parents define the activity level as the key difference between an easy or difficult child. A child who is very active must have an outlet for his energy. He can’t sit still or quiet for long. A child who is less active may take more time to finish things. He can sit still easily. The challenge may be in helping him get adequate exercise.
- Distractibility - This is the degree to which a child focuses on a task that he is not very interested in. A more focused child can complete tasks more easily and learn more quickly. He often tunes out everything when working on an activity. An easily distracted child may have trouble finishing things and get easily sidetracked, but can multi-task well. High distractibility is seen as positive when it is easy to divert a child from an undesirable behavior but seen as negative when it prevents the child from finishing school work.
- Intensity or Strength of Expression – A child who is very expressive may yell or cry over seemingly small things. He may be good at talking you into things. Intense children are more likely to have their needs met and tend to be exhausting to live with. The less expressive child may be seen as an underachiever. He may be calmer and more cooperative.
- Regularity or Need for Physical Routine – A child who prefers more regular routines wants to go to bed and eat around the same times every day. He may get upset if the day doesn’t go as usual. A child on the other end of the spectrum likes variety in physical routines, enjoys doing things differently and may not notice small changes in the day.
- Sensory Threshold or Sensitivity to Senses – This spectrum has a child who is painfully sensitive to stimulation on one end and a child who seeks more sensory stimulation on the other. The child who seeks more stimulation will learn best by engaging all of his senses. He enjoys cuddling and snuggling. He may hit or bite when angry. A child who is painfully sensitive to the stimulation may resist hugging and snuggling, may fuss about clothing or food textures. Parents of these sensitive children often feel like they are walking on eggshells.
- Initial Reaction – A child who enjoys change moves into new situations with ease. He is described as friendly, social, and gregarious. He is also more likely to wander off in a store. He may become bored with the same things. A child who prefers the familiar becomes shy when meeting new people or in a new location, and therefore may be described as anti-social. He needs time to observe and warm-up from the edges. Slow-to-warm-up children tend to think before they act. They are less likely to act impulsively during adolescence.
- Adaptability (resilient and flexible) – How easily does your child adapt over time versus react initially? A more adaptable child can easily tolerate big changes and the day-to-day transitioning from one activity to the next. A slow-to-adapt child is less likely to rush into dangerous situations, and may be less influenced by peer pressure.
- Persistence or Tenacity – This refers to the length of time a child continues with an activity in the face of obstacles. A child who is more persistent or tenacious will stick with something until it is done. The tunnel vision can be about food, a material item such as a toy, or even an idea. He may have a hard time taking “no” for an answer and seem immune to typical disciplining techniques. A less persistent child may have a hard time completing tasks and will give up on things that are uninteresting or too complicated. A child with low persistence may develop strong social skills because he realizes other people can help.
- Usual Mood – Is your child a glass half-full or half-empty kind of kid? Mood combines a lot of different elements, but in general, some kids are more upbeat and others are less bubbly. The child who is usually happy makes friends very easily. In fact, they might even act happy when they are sad. Some kids do very well in group situations (school, play, structured activities) but are much less enthusiastic at home. These kids are moody and may have a harder time having fun. It may seem there is a big problem even when there isn’t. A child who is usually less positive may become sad or angry about things more quickly. Serious children tend to be analytical and evaluate situations carefully.
If you are interested in taking a temperaments traits quiz for your child, you can find one here at: http://www.readyforlife.org/temperament/quiz/start