How to Manage Your Child’s Temperament
Every child is born with their own unique way of interacting with the world. Some are flexible in the midst of change, while others may experience stress when presented with new situations or a change in schedule. This is what is referred to as temperament. Each type of temperament has advantages and disadvantages, and some elements of a child’s temperament may be more challenging than others. We can help children become the best version of themselves by helping them manage their temperament.
Temperament is the way a child reacts to their environment and how they regulate emotions. Psychiatrists Dr. Stella Chess and Dr. Alexander Thomas identified nine dimensions of temperament that they felt were significant when determining how a child relates with the world. We will focus on one of those nine in this post – adaptability.
Adaptability, plays a huge role in how children transition through changes around them. Understanding how this plays a role in each child’s temperament is key for parents, teachers, and coaches.
Within their research, Dr. Chess & Dr. Thomas identified 3 categories for temperament: Easy, Difficult, and Slow to Warm Up. Here’s how those categories look in regards to adaptability:
- Children with an “Easy” temperament are able to adjust to changes quickly and smoothly and enjoy new activities. However, they may also be impulsive, because they enjoy jumping into new things, sometimes without thinking first.
- Children with a “Difficult” temperament tend to have very strong emotional reactions to new things and can be extra sensitive to stimuli. On the other hand, they are very passionate and determined.
- Children with the “Slow to Warm Up” temperament may resist new activities and feel uncomfortable at first around new people or things. They may be shy or reserved, but these children often are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure. They also thrive on routines.
Knowing this information can help parents and other adults interact with children of different temperaments more effectively. One of the first things to do is to be aware of your child’s reactions in order to identify their temperament type. No matter what temperament they have, make sure children know that the feelings they are experiencing are OK, and avoid comparing their reactions or temperament to that of another child. When addressing different temperaments, help those with the “Easy” type with thinking before they act. Help the children with “Difficult” temperaments by keeping a consistent schedule and encourage self-awareness. For children with “Slow to Warm Up” temperaments, give them time to adjust to new situations and avoid putting pressure on them to jump into activities before they are ready.
To help with this, the Krav Junior program offers supplemental information called Parent SKILLZ that supports parents to be the best they can for their child. Within this curriculum, there are eight skills that offer ways to do this. Utilizing these skills when addressing individual child temperaments will help a caregiver manage their children effectively. While it’s important for parents to know the temperament of their child, it is equally important for teachers and coaches to be apply this as well. Krav Junior instructors incorporate these skills into their interactions with students on a daily basis. They are attuned to their individual needs and adjust accordingly.
Temperament is different from one child to the next, even within the same family. Children do not choose what their temperament is, and one temperament is not better or worse than the other. Reframing how you describe a child can be powerful for them and for you. The child with an “Easy” temperament is outgoing, the child with the “Difficult” temperament is determined, and the child who is “Slow to Warm Up” is observant. The important thing to remember is that each child is unique, so that you can help them to make the best of their own temperament.