What is temperament?
Our temperament defines who we are as a person.
Every person has their own way of responding to things that happen to them. For example, some children are shy around new people or in a new environment while some others are happy to mingle and socialise. That is their temperament.
Thomas and Chess (1977) divided temperament types into 3 broad areas. These have been widely used by educators up to date to help understand children. It is easier to work with children when you understand their temperaments and focus on their strengths.
Children typically have all three temperaments in them. However, when they are particularly tired or stressed, one of these temperament types tend to stand out more.
Here are the 3 Types of Temperaments:
1. Difficult or feisty
Rather than calling this temperament as ‘difficult’, experts prefer to use the words active’ or ‘independent’. Children with this temperament can be challenging at times but their activeness is considered a strength. These children are more intense, noisy, throws tantrums easily, dislike changes, may not sleep through the night, may not be easily toilet trained and are generally not easy to work with.
Some children are just naturally easy going. They are flexible and tend to go with the flow of everything that is happening around them. They toilet train easily, they sleep through the night, they are in a generally positive mood, they adapt to changes easily and are ideal to work with. When in distress, these children may just shed a tear.
3. Slow to warm-up
Children under this category are fearful or shy. They tend to take a back seat and do not say much. They are slow to warm-up and they like to sit back and observe. They are conscious of themselves and are highly observant. They may be clingy in crowds and are generally in a negative mood. When pushed to join a group, they can become worse. But if they are given space and allowed to take time to warm-up, they slowly become happy to participate in group activities.
While observing children and placing them under a category, it is important to ensure that you are not rigid. This is because Temperaments may change over time and with the effect of the environment and people around them.
Why is it beneficial to know your child’s temperament?
A child’s temperament is a part of who they are. While we cannot change or fix a temperament that we do not like, it is possible to have a better understanding that will help is to…
- Interact effectively with the child
- Understand a child’s puzzling behavior
- Modify a child’s behaviour
What about your temperament?
Take a little time to observe your temperament too. If your temperament clashes with that of a child you are working with, it may result in you disliking the child and preventing you from forming a relationship with the child.
If a child’s temperament is challenging you, it is up to you to see how to change yourselves to make it work to form a good relationship with the child and make it better for them.
A good way to start is:
- Observe the child
- Find something that you have in common with the child
- Share with the child and form a connection