You often hear phrases such as: ‘He’s easy tempered’, or ‘She’s got a hot temper’… What does it actually mean?
It’s your personality – the way you act, feel and think. Your temperament, or style of behaviour, is present at birth, is generally resistent to change, and affect our lives into adulthood.
Why do I need to know about temperament?
As a parent, this is vital information… many parents get upset or annoyed when their child (or partner) behaves in a certain way, because they don’t see the reason behind the behaviour eg why a child gets clingy in a new situation, or why a child doesn’t persist at a task. If I am ‘like’ them, I probably will understand why they do things the way they do. But, if a person is different to me, their reasons for their behaviour aren’t always obvious.
When we understand ourselves and others, it generally leads to better relationships.
Nine traits of temperament have been identified. Image that each of these are on a range or continuum, with no right or wrong position, but rather a means of identifying ‘who’ you are.
Activity Level – some people are really active and use their bodies for exercise, to release energy, and to express emotions. They can’t sit still for long. Others with lower activity levels can sit for longer periods and enjoy quiet activities. Imagine you are the active one, and your child is quieter – chances are you will be nudging them to ‘do things’ and maybe even see them as lazy. If it were reversed (you passive, child active) then you may find yourself saying: Be still, calm down.
Adaptability – Some people have difficulty adapting to changes eg: transition from home to car, or inside play to outside play. Others adapt quickly, when the situation or environment changes.
Persistence / Attention Span – Do you give up easily in the face of a challenge, or a frustration? Persistent people will work for a long time to achieve goals. Low persistent people become frustrated easily and feel unable to stick to a task if it seems too challenging.
Approach / Withdrawal – Some people eagerly jump into new experiences. Others are cautious, and like to become familiar with the new scene, watching from a distance before joining in. Imagine you are a ‘bounce into it’ person, and your child is holding back. You may be ‘pushing’ them to join in now, when they aren’t ready – leading to a clash. Or, if you were the quiet one, and your child rushes in to new experiences quickly, you may want to hold them back.
Are you seeing the implication of being the ‘same’ as your child, and being ‘different’ to you child, and the likely results of each? Let’s continue…
Regularity – Do you operate best, with regular times to eat, sleep, and even toilet? Some people are very predictable and work to a timetable. Others are unpredictable and find it difficult to establish a routine.
Sensitivity – If you have low sensitivity, you aren’t bothered too much by pain, loud noises or the feeling of clothing fabrics. People with high sensitivity usually react negatively to loud noises, bright lights and food tastes.Their senses become easily overstimulated, and they may want to isolate themselves.
Mood – Are you generally ‘up beat’, displaying pleasant behaviours, or maybe towards ‘blue’ and/ or displaying ‘negative’ behaviours?
Distractability – How focussed are you on your tasks? People with low distractability can remain on task, and follow instructions. People with high distractibility can find it hard to complete tasks, but may be flexible.
Intensity – how much energy do you put into your behaviours eg some people don’t just cry, they wail loudly. Some don’t quietly chuckle, they laugh heartily.
Understanding your and your child’s temperament makes parenting just that bit easier!
Over the next two weeks, I’ll write about ways to assist each personality trait.
Image by Marg via Flickr