When working with various families, this was actually one of my favorite discussions to have. I found that initially, parents did not know what kind of temperament they truly had, until they had a child that tested them in every area. One of the things I think all parents should know is what temperament they have because a child will truly test you, especially in the toddler years. I still like to have this discussion during the prenatal stage because parents are going to do two things; they will parent and react the way they were parented and how their own parents reacted. Most parents will almost always have a child that is their exact opposite in temperament or their spouses/partner’s. I had very few parents that were lucky enough to have a child with the same temperament as themselves.
This is also important for the Father of the baby. I promise you that your spouse/partner might act one way with you, but might react a different way with your baby. Being able to be on the same page with your spouse or partner is crucial to avoiding conflict with each other or confusing a child. Trust me, children are like electricity, they go to the source of least resistance. So if your spouse is more “forgiving” about a situation and doesn’t feel the need to address something, but you do not feel the same way, address it right then and there. The last thing you want is for your child to be able to read you like a book. I have had children as young as four months learn how to get the “weaker” parent to do what they want, it’s fascinating, but remember who’s the parent and who’s the child!
Temperaments are all about how someone behaves and acts with other people when they are placed in diverse situations.
Exploring your own temperament
Once you get to know what you’re really like, it will help you to better understand your child. This is so crucial because so many parents are thrown around by many different pieces of advice. Yes, my advice is coming from Early Childhood and is yet another piece of advice, but I am going to be giving advice based on experience, research and from a developmental perspective (non-biased). Parents will have single friends giving them advice when they’ve never had a child and truly don’t have a clue. Parents will also have Grandparents giving them advice that is a little outdated, some is good and some is questionable. Other parents will have friends that will give advice that are parents themselves, but every household is truly unique and sometimes it isn’t very helpful because the dynamics are so different. I first have parents look at how they were parented and how they reacted to things.
Sometimes sounding like your own parents when reacting or disciplining is a good thing, but other times, it could be a bad thing. Not all families have ideal circumstances. Many good Moms have had a very dysfunctional family growing up that included abuse, neglect, stress, anger and other not so nurturing situations. So, when a child that grows up in that type of environment has their own child, they will replicate what they experienced because it is all they know, but it might not be the best thing for their child. By identifying your own temperament, you will be able to prepare yourself for Motherhood and avoid making the mistakes that perhaps your own Mother made when you were a child.
8 Different Temperaments
- Sensitivity. People that are more sensitive, react more strongly to their senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight). An example is noise. Some are really irritated by loud music or sirens going by. Others are irritated by seams in socks or tags in clothing. Others will have a lower sensitivity and can get hurt, but not cry or even seem that affected and will move on more quickly
- Transitions. Transitions include how a person will either approach new situations or withdraw from them. Some are super excited about change and discovering a new situation, while others take a while to warm up to the idea of any kind of change. They might be more likely to hesitate to join a new group or like to observe things first.
- Distraction. People can have a strong distraction to stimuli and be easily distracted by noise or movement. They will either have high tolerance and can focus on a task or be easily distracted.
- Physical Functions. These are the regular routines like eating, sleeping, waking up, going to the bathroom, etc. People that have regular routines like predictability and like things to occur at the same time everyday. Others, will have an irregular routine and will not be able to do things at the same time, each day.
- Persistence. This is how long someone can stick to a certain task, even when there are difficulties. Some give up easily, others are challenged by it and won’t stop until they finish. Some will work on a task like a difficult puzzle, while others get frustrated and move onto another task.
- Activity Level. This is how much movement occurs in a person’s physical activity. Some are not able to sit for long periods of time and are more comfortable switching from different activities, frequently. They might even be loud, fidget a lot or come across as rude. People with a lower activity level are usually the quiet ones and are able to sit for long periods of time because they are calm.
- Mood. There are those with positive moods that are easily able to get over disappointments and are have more of a positive outlook. Others, are generally more negative although they have a calm demeanor.
- Intense Reactions. There are people that have very strong reactions to their surroundings and people around them. Their emotions are at a high intensity, when they are angry, they are furious and hot tempered. When they are happy, they are ecstatic and on a high for a while. They are usually very loud and outspoken too. When they have low intensity reactions, they will appear to have almost no reaction at all on the outside, usually calmer and quiet.
Why Should I Get to Know my Temperament?
If you aren’t aware of what makes you “tick” you need to get to know before you have a baby. Not only will this help you with how you react to your child, but it will also help your spouse/partner know how to react to you. It is important to note that most Mothers will not have a child with the same temperament as her own or will have multiple kids and at least one of them will be the one that will truly test her.
When parents start imitating their own parent’s behavior, it is learned and this behavior can also be unlearned. There are some tactics that are outdated and have been proven as so with research data. Other tactics are not helping the child and can actually hold back their development. For example, there are some cultures that hold true that mirrors are “bad” for infants to look into because it could cause them to “go crazy” or other things. This is proven to be a wrong approach in Early Childhood Development and studies show that introducing a mirror to infants helps develop their brain growth, their autonomy and their bodily exploration that is also linked with their emotions and reactions. I always respected other cultural beliefs, but I am going to encourage what is found to be positive and helpful for the development of your child.
How to deal with each temperament
Activity Level. Allow your child’s needs to be met so that they get more in tune with their own activity level. If they need that constant change, allow it. There are boundaries that you can set, but the goal is to bring them back to the focus activity. If you are a more low active adult, this will be challenging, but you must meet your child where they are at and find compromise where it doesn’t stress you out too much.
Persistence. Parents with high persistent children will find that they are very focused and structured, independent. Parents that have low persistence children will find it difficult if they themself are the opposite because these kids will give up easily, have more tantrums, get frustrated and angry and it can be really testing if the parents has low tolerance to this. Again, meet the child where they are at and take a step back to understand what your child is going through and how they feel. If you are not patient, you will have to make yourself patient in order to model to your child what that looks like. Don’t lose it, it will pay off, I promise!
Distraction. When it comes to distraction, redirecting is the key. Keep redirecting your child to what their focus should be on. I will have more tactics as we get into the toddler years. This is mainly to make the parent aware that distraction works for many things like making a child stop focusing on the negative side of a situation and focusing on the positive side.
Transitions. Distraction will play a key role with transitions, for parents that have children that don’t do well with change, so use it frequently.
Physical functions. When having a child with a more demanding and irregular routine, it is important to be flexible. Some parents themselves work well with routine and when they have a child that doesn’t fit that mold, it can be very overwhelming. Allowing your child’s needs to be met, will prevent stress for the both of you. For example, allow your child to eat when they’re hungry, even if it is not the normal time to eat. Forcing them to stick to a schedule might bring about stress to the child that you just could do without.
Intense Reactions. Please know that your strong reactor is not doing it intentionally. This is a part of their personality and temperament and makes up who they are as well as how they react to situations and people. You must meet their needs based on their strengths and temperament. So if you have an infant that gets super excited and begins pounding the high chair during feedings, while yelling out of joy, meet them there. You can add a tambourine that they can hit and pound, while you get their solids/plate/sippy cup ready. If you have a child with low intensity, it’s very difficult to see what they’re feeling, but help them bring it out by using your own facial expressions. Yes, this means over-emphasizing your smiles and frowns. Remember, it’s all about modeling the behavior you want your child to imitate back to you.
Mood. This is all about modeling and teaching your child healthy ways to express their emotions. Remaining calm and controlled is key, children will always imitate a parent and what you are aiming at is establishing self-regulation in your child. So, if you lose your temper, it strikes fear, anxiety, doubts and all of these feeling are dis-regulating your child. You need to be calm and in control to help your child feel peace. So if your child doesn’t smile for a picture, don’t let it bother you the rest of the day. Spend a day practicing how to react to a camera. This might be a new experience for your child (if they’re an infant).
Sensitivity. You must consider your child’s sensitivity to make life easier for you both. For example, some with higher sensitivity simply do not like wearing stiff clothing, like denim. If you have an infant that you want to dress up for professional pictures, consider they might not like to wear a cute little suit or jeans. Instead, find a cute outfit that is cotton and soft to avoid a break-down. If you have a low sensitivity child, keep an eye on them. They might get hurt physically and never cry or shed a tear, but it is important to teach them emotions and ask if they are ok. Teach them empathy with a stuffed animal or use baby sign language to teach them the word for “hurt.” This too will be in a post in the toddler years, but it’s never too soon to learn.
Being the “perfect” parent is not a title anyone owns, but being able to manage behaviors that are “out of control” is something that is attainable. This article is one that I hope parents can address in the prenatal stage, but if you are reading this and it is later down the road, there is still time to be able to address your own temperament. I will be adding more posts that will show other tactics in Early Childhood Development that will help with addressing difficult scenarios and giving more solutions for having a happy baby. Please know that when I say “happy baby” that this is referring to having a baby that has more self-regulation. Babies are human and have emotions. Babies will not be happy 24 hours a day. If you have this expectation, let me burst your bubble gently. Parenting is the hardest job in the world because it involves so much, emotions, senses, development, a parent’s own childhood issues come out, family dynamics, culture, expectations, disappointments and so much more! Remember to love your baby and love yourself, you’re already showing how much you care by reading this post. Have a blessed day and look to my future posts.