Heartprints: Understand Your Child's Temperament

Temperament: ten unique traits. Do you know your child's temperament?

Temperament is a lot like wrapping paper. The traits come in many colors and designs, in a multitude of hues and intensities. They are as different as multitude of leaves in autumn with many varying tones and colors. Knowing our child’s unique temperament and the interaction of traits, parents are armed with a critical tool to parent more consciously and increase family ease and fun. The more skills in your tool belt, the more equipped you are for the curve balls that life throws your way! Here you'll learn key actions to support each individual temperament trait.

Father and son on an iPad spending time together

Your Child's Unique Temperament

From tots to teens, there are as many temperaments trait combinations as there are children. Understanding temperament is a helpful piece of the puzzle. You, as a parent, create heartprints through your responses; make them count!

Below is a comprehensive list of the traits. For an understanding of each of these temperament traits, please refer to our blog, "Why It's Critical to Understand Your Child's Temperament" where we go into detail about the traits themselves.

In this blog, we're going to give you specific tips for supporting your child in and the  challenges that can be difficult for a parent on a daily basis.

Ten Unique Temperament Traits

1)    Sensitivity
2)    Activity level
3)    Rhythm: regular or irregular
4)    Emotional Intensity
5)    Approach and withdrawal – a child’s first response to new situations
6)    Adaptability
7)    Persistence and frustration tolerance
8)    Mood
9)    Distractibility
10)  Perceptivity

Tips for High Sensitivity in Your Child

Why high sensitivity can be challenging: Children with high sensitivity in their temperament feel and sense everything: the elastic in their pants, the whine of the kitchen ceiling fan, the scratchiness of a pillow texture, the smell of the child sitting next to them in school or the perfume of a lady standing in the grocery line. Everything in their world is experienced with intensity!
  • Provide regular quiet time and adequate space for your child.

  • Limit time on computers, video games, and TV.
    Sensitive children tend to not just watch but take on the energy, violence, and characters they are watching. They are entranced­—and absorb the images like a sponge!

  •  Avoid long stays at noisy places with crowds and lots of lights, such as malls, stores, fairs, and parties. Sensitive kids do better with stimulation in small doses when they are well rested.

  • Look for and teach your child to identify cues of over-stimulation. Ask leading questions, e.g., “Is that noise bothering you?” “Is your coat making you too hot?”

  • Help your child find ways to gain control over unnecessary stimulation. Ask questions such as, “Do you need some quiet time?” “What could you do to take care of yourself?”

  • Teach your child to notice their discomfort and take action to take care of themselves. Help them to communicate their needs early and advocate for themselves.

Tips for Low Sensitivity in Your Child

Why low sensitivity can be challenging: Children with low sensitivity rarely experience what others do so they can feel like others are making too big of a deal about things. They might be insensitive to others because they have a high tolerance for stimulation without negative effects so won't understand what another child or adult may be experiencing.
  • Teach patience and understanding of others' experience that may be different from their own

  • Monitor use of technology

  • Encourage the child to sense their environment and pay attention to small wonders

A grandfather helping a young high energy boy learn to ride a bike
Tips for High-Energy  Children

  • Expect the energy and plan for it! Don’t try to change it—it’s impossible!
  • Ensure that your child gets regular exercise.
    When a child with high energy starts misbehaving, it is a sign that they need movement. Provide opportunities for the child to move, especially after sitting all day in school.

  • Send active children outside! (Take young children on walks or to the park. For older children to the waterpark or mountain biking.) Select sports and activities that are fast action.

  • Schedule wind-down rituals at night.

Tips for Low-Energy  or Active Children

  • Give extra time in the morning to awaken and start their engine.

  • Commend them on their ability to relax and chill.

  • Encourage exercise and monitor too much TV or passive entertainment.

  • Teach how to motivate themselves; give self-starter skills.

Tips for Children with Irregularity in their Temperament

Why irregularity can be challenging: Children with irregularity like variety; they don't like to follow a routine, two days are never the same. They are spontaneous and fun, but can be annoying when you want to follow a plan or establish routine.  
  • Set up rituals and systems that allow for flexibility but also create structure.

  • Provide a routine. Then be patient and consistent as the child adjusts.

  • Teach them how to set goals and achieve them so they experience the joy of completion and accomplishment

  • Commend them on their spontaneity and how adaptable they are while guiding them to learn the benefits of structure, routine, and following a schedule.

Tips for Children with High Regularity in their Temperament

Why high regularity can be challenging: Children with high regularity want just that: regularity. They want to eat at the same time; go to bed at the same time; read the same book night after night! Routine makes them happy. Therefore, when plans change, they miss a nap or a schedule changes unexpectedly, the change can upset them.
  • Teach them to stretch and become more flexible.

  • Provide a consistent routine and then mix it up occasionally to help them learn to adapt.

  • Teach skills of how to set goals and achieve them.

  • Commend the child on consistency and dependability.

Little girl eating yogurt enthusiastically

Tips for Children with Emotional Intensity

Why emotional intensity can be challenging: These children feel everything deeply and their emotions can override their thinking skills. They can be so zealous and excited that they can appear inconsiderate or can act inappropriately for environments like a library or visiting grandma.
  • Provide soothing and calming activities to diffuse the intensity!

  • Channel intensity into sports, interests, and hobbies.

  • Plan to focus intensity through imagination, drama and sensorial activities.

  • Teach self-calming and coping mechanisms.

  • Teach the child to use their words when upset.

Tips for Your Child with a Tendency  to Be Cautious

Why cautiousness can be challenging: Many times, the cautious child is slow to engage, can appear slightly shyer, and are often intimidated by fast moving activities or high spirited friends or classmates. They can be timid to try new things.
  • Encourage them to stretch patiently and to learn new things.

  • Teach them to recall positive memories and past successes.

  • Allow more time to adjust, especially in new situations. 

  • Provide opportunities to observe prior to participating.

Tips Children Who Are Impulsive and Quick to Jump In! 

Why impulsivity and eagerness can be challenging: The child who leaps before he or she thinks is more prone to risk and can be accident prone. They can dive into things prematurely and get in over their head. Their enthusiasm is delightful; however, they can be so quick to act they may not consider their effect on others.
  • Help them to think things through prior to acting
  • Encourage them to slow down and consider others.

  • Teach them to have compassion for those who may be less adventurous or slower to warm to an activity.
     

Tips for Children with Lower Adaptability

Why low adaptability can be challenging: This child has difficulty shifting gears so transitions, e.g., from play to dinner or from home to school, can cause outbursts or power struggles. Since change is more difficult for them, plans that don't work out are a big deal in their world.
  • Provide more time for transition times and build routine into every day so they know what to expect.

  • Give ten-minute warnings for changes or departures.

  • Create a spacious schedule with very little hurrying. 

  • Give ample time for completion of tasks and closure for their thought process.

  • Patience, patience, patience!

Tips for children who are highly adaptable—be grateful! And have compassion for other parents whose child has low adaptability and lots of tantrums!

Mother and daughter doing a painting project

Tips for Children with Low Persistence and High Frustration Levels

Why low persistence is challenging: a child with low persistence and high frustration tends to give up more easily and get discouraged. They are more timid to try new things since any new skill can challenge persistence. These children can create a safety mechanism by being more passive observers instead of participants.
  • Encourage and support the child!

  • Break skills and projects down to smaller actions so the child can experience success before getting frustrated.

  • Gradually increase what is expected and levels of difficulty.

  • Validate the child when they persist.

  • Provide abundant opportunities for small successes.

Tips for Children with High Persistence

Why high persistence is challenging: the child or teen never gives up; they don't take no for an answer. As a parent, this requires stronger more consistent boundaries.

Be consistent! Say “no” and mean it!

Set clear and firm limits—and follow through!

Teach child negotiation skills. Give choices.

Validate the child when he or she sees another’s viewpoint.

Tips for Serious and Analytical  Children and Teens

Why this combination is challenging: the child or teen tends to find fault with everything. Often, the first thing out of their mouth is a negative comment. They are rarely happy because they are too busy finding what's not right with things. Be encouraged: they'll make great financial accountants, analysts, and disrupters!
  • Encourage the child to see the positive side.

  • Teach the child how to communicate without criticizing.

  • Don’t coax or cajole a child out of their mood.

  • Celebrate positive events and validate child for successes.

  • Ask leading questions to help child see more optimistic viewpoints.

Tips for Highly Distracted Children

Why a highly distracted trait is challenging: This child or teen tends to hop from one thing to another. They can be off task quickly; their attention follows what is moving or most exciting. They start many things and finish few. If something is boring, distraction tends to go up. You might wonder if they will ever be able to keep their attention on anything for more than five minutes!
  • Limit technology and stimulus, i.e., turn off television and give quality time.

  • Teach the child to focus on one thing at a time.

  • Affirm child when he or she completes a task without getting distracted.

  • Limit the number of instructions given at one time.
Family playing a game with a preschooler

Tips for Children with High Perceptivity

Why high perceptivity can be challenging: This child or teen notices everything. They are often observing things others miss and can get so caught up in their awareness of their environment that it can appear like they're not listening. This temperament trait allows a child to be aware of the smallest of details and they are also highly perceptive of others, including emotions, expressions, and moods.
  • Allow plenty of time for exploration and observation.

  • Make friendly eye contact.

  • Get the child’s attention through loving touch.

  • Give the child simple and clear messages.

  • Use all senses to get child’s attention: writing, touching, speaking, etc.

For temperament classes or parenting coaching, please contact us at Heartmanity 406-577-2100.

And don't miss our great parenting advice and tips through our HeartPrints and HeartMail newsletters.

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CREDIT: The information in this blog is an excerpt from a temperament workshop from the International Network for Children and Families (INCAF) founded by Kathryn Kvols. Jennifer Williams is a certified Instructor and Instructor Trainer for INCAF and of the popular course Redirecting Children's Behavior. She is also the author of the parenting workshop on temperament as well as the article above. One of Jennifer's passions is temperament and she has studied it for decades. Heartmanity has done  countless Family Home Visits and classes assisting parents to better understand their children's unique temperament. 

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Jennifer A. Williams / Parent CoachJennifer A. Williams / Parent Coach
Jennifer’s mission is to create thriving relationships at home and work. She coaches children, teens, and their parents in her private practice located in Bozeman, Montana. Jennifer is a parenting instructor of Redirecting Children's Behavior and an Instructor Trainer for the International Network for Children and Families. She's been a parent educator for the past twenty years. Jennifer is also the author of "The Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence for Children" and co-author of "Hacking the Teen Brain" courses. She frequents homes and schools as regularly as a behavioral consultant to help with challenging behaviors. Jennifer is married to her beloved husband of 39 years and is the mother of three grown children.

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