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The Three Main Temperament Types

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What temperament type is your child?

Understanding your child’s temperament can make your relationship much more close and rewarding. Your child’s temperament determines how you should help your child negotiate social situations.

While the majority of children fall into the “Flexible” temperament, your child might be withdrawn or very active placing them in a different category. Understanding your child’s temperament may help you ease your child’s time in child care or school as well as help with understanding your child at home.

As a parent, you might consider many issues about temperament. How do you know what temperament your child has? Why is it important to know? How can you use your child’s temperament to guide your discipline methods and foster social skills?

Read on for a brief description of the three main temperament types. Look for a general description that matches your child in most situations.

The “Fearful” child adapts slowly to situations and may withdraw. An older child may be fearful of taking risks such as answering questions or volunteering answers in class. The young child may play alone, engage in parallel play longer than is normal, or spend a lot of time watching the other children from the edge of the playground or from the safety of a care provider’s arms.

A Feisty” child displays several traits such as, being active, intense, distractible, sensitive, irregular in sleep patterns or appetite, and may be moody. A feisty child may lash out at others as it is often difficult for him/her to learn to control his/her feelings.

Fortunately, most children fall into the “Flexible” or easy temperament with traits such as regular sleeping and eating rhythms, generally positive moods, adaptability, low intensity, and low sensitivity. The young Flexible child may have a few moments of difficulty or withdrawal at times or in a specific environment, but he/she generally calm and steady.

A few children will have a mix of temperaments such as the generally Flexible child who can sometimes display the characteristics of a Feisty child when under stress. Another generally Flexible child might become withdrawn in very new situations but might warm up quickly if a friend appears or if the other children are inviting and positive.

Once you identify what temperament your child has it becomes easier to support him/her in social situations. It also helps to explain some of the behaviors or habits you might find confusing. It is entirely possible that your child has a different temperament than you do.

Whatever your child’s temperament may be, you can provide support for your child’s success at home and at school or child care. Talk with your child’s teacher to see what he/she sees as your child’s temperament at school (it can be slightly different than at home) and develop plans for supporting positive emotional expression and social skills.

Your child’s care givers should be very interested and concerned about providing temperament-specific care. Understanding your child’s temperament leads to a rich, supportive relationship at home and creates a more confident learner and community member when your child moves into child care or school.

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