Understanding Temperament Helps with Family Relationships

Guest blogger Malisa Rader, Human Sciences Specialist, shares insight on supporting children’s temperament.

 

Childrhomework successen’s temperament develops early in life and is influenced by genetics and experiences. When parents have an understanding of their child’s unique temperament, they can tailor their approach to best meet their child’s needs.

Think about different babies you have held. Some snuggle right in while others are more active in your arms. That’s temperament. The more parents accept their child’s temperament and learn to adapt, the more they create family harmony.

Researchers have found that the main factors contributing to different temperaments include:

  • how strongly children react to people and events.
  • how easily children approach new people or new situations.
  • how well children can control their attention, emotions and behavior.

Parents also must keep in mind their own temperament. For example, if both parents and child react strongly to experiences, a cycle can begin that continues to escalate. But if a parent can remain calm, this will help break that cycle.

Adults can also learn to anticipate issues before they occur and avoid frustrating themselves and the child.

For example, if a caregiver knows a child’s temperament struggles with changes to the daily schedule, the caregiver can plan snacks and breaks on days that might not follow usual routines.

Parents need to continually remind themselves that there are no good or bad temperaments, but work to see a child’s strengths and places where they might need more support.

I offer the following suggestions to support children’s temperament:

  • Note how your child reacts to new and unfamiliar situations. Allow more time for transitions if needed.
  • If a child’s activity level is high, be sure to have extra activities available for times such as waiting at the doctor’s office.
  • Give a persistent child permission to step away from a challenging activity and come back to it at a later time.
  • For a child who is easily distracted, create a quiet place for completing homework.
  • Listen patiently as “high-intensity” children share feelings.
  • Check in frequently with “easy-going” children to stay in tune with their needs.
  • For children whose behavior is challenging, set clear and consistent limits rather than using harsh punishment. Spell out any consequences in advance and make sure that your discipline strategy is fair and is geared to encouraging appropriate behavior.
Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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Understanding Why They Do What They Do – Temperament

Last time I shared a bit about brain development and how I feel that it really helps to answer many of child development’s great questions, but what about all those emotions and feelings that get in the way of what the brain is trying to accomplish?

Temperament has fascinated me for more than two decades. It ends up being an integral part to why we think, feel and behave the way we do. I’ve watched the field of temperament grow from just one paragraph in a child development text to almost an entire chapter and even full scale parenting books on the topic.

“Why does one infant grimace strongly at the taste of strained peas while another barely flinches? ”

“Why does one toddler hide behind a parent’s leg while another races off to play at the new playground?”

“Why does one child need a standing desk and another a quiet space?”

All of these questions are ones I’ve asked as both a parent and an educator. If we root around the science of temperament, we can determine our own child’s particular temperament traits and create opportunities to support their natural temperamental tendencies. Designing guidance and discipline that provided support to their unique temperaments while at the same time teaching them positive social skills and appropriate behavior expectations.

As a parent of three distinctly different children it was obvious from the beginning that trying to parent them ‘all the exact same way’ wasn’t going to create success for anyone. As I learned to provide guidance to each of their individual temperaments, I was able to meet their individual needs as well as create opportunities for success. It wasn’t always easy (because don’t forget brain development), but it was always worth it.

Some of my favorite colleagues and friends in the temperament field.

Also, take time to browse our resources in Parenting in Challenging Moments. Many of our resources take temperament into consideration as we look at guiding children appropriately.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Same Girl, Different Year

Recently, I attended a professional Childhood journal entry from 2001development opportunity on the DiSC personality profile, which categorizes you into one of four areas – dominance, influence, conscientiousness, and steadiness (read more about specifics here: https://discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/ ). The day consisted of activities that better helped us to understand our personality type, the type of those with whom we work, and how to best interact with one another. According to the assessment, I’m an ‘I’ – which basically means that I try to make good impressions wherever I go, appreciate working with others, and like to… uh…  talk a lot. According to the assessment, I also lack the ability to be organized (who? me? nooooo).

The very next day after this training, my dad handed me a stack of papers he found tucked into a book in the basement: journal entries I had written in second grade. Entries included, but were not limited to:

  • “Things I love to do is draw, decorate, create, write, type, and pretend to teach.”
  • “Iowa state rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • “My vacation was fun, I stayed over night at my friends house”
  • “I never want to go to jail.”

As I was reading entries written by an 8-year-old me, all I could think was “that is totally me!” I love to draw and design, I work for Extension (where I get the chance to educate), enjoy spending time getting to know others (and appreciate vacations with others around), and I’m a huge Iowa State University sports fan. Lastly, I never want to go to jail – I’m convinced this stems from my fear of disappointing others.

This all got me to thinking –if I have the same personality I did 17 years ago, and we’re getting trained to acknowledge those traits in ourselves and others in the workforce – why aren’t we better at acknowledging the differences in the kiddos in our lives, so we are more equipped to help them succeed? In child development, we often refer to different personality types as ‘temperament.’

I like to think of temperament as a riddle – why do people act, think, and respond the way they do, and how can we make all the pieces fit together? Sometimes I, an emotional, social, person, have to stop and remind myself that my four year-old nephew might not like me demanding him for answers, but rather, might need to let him process while he plays alone with his toys before he responds. For my niece, the ultimate sass master, I can ask her a question and know what to expect (because she is exactly like me).

For more information on temperament and tools to work with a variety of small-but-mighty personalities, check out prior blog posts written by Lori and the team by searching ‘temperament’ in the search bar on our Science of Parenting site.

Side note – I’d love to hear stories of memorabilia you’ve found from your childhood!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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Son’s Easy Temperament an Asset for Coping with Physical Disability

The temperament experts—describe three temperament types—feisty, slow to warm up and easy.  I have blogged about my feisty 15-year old son, my slow to warm up 20-year old daughter and now I am going to share with you my experiences raising my 21- year old “easy” son.  Has parenting him always been easy?  Not in the least!

My first born son—Jared has always been an easy temperament kid.   He really never cried.  I fed him every four hours because that’s what the doctor said.  He didn’t demand it.  But I knew I should.  He didn’t use a pacifier.  He was content on his own.   He smiled at everybody.  He adjusted well, despite his parents’ inexperience.    He was simply the most content, happy baby.  His easy temperament was a good match for my sometimes “feisty” temperament.

My concerns with his physical development started at 10 months of age when I noted that he couldn’t sit up on his own.  And at 18 months, I really began to worry because he still wasn’t walking.  I remember our family doctor looking at him as he referred to a child development book and said,  “Hmm, he really should be walking.  “He looks strong enough”.  As a first time mom I wondered,  “ was he just “too easy-going?” ,  “ was he lazy?”, or “could it be something else?”.  But his easy going style, and a long waiting list for the developmental clinic kept these questions in my mind for several months.  And still he couldn’t walk.

Then at 20 months of age, Jared had his first of several febrile seizures.  Most twenty month olds wouldn’t have tolerated that EEG cords, the IVs and the liquid epileptic medications.  But Jared did.  He Smiled, and actually seemed to enjoy the interaction with the nurses and lab technicians.  The testing went on for a couple of months and then just prior to his 2 year birthday, we received his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a progressive neuromuscular disease that typically effects only males, because of the x-linked genetic mutation.  Boys are sometimes slow to develop physically, sometimes have speech and cognitive challenges as well as cardiac and pulmonary issues, and lose the ability to walk around the age of 12.  So at the same time that we celebrated his first steps, we mourned the losses that lay ahead his first future knowing that he would permanently lose his ability to walk.  His easy going temperament has been the key to our acceptance.  He has never expressed his desire to do anything physical that he wasn’t able to do.  His positive attitude is infectious.  His easy temperament is an asset.  I hope that you  can see the temperaments that your children have as an asset too!

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Parenting Easy Children….. How hard can it be?

baby sleepingHaving an easy or flexible child doesn’t mean you get a free pass on parenting, it’s true these kids tend to be easy learners and they eat and sleep regularly. But because they’re so undemanding, their parents may not give them the attention they need and may unconsciously ignore them.  Parents need to remember that an easy child needs a lot of parental time and attention.

Join us this month as we blog about the more flexible and easy temperament style.

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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My favorite temperament type

ThinkstockPhotos-465790704Oh oh…. I said it out loud (well sort of). The feisty child one of my favorite temperament types! I just can’t help it! I love interacting with a feisty temperament. I know that sounds silly but even as a preschool teacher I was always at my best when I was engaged with the feisty kiddo. Maybe ‘favorite’ isn’t the right word to use. I guess it was just that ‘I get them’. I understand the feisty traits. I ‘get’ where they are coming from.

Now just to clarify, I’m pretty sure my parents would not have labeled me as feisty. My feisty traits were sprinkled with a whole lot of adaptability. Which, for me, held the negative parts of feisty in check. So when it comes to feisty temperaments I understand that sense of  being determined. Of wanting what I want. Of being persistent. In the moment of feistiness, I know how your ‘gut’ feels. What your stomach is doing. How fast your brain synapses are firing. I understand that, I get it.

So what did I learn about interacting with a feisty temperament? Most importantly, that a calm, cool and collected demeanor is the best way to approach the feisty child. You see, amidst their feistiness they won’t be able to hear your ‘reasoning or logic’. Their feistiness is in the way. It’s too loud in their head, they literally can’t hear you. But, they can still see your reactions.

That’s about all that you can do sometimes. SHOW them. Model for them how you want them to respond or behave. There’s little time or room for long drawn out liturgies and lessons on appropriate language or the use of gentle touches. Feisty kids need that ‘extra‘ moment to see calm cool and collected from you. They are looking for you to ‘show‘ them how to tame that feisty feeling that has overtaken their body.

So very hard sometimes yet so very vital to teaching them self-control.

What are some techniques you have ‘shown’?

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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I’d like to customize my order please

…that’s the phrase that came to mind when I thought about this week’s blog. Which, when it comes right down to it, I do want my child to be unique. A customized order. An individual. Not a cookie cutter replica of her friends. Having said that, I guess I should then expect myself to parent her as if she IS customized.

While we search for THE right answer to our parenting questions,we really do come realize that there isn’t just ONE right way, not even in a family with multiple children. Parenting is all about understanding each individual unique child and beginning to dance with their customized self. In the moments where parenting is frustrating, I have learned to give myself permission to be frustrated while at the same time learning to appreciate that I have created something unique. Customized. Created by me with input from her, her friends, her neighbors, her community and her world. Taking all those pieces and watching and wondering at the same time.

Sometimes its important as a parent to step back and let the child lead the dance that we have been talking about over the last several weeks. Other times it’s important to be the adult and make the decisions (and follow through). Parenting is a back and forth, leading and guiding and following all at the same time. THAT’s what makes it customizable. It shouldn’t look just like the next door neighbors family, or your own childhood experiences or the tv show on a popular network.

You and your child should customize your world together and enjoy the journey along the way.

How have you customized your journey?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Was I too late?

for blog smallerWhen my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”

It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.

This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’.  Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.

Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style.  Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.

What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Does Parenting Style Matter?

On our blog we typically discuss parenting from a science or research-based perspective. However, this month we will also discuss the “art” of parenting – how parents can tailor their parenting style to each child’s temperament.

Parenting style really isn’t ‘one size fits all. Styles range from overly involved ‘helicopter’ parents to ‘free-range’ parents who are more hands off, with a wide range in between.

The “art” of parenting comes into play as we figure out how to customize our parenting style to our children’s needs.

Join us this month and share your ‘art’ of parenting.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Seeing Through the Temperament Window

I  like to think of learning about temperament as ‘cleaning off a window’. The window is the way we can ‘see into’ who our child is and how they respond to their world. At first, the window may be dusty or clouded and we aren’t able to see through it clearly. As we learn about our child’s temperament, we begin to clear the cloudiness off the window and can begin to anticipate the child’s responses or even predict a particular behavior. A clear view through the window can help us understand why they do what they do.

Like Janet said last week, allowing time to give the ‘slow to warm’ or ‘shy’ child a chance to ‘get used to it’ is important to supporting their self-esteem. The same can be true for allowing them extra time to learn new routines, try new foods or get acclimated to new clothes or shoes. It’s important to remember that for this temperament ‘newness’ of anything really IS a challenge. Allowing them the opportunity to try, test and experiment can be an easy way to show them you support their hesitant temperament.

One of my favorite things about temperament is that it starts with genetics. Ultimately our children respond the way they do based on the genes we gave them. As they grow, their temperament genes can be influenced by how the adults in their lives respond to them. As we encourage, support and dance with their temperament, we are guiding and influencing how they continue to respond to their surroundings. A supportive environment begins to create a ‘good fit’ between the adult and the child. That ‘fit’ becomes a piece of the foundation of the child’s self-esteem.

Share with us how you have encouraged and supported a ‘slow to warm’ or shy temperament?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Dancing with a Wallflower or Parenting the “Slow to Warm Up” Child

shutterstock_219620059My daughter is the ultimate “wallflower” when it comes to dancing through life.  I am fortunate to have had the personal experience of parenting  a “slow to warm up” temperament child.   I will share some parenting strategies or “dancing  steps” that I have learned over the years that I think have enhanced our relationship and her development.

First—as a parent I know Hannah well.  I know when she is stressed.  I know when she is scared.  I know when she is apprehensive.  I have learned when she needs support and when she needs a little push.  I have learned how to support and not hover.  This ability to read our kids temperament is the first and most important step in creating the “goodness of fit” that we discussed in our latest Science of Parenting podcast.

I lovingly call her my “wallflower”.  Many times she was overlooked in classroom or in social activities because she was quiet and easily over powered by those with more eager, robust temperaments.  She required more time to adjust to new situations, new environments, and new people.  She was and continues to be highly sensitive to sounds, food, smells, and textures.  She requires time to observe, and become comfortable.  Large groups, busy places, and surprises were hard for her to adjust to.  I learned early in her life—to provide early notification and discussion of what she was going to experience.  Coaching and communicating were important for her comfort.  She is almost twenty now, but still finds comfort in familiarity.

When parenting a “slow to warm up” child, it is important to nurture their development and self-esteem.  They need acceptance.   This means encouraging strengths ( for example- ability to play on her own, or to observe what’s going on around her carefully), and providing support when she needs it (visiting and exploring a new class in child care to help her feel comfortable).

When you notice and appreciate the similarities and differences between you and your child, you can adapt the way you parent in order to meet your child’s individual temperament needs.  This helps your child feel loved, confident, important, and capable.  Sensitive parenting helps your child know and feel good about themselves as they mature.  Lastly, encourage your child to engage in activities that they enjoy.  Avoid the “shy” labels.  Give ample time to help them get used to the idea of doing something new.  Advocate, coach and encourage.

American society tends to view sensitivity and “shyness” as negative traits, but as a parent of a —slow to warm up now adult child I have learned that they have much to offer.  They are perceptive, observant, caring, empathetic and deeply in touch with their feelings and emotions and importantly those of others.  Traits not always easily found in others.    Love and value your kids for who they are.   I love my wallflower….Hannah.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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The Parenting Dance

Parenting is like dancing: even with practice, the partners may step on each other’s toes. However, the parenting dance has a greater chance for success when the parent knows how to read and take the child’s lead.

The parenting dance is the mix between the child’s natural style, or temperament, and the parent’s approach and response. Getting the mix just right takes practice, particularly with a child who is shy or slow to warm up to new routines or environments.  During February we will blog about temperament and explore ways for parents to encourage their children to try new experiences without fear.

Won’t you join us?

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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The RIGHT Kind of Play

I admit to feeling like I had a play deficit when my children were little. So much so that I used to make myself feel pretty guilty because as an early childhood educator I felt like I should be better at ‘PLAY’. What I discovered is that I just play differently. And guess what. So do you!

We all play differently. I found that I like play that is active or has action. Others like to play board and/or card games that are more quiet. While still others enjoy the make believe and dress up adventures. There is no right or wrong way to play. There is just play. Pure and simple. Play. Play is face to face with the children in your life. Engaging their mind and body while creating strong relationships. Back and forth communication.  I guess my message really is don’t over analyze how you play or if you play is good enough or right enough.

Just play.

Pat yourself on the back, give yourself credit and tell me how you like to play with the children in your life.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Teach Appropriate Behavior Through Discipline – Online Training

 

Don’t forget to join us Thursday evening at 8:00pm!

Teach Appropriate Behavior Information

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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It’s not the emotion – it’s the outlet.

Guest Blogger- Family Life Intern Mackenzie K.

As Donna and the podcast suggested, anger is natural for children. There are countless issues that may cause a child to feel angry: not getting their way, frustration over things that are hard, learning difficulties, family problems, or friendship issues.

Often times we want to tell our children that they should not be angry. Their anger sometimes seems irrational and unjustified to us as parents. In reality, the emotion of anger is not the problem; it is how they handle that anger.

So allow your child to feel angry. We all know how hard it is to try to change your emotions. Help your child identify their feeling as anger. Saying and labeling the emotion like this may be helpful, “You are angry because I won’t let you eat candy before supper” or “I can tell that when you don’t make the circle perfect it makes you frustrated”.

Now that they can recognize their anger, they can learn how to address it. There are some great strategies and tips to try when helping your child learn to handle their anger in the article below:

Helping Children with Anger

Does anyone have any experience using these techniques? What has worked best for you and your child?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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