Latino Children Play Swing

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What is your child’s personality? Psychologists refer to children’s personalities as temperament as if they were dogs but aside from this they have a lot to tell us. First of all when we understand that temperament is inbuilt to a certain extent and that we can’t really change it, we realise we don’t need to blame ourselves for every behaviour problem. Finding out about your child’s temperament may also give you an insight into how they will turn out as adults as many studies have shown that childhood personality affects adult personality. It may also help you accept the less charming aspects of your child’s personality. For example, understanding that my son’s strong will is related to the temperament trait of persistence, which can be a positive attribute as an adult, makes me feel more accepting. It also makes me feel a little more tolerant when he shouts that he wants everything now. Persistent children get frustrated easily apparently. Finally, we can manage our children’s behaviour better if we know their temperament.

Thomas and Chess (1977) came up with nine dimensions for temperament: activity level: how much your child moves about, quality of mood: whether your child is generally happy or whiny, sociability: whether your child willingly meets new people and situations or withdraws from them, rhythmicity: whether your child’s eats, sleeps and goes to the toilet at regular times, adaptability: how easily your child adapts to new routines, responsiveness-sensitivity to the environment such as loud noises, intensity of reaction: how strong your child’s emotional reactions are, distractibility: how easily your child can be distracted from an activity they are engaged in, attention span/persistence: how long a child with continue with an activity they are engaged in.

The advice is to try and adapt to your child’s temperament. For example, with children who are low on adaptability, it is best to establish routines and to prepare them far in advance for any changes to the regular routine such as going on holiday. This is all easier said than done. My son shows intense reactions to things. When he is happy is very, very happy but when he is angry we all know about it. I am trying to take the advice though and empathise with his feelings. When he throws everything on the floor, I resist the temptation to drag him to his room and lock the door. I say things like ‘I know you are feeling angry but you must not throw things. Why don’t you try counting to ten and taking a deep breath.’ Then I realise I am talking to a three year old. He counts to ten with me, laughs at me taking a deep breath and then gets angry again. I think I managed to stop a full on temper tantrum though. I just need to sharpen up my knowledge of relaxation techniques for three year olds.

‘Psychology for parents: Birth to teens’ is for sale as an e-book on Amazon,, Barnes and Noble, Kobobooks and Apple ibookstore.