Your Child’s Unique Temperament
By Sandy Kauten
Your role as a parent is to support your child’s development by appreciating (and working with) his or her unique temperament.
We are all born with temperamental tendencies and unique ways of responding to the world. Environment—including relationships and interactions with others, home and family life—can also shape a child’s temperament.
Each person’s temperament comes with strengths and challenges. You can help your child grow their strengths, as well as work through their challenges. The first step is to notice and appreciate your child’s unique temperament. Avoid using negative language or labels, such as stubborn, shy, mean, or not nice. The words we use are powerful and shape how children see themselves. Instead, use encouraging words or positive language. For example, if your toddler is feeling nervous about joining a group of peers at a birthday party, instead of saying “Don’t be shy,” you could get down on your child’s level and ask “Are you feeling nervous? It’s OK. I feel that way sometimes too.”
Our job as parents is to accept who our children are and gently guide them as they stretch in new directions. Steady practice is what helps our children grow in the areas of meeting new people, learning to wait or take turns, and focusing attention on one thing at a time—it all takes practice.
Games are a great way to teach new skills. If your child is very active or struggles with being patient, games such as “Simon Says” or “Red Light, Green Light” can help teach your child to think before they act.
Understanding your child’s unique temperament can help you plan activities that are enjoyable for your child, and that match their needs and nurture their growth. When you appreciate and accept your child’s unique temperament, you will feel a deeper connection with your child, as well as more effectively support them as they “stretch” and grow.
This article is adapted from Parenting Now!’s First Three Years Online Program, which is available for free using the password “Gift” at https://parentingfty.org/.
To dive deeper into the topic of temperament attend Parenting Now!’s virtual Live Discussion: Tuning into Temperament on Monday, August 10, 2020, This free virtual event is live on Zoom from 10 am to 10:30 with a Q&A to follow. To register, visit: https://parentingnow.org/events