Understanding Your Child's Temperament

Since temperament is an inherent part of your child’s character and can be shaped but not changed, it is important that you remain flexible as a parent and sensitive your child’s needs. Understanding and learning more about your child’s temperament is important because it affects your child, you as a parent, and the relationship between the two of you.
Understanding your child’s temperament will help you:

* Explain which behaviors are typical for your child
* Anticipate how a child will react to a particular event or situation
* Interact with your child
* Know which types of discipline will be effective
* Be more confident in yourself as a parent
* Create a positive relationship between you and your child

Misunderstanding your child’s temperament can lead to:

* Criticizing or punishing your child for behavior that is an expression of your child’s temperament
* Parenting your child in a way that works against your child’s temperament, which can lead to behavioral problems
* Blaming yourself for being an ineffective parent

Creating a good fit

The better the fit between the child’s temperament and the parenting style, the better the results will be. Many parents with more than one child are often surprised at how different siblings can be. In many cases, what parenting style worked for the first child will not work with the second, and parents will have to use completely different techniques in raising each child. Treating children differently does not mean that you are treating them unequally or unfairly—one child may need more structure and guidance while another may do better following an independent path. It is also important for parents not to let their hopes of what their child will be like take too much precedence over what the child actually is like. Behavioral problems result when the parenting style and the child’s temperament do not make for a good fit.

Creating a good fit does not mean that you let your child do anything she wants, or behave in any way she wants. Rather, it means that you can understand her actions and behaviors better and respond appropriately. Learning about temperament will help you find a discipline technique that is both positive and effective, and it will help you decide on which issues you need to remain firm and which ones you can let slide. Taking these characteristics into consideration, you can learn how to help your child rather than becoming frustrated and critical when your child acts in a way you do not understand.

* Perhaps your child always cries when you try to dress her up in fancy dresses or bundle her up for the cold. She may be upset because she is highly sensitive, and the scratchiness of the clothing is uncomfortable.

* If your child is bouncing off the walls at home and refuses to calm down—even at meal times and bed time--perhaps you should enroll her in a gymnastics class or sign her up for a children’s softball or soccer league. Do not expect your active child to be able to sit still for long periods of time—this will be next to impossible for her to do. Therefore, break up long car rides and quiet activities with games and physical activity. If her energy level is channeled in a positive way, it will help her keep out of trouble.

* A child who always cries before going to school may be having difficulty adjusting, or may be quite shy. Help your child get used to people in a slow and controlled manner, and talk to your child about her feelings.