Types of temperament

There are three basic types of temperament - some children are a combination of more than one.

Easy & flexible

As babies, children with an easy temperament are easy to look after. They are calm, happy, have regular sleeping and eating habits, and are not easily upset. As they get older these children need to talk things through as they may not demand or ask for things, or talk about their feelings. You may also need to keep an eye on things from a distance, checking that they know you are there if they need you. 

Active

Active and feisty children are often fussy, with irregular sleeping and eating habits. They can be scared of new people and places, easily upset by noise and react really strongly to things. These children need lots of exercise and to be told about any change well in advance. 

Cautious

These children tend to be shy in new situations, although they do get more positive as they get used to things. It's important to stick to routines and give them lots of time to get used to new situations and people. 

Understanding your child's temperament will help you:

  • explain why your child might be behaving in a certain way 
  • anticipate how your child will react to a particular event or situation 
  • communicate with your child 
  • know which approach to discipline will be effective 
  • create a positive relationship with your child

If you don't understand your child's temperament you might be blaming them for behaviour that is related to their temperament. This could lead to major clashes and to your child developing more extreme behaviour. You could also start blaming yourself for your child's behaviour, rather than understanding it is simply how they are.

I know that I can't change my child's temperament.

Adapting to your child's temperament

Think about your child's temperament and the way you are parenting them. The better the fit between your child's temperament and your parenting style, the better the results will be.

If you have more than one child, you may notice they have quite different temperaments. Often the parenting style that works for one child will not work with another, so you'll need to try completely different techniques. One child may need more structure and boundaries than their brother or sister, while another may prefer making their own decisions.

Adjusting your parenting style to suit your child's temperament will help you manage their behaviour more effectively. This includes deciding which issues you need to be clear and firm about and which ones you can ignore.

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