Back to our discussion on child temperament. Last time we talked about nine temperament traits, again based on the research of Chess and Thomas. As I mentioned last time, the nine traits mentioned in the last post combine to form three basic types of temperaments. Let's get to them shall we?
The first type is the easy or flexible child. Approximately 40% of children fall into this category. These children are generally calm, happy, regular in their sleep and eating habits and do not get upset easily. They are also very adaptable. All right, who are the lucky parents out there with one of these kids?! Ahem, sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, despite these children being easy in nature, it is important for parents to set aside special times to talk about the child's frustrations and hurts because he won't demand or ask for it. This intentional communication is necessary to find out what these kids are thinking and saying.
The next group are the difficult, active or feisty children which comprise approximately 10% of children. I must say that this number seems quite low based on all the parents I have met over the years who have described their children as "difficult." These children are often fussy, irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, and fearful of new people and situations. They are easily upset by noise and commotion, high strung and intense in their reactions.
What is a parent to do with a child like this?! Wear them out! Well, this can work some of the time at least. Providing areas for vigorous play to work of stored up energy can do wonder for these kids. When kids are fidgeting and the like, telling them to sit still is useless...they can't. Their body is telling them they need movement. My son was (and still is to some degree) that way. When he was younger, we would send him out to run laps around the yard if he had the wiggles or was upset/frustrated. In retrospect, the neighbors probably wondered what was going on, but it really did help. The physical activity and bilateral movement of running oxygenates (is that a word?) and gets the two sides of the brain communicating. When he would come in, he would be in a much better place to be able to discuss his frustration or to get him to finish a task such as homework. Other things that can help include giving them lots of choices throughout the day and preparing them for transitions. Being the parent of one of these "feisty" kids, I could write on endlessly about what has and hasn't worked for us.
The final group are slow to warm up or cautious kids. About 15% of children fall into this category. These children are relatively inactive and fussy. They tend to withdraw or to react negatively to new situations, but their reactions gradually become more positive with continuous exposure. I've worked with MANY children like this over the years. These children can be frustrating for parents as well because they are often clingy. They prefer to stay by the parents side rather than exploring or engaging in play with peers. These kids often have a more difficult time transitioning into preschool or kindergarten. Sticking to a routine is important for them. It makes them feel safe. It's also important to stick to your word, e.g., if you say you are going to be right back, then you better be RIGHT BACK. And finally, be patient and allow them ample time to to establish relationships in new situations. Rushing a slow to warm child to engage before he or she is ready usually backfires horribly.
That's it! You have had a quick study in child temperament. I hope you found the information interesting, but more importantly I hope it gave you some insight allowing you to understand your child a little better. Next time we will discuss the interplay between child temperament and parenting style. See ya then!