Every child has their own unique temperament. Even if you have multiple children, you might notice that they’ve all had specific quirks and character traits, seemingly from the minute they were born!
Although you’ll have a large influence on your child’s behavior, you can’t change their temperament. Over time, you may notice their temperament shifting, but it isn’t something that you can control as a parent. Some parents find this hard to accept, especially when their child does not have an “easy” temperament.
However, learning to work with your child’s temperament rather than against it can be a powerful change that benefits your whole household. Here’s how to embrace your child’s temperament.
Understand Your Child’s Temperament
First, it’s important to assess your child’s true temperament. Some children have what’s commonly called an “easy” or “flexible” temperament, which means their moods are generally stable and they can quickly adapt to changes in their routines.
Other children might have an “active” or “difficult” temperament, which indicates that they typically dislike routine changes and can be very sensitive to overwhelming stimuli. If they don’t like something, they can be very vocal about it!
Finally, some children have a “slow-to-warm” temperament. While they might be fussy at first when presented with routine changes or unfamiliar circumstances, they can adapt with time.
Accept Your Child as They Are
Accepting your child as they truly are is the key to working with their temperament. You may have moments when you wish your active child could be a little more laidback, or deal with stimuli without becoming easily overwhelmed. Or you might try to push your slow-to-warm child to adjust to new circumstances before they’re truly ready.
But this will only cause conflict between you and your child. You can’t force your child into an “easy temperament” box. Instead, you need to meet them where they are.
Plan Suitable Activities
When it comes to planning activities for your family, you’ll need to keep your child’s temperament in mind. For example, if your child has a flexible temperament, family road trips or even international vacations might be fun for everyone. But if your child is active or slow-to-warm, you might want to stick to exploring locally for now and discover what’s in your own backyard!
Be Mindful of Stimulation
Sometimes, your child might enjoy an activity, but the circumstances can drastically affect their happiness. For instance, maybe your child likes to go to the beach, but when it’s the height of summer and the beaches are packed, they might seem stressed and aggravated by the excess stimulation.
You could save beach days for times when there won’t be so many crowds. You might be surprised by how many activities your active or slow-to-warm child enjoys when the environment is right!
Don’t “Punish” Your Child Based on Their Temperament
Finally, remember that your child will naturally learn, grow, and step outside of their comfort zone as time goes on. But you cannot push them to change their natural temperament. If you’re in a situation where your child is very clearly distressed and overstimulated, forcing them to remain in that situation will not necessarily help them build resilience.
Instead, it might increase their anxiety and make them feel more reluctant to try new things in the future. Likewise, even a flexible child will benefit from routines, structure, and predictable schedules — they can’t always adapt on the fly.
Are you struggling to work with your child’s temperament? Talking to a therapist can help. Reach out to us to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.