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Temperament Talks

What is temperament?

- Temperament is a person’s first instinct in reacting and responding to situations, experiences, or their environment. It is the how of person’s behavior.

- Temperament is one component of personality.

- Genetics plays a strong role in shaping temperament, but environmental factors can also influence it.

- Definition of temperament according to Merriam-Webster

1a: “characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response”

General concepts of temperament

- All children are born with a tendency for a particular temperament style.

- There are several different temperament types and many combinations.

- There is no right or wrong or good or bad temperament.

- Some temperament characteristics can be more challenging than others, often because these characteristics are different from our own temperament traits.

Why is temperament significant?

- Children’s temperaments can have an impact on their social competence and mental health.

- Temperament can influence how readily they approach new people and situations and adapt to new routines.

- Understanding your child’s temperament makes your job as a parent/caregiver easier. Knowledge of their temperament provides that map that makes teaching and learning easier and more enjoyable.

Nine Temperament traits

INTENSITY- These are children who feel every emotion deeply and powerfully. They are loud because they feel that much intensity – not to drive other people crazy! They are ALL or NOTHING children and you can pick them out from a crowd or a group.

PERSISTENCE – If your child is involved in an activity and you tell her to stop, does she stop with little resistance or fight to continue? These children are committed to their task, goal oriented and unwilling to give up.

SENSITIVITY - These children are very aware of slight noises, emotions, differences in temperature, taste and texture. They react easily to certain foods, tags in clothing, irritating noises or your stress. These children are born with super sensors and many are easily overwhelmed by sensations. Sensory thresholds vary from person to person.

PERCEPTIVENESS – These children notice people, colors, noises and objects around them. They frequently forget to do what you asked because something else has caught her attention. These children are highly distracted because they are keen observers. This often gets them in trouble because they appear to not listen – they notice everything, and have difficulty tuning out to know what to tune-in to.

ADAPTABILITY – These children can easily adapt to changes in their schedule or routine. It is important to be aware of a child’s reactions to change. They may be perceived as stubborn but needs more time to adjust. All kids benefit from smooth transitions but some kids REQUIRE it.

REGULARITY – These children are quite regular about eating times, sleeping times, the amount of sleep needed and other bodily functions. We live in a culture that likes schedules. This makes it difficult for irregular children as their bodies are not easily scheduled.

ACTIVITY LEVEL/ENERGY- Some children are always on the move and always busy. Does he need to run and jump and use his whole body to feel good? Is he a child that runs not walks and NEEDS to move? Or are they quiet and calm and can sit for long periods if interested in something.

FIRST REACTION – What is this child’s first reaction when she is asked to meet people, try a new activity or idea or go somewhere new? Some children jump right in and learn by doing. Others step back & learn by watching. They may get into trouble because they jump in without thinking OR may refuse to participate. This is a FIRST reaction not the final decision.

MOOD – How much time does your child feel happy and content compared with serious, analytical or cranky? This refers to a child’s outlook as being positive or negative.


Thinking about our own children or the children in our care, what is their temperament style? What is yours?

Observations would be helpful in determining what temperament styles are present in a household or a class.

REMEMBER: There is no right or wrong or good or bad temperament.

See you in Part 2 of Temperament Talks. :)

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