Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thinking About Temperament and Toddlers

I find it hard to reflect on my experiences with toddlers without the word "temperament" coming to mind.  More often than not it's just the word "temper" that really resonates with me, but I digress.  Judy Graham, a human development specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, wrote a piece on Temperament that I've found really helpful in relating to my own son and his somewhat challenging temperament. 

Graham identifies nine traits of temperament, as follows:

1.  Activity Level
2.  Regularity
3.  Adaptability
4.  Approach/Withdrawal (acceptance of new things)
5.  Sensitivity
6.  Intensity
7.  Distractibility
8.  Persistence/Attention Span
9.  Usual Quality of Mood

Graham proceeds to describe what I consider to be a binary whereby children are either "easy" or "difficult."  Within this system outlined by Graham, I can easily see where Aias would fall.  While I'm not sure it's helpful to label children "easy" or "difficult," I think it's important to consider the temperament of your child, or children you care for, when it comes to choosing how to most effectively interact with them.  A course I'm currently taking with the Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre provided the following exercise to me, and I'd like to share it with you here.   Perhaps it will help you look a little closer at the temperament of a child or children close to you.  Please remember this is more about reflection than about a diagnosis of any sort. 

1.  Activity Level: How much does this child wiggle and move around when you read to him/her, at the table, or when playing alone?  Is the child active or relatively quiet?

2. Regularity: Is this child regular about eating time, sleeping time, the amount of sleep needed, and bowel movements?  Is the child regular or irregular?

3. Adaptability:  How quickly does this child adapt to changes in his schedule or routine?  How quickly does he/she adapt to new foods, places, or people?  Does the child adapt quickly or adapt slowly?

4.  Approach/Withdrawal:  How does this child usually react the first time to new people, new foods, new toys, or new activities?  Does the child initially approach, or does the child initially withdrawal?

5.  Sensitivity:  How aware is this child of slight noises, slight differences in temperature, differences in taste and differences in clothing?  Is the child very sensitive to these things, or not sensitive?

6.  Intensity:  How strong or violent are his/her reactions?  Does he laugh and cry energetically or does he just smile and fuss mildly? Does the child react with high intensity or mild intensity?

7.  Distractibility:  Is this child easily distracted or does he/she ignore distractions?  Will he/she continue to work or play when other noises or children are present?  Is the child very distractible or not distractible?

8.  Persistence/Attention Span:  How long does this child continue with one activity?  Does he usually continue if it is difficult?  Does the child have a long attention span or a short attention span?

9.  Usual Quality of Mood:  How much of the time does this child show pleasant, joyful behavior compared with unpleasant crying and fussing behavior?  Does the child seem to have a generally positive or negative mood?

How does knowing your child's temperament help you relate to your child on a daily basis?  Have you found their temperament changes from time to time?


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