What’s Your Child’s Temperament And Why Is It Important?


When it comes to personality, not all children are created equal.

As a mother of three, it often strikes me how different my children are. I have Chalk and Cheese then number 3 is what I like to call The Perfect Storm – an inexplicable combination of her two brothers.

It can make parenting a minefield because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Each child has their unique personality, and therefore each requires a different parenting style.

When thinking about your child’s personality, it’s interesting to know that researchers believe that aspects of our temperament are a done deal before birth. That’s not to say our personalities don’t develop as we do – far from it. Personality is influenced by many external factors such as environment and external influences, especially parents and how we are raised.

However, some fundamental research in the field of child psychiatry concluded that there are nine temperament traits that are established before we are even born. These traits are inherited from parents and are the basis on which a child’s personality develops.

Traits can be measured low, medium or high and are:

  • Activity – level of energy
  • Rhythmicity – regularity in activities such as eating, sleeping etc. Are they predictable?
  • Approach or withdrawal – how they initially react to new situations
  • Adaptability – how they adjust to changes, slow to adapt or adapt easily
  • Sensory threshold – how they react to different sensory stimuli
  • Intensity – how emotionally intense are their reactions
  • Mood – general tendency to be positive or negative
  • Distractibility – do they notice distractions or do they tune everything out?
  • Attention span and persistence – ability to stick with tasks in spite of distractions

Where a child sits on the continuum for each of these traits affects how they approach school, peers and social settings. Understanding your child’s innate traits and what drives them can help you relate to them too.

I find this particularly pertinent for the two children of mine who display a number of traits different to me. Of course, when looking at this list I can see a bit of me in each of them as well. Maybe we aren’t as different as I thought!

Child psychiatrist, Dr Kaylene Henderson uses the analogy of baking to describe personality. As parents we each provide some key ingredients (the above temperament traits) then their upbringing and environmental influences are part of the baking process.

I really like this description because it reassures parents that there are elements of our child’s personality that are innate, yet lots of room for growth.

We can nurture them, give them a moral compass and provide them with a good “baking” environment but there are some aspects of our child’s personality that are just them (and more than a little bit us!)


To hear Dr Henderson talk more about understanding your child’s personality, check out ParentTV.



About Author

Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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