The Temperament Corner


Temperament Trait Strategies: Activity

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 03:50pm
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Activity: On The Temperament Wheel, is your child high or low? 

Low Activity – this child is laid back and content to watch others be active.


  • Avoid criticizing your baby because he likes doing things more slowly than average.  This will help your child feel comfortable with his approach to life.


  • Find a few very active things she likes to do and support them. For example, take her swimming or swinging. Avoid having her sit quietly for long periods of time.


  • Plan ahead to allow him the time he needs so he does not feel rushed.  This lets him learn and do activities at his own pace.


High Activity – these children are the squirmers.  Even as babies they wave their arms, kick their legs and wriggle their bodies non-stop.  These children are always on the go.


  • Anticipate your baby's next move and intervene when necessary to avoid a catastrophe.  This helps your child learn what is permitted and what is not permitted BEFORE she gets into trouble. 


  • Provide lots of opportunities to help your baby burn off energy in safe, supervised sessions.  This helps your child become more inclined to settle down when it's time to sleep, learn or play quietly.


  • Provide a cool down period when it's time to switch to quiet time.  This helps your child learn how to transition successfully from high- to low-energy activities. 


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Temperament - Parenting Strategies for Children Who Are "Difficult"

by Maxine
Posted August 3 2010 03:17pm
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Interestingly, the traits that are easy for some parents to accept may not be easy for others to accept.

Parents frequently label their children as “difficult” or “easy.”

This is partly subjective, referring to traits that are easy to accept versus those that are not.  Interestingly, the traits that are easy for some parents to accept may not be easy for others to accept.  And gender gets mixed up in this, too.  A highly active boy is sometimes easier for parents to accept than a highly active girl.

But labeling a child as “difficult” or “easy” is also partly objective.  Intense, highly reactive children are much more difficult to parent.  It is really difficult to listen to a child in distress, and anxious children are going to show a lot more distress than easy-going children.

What should you do if your child is difficult to handle? This can occur with any mis-match of a parent’s and a child’s temperament.  For example, it is often difficult for a very focused parent to handle a child who is stimulated by everything, and vice versa – it can be hard for a multi-tasking parent to manage a very focused child. 

There are also children whose emotions run hot all the time. And this is hard for most parents to manage.

There are specific strategies you can use to parent children with high or low levels of the nine temperament traits, which are often the most challenging to parent.  See the Nine Temperament Traits article to learn more about those.

Nonetheless, if you have a child who is difficult for you to handle, try the overarching Positive Parenting strategies below to keep you on an even keel.

For Yourselves:

  • Ask for help from your partner when you need relief.
  • Offer help to your partner, when you see them struggling.
  • Ensure you get some relief.
  • Take some time away from your child, so you can be glad to see him when you return – such as a part-time job or a class.
  • Find other caregivers who like and understand your child, and will give him quality time – such as grandparents, nannies, child care providers, or neighbours.
  • Use the Reflective Parenting Strategies, to help you find fresh strategies when new challenging situations arise. Learn more about Reflective Parenting.
  • Try reframing the most challenging traits of your child to see the positive aspect of these traits.  For example, a highly active child as an adventurous child or a shy child as a calm and cautious child. 

For Your Child

  • Be as patient, encouraging and understanding as you can, knowing that you may have to do more of this with a difficult child than with a child you find easy to parent.
  • Plan ahead.  You can forecast some stressful situations, and take steps to reduce the predictable tension, before it can take hold. 
  • Make some small accommodations to reduce tensions.   
  • Shape your child's behaviour by having him make baby steps toward the behaviour you desire.  In many cases you cannot totally change your child.  Figure out ways to inch your way toward what will work for you both.
  • Learn when to back off.  It is not helpful to push yourself or your child to the point where either of you loses your temper.  When you feel yourself or your child nearing such a crisis, stop and take a break.  If this is happening frequently, ask your child’s doctor for a referral to a mental health or child management clinic. 

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Temperament - A Family Affair

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 02:35pm
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What is temperament? Temperament is a combination of 9 emotional building blocks, called “traits” that affect how you respond to life.

These traits are: activity, adaptability, approach, distractibility, intensity, persistence, positivity, regularity, sensitivity.  Each of these traits can appear as either high or low, or something in between. 

Why is temperament important?
Humans are born with the traits.  They appear beginning early in life.  They affect how you, your husband or wife and your children act and relate as individuals and, importantly, with each other

How permanent are the traits?
Traits are biologically-based.  We know traits run in families.  They stay with us over time and we use them in many different situations.

Although traits are biological tendencies, no single gene has been found to cause them, and scientists predict this will never happen.  Genetic tendencies are not simple, but complicated.

These traits are genetically related tendencies, NOT destiny.  They are better at predicting what you will not become, rather than what you will become.  For example, if you are a highly active person, chances are good you won’t become very passive; but in most instances it does not mean you can’t learn to control your tendencies under certain conditions.

These traits appear in different degrees, and some are more dominant than others.  

So why is temperament important in parenting?

Each person in your family has temperament traits.  You have temperament traits.  Your spouse/partner has temperament traits.  Your children have them.  Understanding temperament provides the basis for parents to parent their child more effectively.

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Temperament: Mood

by Nancy and Nanci
Posted April 24 2012 12:36pm
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Recently a friend joined Netflix. After uploading three movies, she was upset to find that the site had profiled her as someone who likes “grim, gritty movies.” She quickly uploaded a bunch of romantic comedies to lighten her profile. We’re a society that is focused on the pursuit of happiness but not all of us are born with a sunny predisposition.

MOOD is one of the innate temperament traits. Some people are born with a Sunny mood and some with a SERIOUS mood. Sunny babies flash radiant smiles and laugh easily and often. These babies easily engage the adults and children in their world and radiate a sense of well-being. On the other end of the spectrum, serious babies seem to be philosophers studying the world. If parents aren’t confident in their role, they may see their serious baby as a baby whose needs are not being met.

In one of our temperament workshops we invited six-month-old twins to be our “guest professors.” The baby boy had a sunny mood. He smiled and cooed. We adults smiled and cooed to him. He laughed and we laughed. All of us enjoyed the interaction. Meanwhile, the baby girl looked on with furrowed brow. A few adults talked quietly to her but when she didn’t smile, they turned to her brother. We asked everyone to stop and reflect on how we were reacting to the two children. The mother said that even she and her husband found themselves giving more attention to their happy-go-lucky boy than their serious, reflective girl. Once they realized what was happening, , they made a conscious effort to engage their little girl and to make sure family and friends gave her plenty of attention, too.

If you have a happy-go-lucky baby, what are the challenges? If you label a child as “always happy,” your son or daughter may feel uncomfortable about expressing other emotions like sadness or anxiety. Some sunny children, especially girls, may be seen as naïve or less bright than others. If you have a serious baby, you may have to help family, friends, teachers and caregivers to appreciate your child’s nature. Find ways to involve your child in fun activities but also find ways he can address his serious side - saving pennies for the food bank or picking daffodils for an elderly neighbour.

Remember that ALL children experience the full range of emotions. If you’re not sure how your child is feeling – sunny or serious – offer labels for emotions – happy, pleased, angry, anxious, frightened, disappointed, scared… You may want to offer a scale of one to ten to understand the intensity of the emotion. Helping your child to develop their emotional intelligence will help them understand the complexity emotion brings to all relationships. Whether sunny, serious or moderate in mood, we all benefit from being able to recognize and name the emotions we all feel.



This article was written by Parents2Parents experts,
Nanci Burns and Nancy Rubenstein
, co-authors of Take Your Temperament!

We all know that every child is unique. The Take Your Temperament! work-book is designed to help you put that reality into action in an engaging and meaningful way. It invites parents and children to explore how they react to the world—and do so without guilt or shame. Find out more at

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