The Temperament Corner


Temperament - Goodness of Fit

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 02:43pm
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Goodness of Fit is the match or mismatch of temperament traits between two members of the family.  There are usually three people in a family, and therefore, three temperaments – parent number one's, parent number two's and the child’s.  How these temperaments fit together often explains how easy it is to parent the child as a team.

There are 3 typical Goodness of Fit challenges to parenting as a team:

  • Parent one and child fit together easily, but parent two doesn’t
  • Parent two and child fit together easily, but parent one doesn’t
  • Both parents fit together easily, but their child doesn’t

It is important for parents to know how they rank on the nine temperament traits.  It is often helpful for both parents to complete the Goodness of Fit worksheet separately, and then compare the ratings they gave themselves and each other.

To complete the Goodness of Fit Worksheet, identify the level of traits that you feel you have. Also identify the levels of the traits that your partner has. Have your partner complete their own sheet and then compare your answers.

Download the Goodness of Fit Worksheet (PDF)

Once that is done, it can be beneficial for both parents to complete the Temperament Worksheet for your child, and then examine how the child and the parents fit, or do not fit, together as a family.

Download the Temperament Worksheet (PDF)



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Temperament: Distractibility

by Nancy and Nanci
Posted April 3 2012 05:15pm
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I think most parents would say, without reflecting too much, that they would like their children to be low in distractibility, one of the nine temperament traits.   We can imagine a child listening attentively to teachers – or listening attentively to us! But like all the traits, there are advantages to being high, low or moderate. The benefit or challenge lies in the fit between the temperament profile and the expectations of the environment.

How distractible is your baby?

HIGH distractibility:

  • Your baby stops nursing when there’s a disturbance in the room, like a bouncy sibling.
  • Your baby is easily distracted if he heads for something dangerous. You rattle your keys or shake a rattle and he starts crawling towards you.

LOW distractibility:

  • When your baby heads for danger, you have to move fast and scoop him up. He won’t be distracted by a toy or set of keys (Safety-proofing your home is important for all babies. Away from home, where you can’t alter the environment, be ready to run and scoop your low-distractibility baby.)
  • If your baby is upset, hurt or lonely, she is not distracted by things you do – bouncing her, playing peek a boo, standing on your head. You can only soothe your baby by acknowledging her hurt or loneliness, and ride the emotion with your child.

How distractible is your toddler?

HIGH distractibility:
While all toddlers are busy and have a short attention span, the toddler with high distractibility constantly moves from one activity to another in response to others’ activity. He runs to the window when he hears a siren, he rushes to play with a toy another child has picked up, he hurries to grab the phone when it rings, and he has trouble listening to a story if there’s music being played.

LOW distractibility:
Your toddler is busy but moves purposefully from one area to another rather than responding to outside activities.). He builds a tower of blocks, and then runs to find a truck to knock it down. He returns to the tower and demolishes it. He may repeat this over and over.

How distractible is your school-age child?

HIGH distractibility:
Your child has trouble staying on task. Your child needs a quiet, calm corner for doing homework or completing a project. . In group activities at school, your child may need gentle support to stay focussed – like sitting close to the teacher or other adult.

LOW distractibility:
She often misses social cues from other people. If she’s involved in an activity, she doesn’t hear you when you call her to dinner. You may need to gently “interrupt” your child’s concentration. (Using innate objects like post’m notes, bells or timers may be less irritating to your child than direct parental intrusion!)


Maybe your baby, toddler or child is moderate in distractibility. The moderate zone is generally the least stressful for child and parent! Being moderate means reacting to external cues but being able to focus, as well. The tendency is to see low distractibility as more desirable but in fact, the advantages or disadvantages depend on the environment and the level of child development. A better approach is to moderate the environment, when possible, and provide strategies your child can follow to be successful even when temperament and environment aren’t a good fit.



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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Nine Temperament Traits

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 02:55pm
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There are nine Temperament Traits and each trait has a high and low version.  While there is lots of variation, it’s the high and low versions that are the most challenging to parent.  Read through the descriptions below and see if your child fits any of them. When you're done, you can use a variety of Comfort, Play & Teach stratagies that are tailored to the nine temperament traits.  


  • Low Activity – this child is laid back and content to watch others be active, these children may prefer more sedentary activities.
  • 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.


  • Low Adaptability – this child finds it hard to move from one part of their day to the next.
  • High Adaptability – these children transition from one activity to the next with no problem.  They accept your leadership and easily go from sleep to wake, from house to car or from playtime to bathtime.


  • Low Approach – this child is shy – very tentative or cautious in new situations.
  • High Approach – these children are very enthusiastic about new people and new situations.  They seem bold!


  • Low Distractibility – this child doesn’t notice much.  These children don't easily stop what they're doing—no matter how enticing the distraction might be!
  • High Distractibility – these children are easily sidetracked from one thing to another. 


  • Low Intensity – this child is mellow and calm.
  • High Intensity – these children are the big responders.  They squeal delightedly with happiness and shriek with despair.


  • Low Persistence – this child gives up easily in face of failure.
  • High Persistence – these children continue to do what they want—even when they're faced with obstacles.


  • Low Positivity – this child is serious and more difficult to please.  These children find it hard to have a positive attitude when they experience a setback. These children may not smile or laugh very easily.
  • High Positivity – these children are just generally sunny, cheerful and resilient in the face of setbacks. These are the children that may smile and laugh more frequently.


  • Low Regularity – this child is hard to predict.  It's difficult to tell when they're hungry or tired.
  • High Regularity – these children seem to have internal clocks that keep them on a predictable schedule, and they don't like to deviate!


  • Low Sensitivity – this child is blissfully unaware of things in their environment that bother others such as light, temperature, noise, textures and tastes.  These children don't easily pick up on interpersonal signals.
  • High Sensitivity – these children react strongly to even mild lights, sounds, textures, tastes and pain.  They are super sensitive to even mild stimuli, and are profoundly distressed by thunderstorms or wet diapers.


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Temperament Trait Strategies: Adaptability

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 04:26pm
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Adaptability: On The Temperament Wheel, is your child high or low? 

Low Adaptability – this child finds it hard to move from one part of their day to the next.


  • Acknowledge his successes in adapting to change, such as going from supper to the bath.  This helps your child feel good about his day.


  • Use play to take small steps toward big changes that are on the horizon.  For example, if your baby is very attached to eating from a blue plate—and you know that this can't last—make a game out of eating from different coloured plates. This helps your child learn to adapt to changes that cannot be avoided. This will make her social and emotional life much easier.


  • Use the "small steps" approach to help your child adapt to unavoidable changes. When you break down big changes into small steps, it makes them less traumatic.  This also helps your child learn to trust you to guide him through life's big challenges.


High Adaptability These children transition from one activity to the next with no problem.  They accept your leadership and easily go from sleep to wake, from house to car or from playtime to bathtime.


  • Show your baby that you are thrilled when she makes a choice for herself.


  • Provide your baby with play opportunities where he is the leader. For example, let him decide what to play and where to play.  This helps your child learn to be a leader—even though he more naturally accommodates to others wishes.


  • Teach her who to trust and who not to trust.  This helps her learn to evaluate people, and not just go along with whoever is around.


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