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What is Temperament and How it Can Impact the Family Dynamic

Many factors impact the parent-child relationship and one that does not always receive the same attention as other factors is temperament, yours, and your child’s. Popular theory defines temperament as something that accounts for individual differences that are based on biology and can be traits/characteristics that show up in frequent situations over time and show up early in life. For a clear understanding of temperament, watch babies. Some babies are mellow, chill, and adapt easily to changing routines and stimuli and other babies are fussy, sleep and eat irregularly, and can be easily upset. In older children temperament might manifest as high energy, precociousness, always raising their hand in class, and talking with everyone, while others take more time to adapt to new situations, are more reflective, and are slower and methodical about getting things done. These examples of temperament can help parents understand the individual differences in children that influence behavior.

Temperament and the differences between individual temperaments affect family life and the interaction between family members. Children’s temperament forms early in life and is based on genetics and life experiences. As parents, understanding the unique temperament of your child means you can tailor your parenting approach to best meet your child’s needs. In the family dynamic, understanding your temperament is as important as understanding your child’s. It is possible to change temperament or modify a child’s reactions by being mindful of your own. For example, if you and your child have a strong reaction to something and you want to help your child modify how they react, you must consciously react more calmly and break the strong reaction cycle. Children often take their response cues from their parents, if you respond more calmly to stimuli your child may modify their reactions as well simply by observing your reactions and associating that as an appropriate response.

Remembering that there are no good or bad temperaments, the key to teaching your child to manage their emotions and process the world is to see and work towards your child’s strengths and help support them where they are less strong. Some ways you can support your children’s temperament include observing how your child reacts to new and different situations and building-in transition time as needed. If they are highly active be prepared with games and activities, they can play when you go somewhere they must wait. For an easily distracted child, create with them a dedicated quiet space to complete, do quiet reading, and calm down and decompress. For children, with more challenging behavior, setting consistent and clear boundaries is often more productive than taking punitive measures, because you spell out in advance any consequences for behavior that deviates from the boundaries you have established which encourages good and appropriate behavior.

As parents, we need support figuring out the best ways to reach and support our children. A great way to find support is to join communities with people on the same parenting journey. Consider joining our online community and receiving great tips and best practices for managing temperaments in the parent-child relationship.

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