When you're trying to set reasonable personal expectations for your child, it's also helpful to think about their temperamental style. Temperament is the way a person approaches the world. Temperament is inborn. It's considered the “how” of behavior rather than the “why” or the “what.” The “temperament trackers” use 10 characteristics to analyze a person's emotional style, and to assess how well they adapt to situations. The 10 characteristics are:
- Adaptability: “We're going where? Cool!” or, “This wasn't on the itinerary!”
- Energy level: “Wowie zowie, let's go!” or, draggin' a loaded wagon.
- Environmental sensitivity: Eagle-eyed nature-lover, or, “Ooh! I broke a nail!”
- First reaction: Deep-end pool diver, or, inch by tiny inch.
- Intensity: Roller-coaster emotions! or, “Whatever.”
- Mood: Here's Eeyore and Pollyanna again.
- Perceptiveness: “You moved the curtains an inch,” or, “You painted the house? Whoa. Didn't notice.”
- Persistence: “I think I can, I think I can,” or, “No? Okay. Onward.”
- Physical sensitivity: “It's a bed of nails? That must be why I was a tad restless last night,” or, “Stop breathing so loud. I can't hear myself think!”
- Regularity: “Noon? Time for lunch. Now.” or, “Did I eat today?”
(You'll notice that intelligence, charm, or compassion aren't on this list-they're personality traits, but not temperament traits.)
Words to Parent By
Temperament is a way of analyzing a person's adaptability and emotional style. Temperament is inborn. The 10 characteristics-adaptability, energy level, environmental sensitivity, first reaction, intensity, mood, perceptiveness, persistence, physical sensitivity and regularity-all refer to the way a person approaches the world.
It's your way or the highway-or is it? When you look at the world through your child's eyes, with his temperament and development, you'llgain understanding, empathy, and patience. There are many ways of living. Know your child's temperament-and your own.
It's All Temperament
Kids are born with temperament-you can't order it up like a Blue Plate Special (“I'll have one kid, over easy, light on the hysterics and make sure her regularity is well done.”). Some kids are generally easy-going, positive, and calm. Others are high-spirited, sensitive, or moody. Everybody has some temperament traits that can be labeled “easy” or “difficult.” Assessing your child's temperament (and your own) can help you take it less personally. “That's who Sally is,” you can say. (More on this in a moment.)
That said, your kid isn't stuck for life; she has certain temperamental tendencies, but those tendencies can be channeled: high energy into enthusiasm, sensitivity into poetry, regularity into organization.