You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Your child’s temperament….continued!

See the difference?  Same activity…four different children, several different reactions…embrace your child’s temperament!

There are a few more traits that make up your child’s temperament.  Picking up from yesterday….

5.  Sensory Threshold

How sensitive is your child to physical stimuli?  Does your child become overly stimulated in a room full of noise or people?  Does your baby cry when he or she has been passed from person to person for a period of time?   Does texture of food bother your child?  Does your child respond positively or negatively to the feel of certain material or clothing?  Do the seams on socks need to be straight?! (my #3 daughter had her shoes off immediately if those seams weren’t straight)

Parenting the highly sensitive child:

  • Learn tolerance of unusual complaints..like socks that are not straight!
  • Try not to be annoyed by the fixing of socks, or cutting off of tags, or not buying “itchy” clothes.  Being sensitive to that will decrease the whining.
  • This child may have a low pain tolerance; little hurts need lots of TLC.  Dramatic reactions are common.
  • Learn to keep lights low, noise level low, and keep your child close with some physical contact when in new stimulating situations.
  • The highly sensitive child often is often creative and empathetic.

Parenting the less sensitive child:

  • Be aware if you have a less sensitive child so something is not missed.  They will tend to live with a minor ache or pain for quite a while.
  • Talk about feelings of others, help build empathy.  Point out when feelings are hurt, when apologies are needed.  Help your child become aware of how their behavior or actions impact others.

6.  Approach/Withdrawal

This is how a child responds to a new situation or strangers.  Is your child always ready to try something new?  Does your child make a new friend easily?  Is your child very curious?  Or, is your child cautious and slow to warm up to others?  Slow to warm up children are often resistant to new situations, activities, and people.  These children will often think before they act and are less impulsive.  This is a positive during adolescence!

Parenting the approachable child:

  • Encourage your child’s eagerness and curiosity….do not squelch their enthusiasm!
  • Expose them to new experiences and people.
  • Encourage them to commit, sometimes this child has a difficult time finishing a task.  These children can be social butterflies.
  • Encourage quality time with friends to help develop “best friend” type relationships.
  • Relax, enjoy their social behavior but be sure to talk to your child about asking permission from you before he or she speaks to people who are unfamiliar.  Children who are very approachable do not “know a stranger”.  You must not scare them, but protect them.

Parenting the less approachable child or slow to warm:

  • Do not label your child as “shy” or “quiet”; this type of child is thoughtful, reserved, or cautious.
  • Ease your child into meeting new people and new experiences slowly, show pictures of relatives if you are visiting.  Talk about what you will be doing, prepare your child.
  • Avoid putting your child in the spotlight or center of attention if uncomfortable.
  • Help your child problem solve, find solutions for when he or she is uncomfortable.  Have them go with a friend to group activities, find familiar faces in a room of people, have preplanned conversation or talking points when meeting new people.  Do not discourage your child from going places and doing things because they are uncomfortable.
  •  Encourage your child to try new things, do not allow them to become a “home body”.
  • Do not talk or answer for your child; allow him or her to respond, give them time to speak.

7.  Adaptability

This is how easily a child can handle transition or change.  Does your child have problems with change in routine or moving from one activity to another?  How long does it take your child to be comfortable in a new situation?

Parenting the flexible child:

  • A flexible child is easier many times because he or she tends to be “easy going”.
  • Flexible children still need routines but they will not melt down if that routine is not always followed.
  • This type child will flip from task to task, but will have to be reminded to finish.  Written reminders, calendars, and charts will help keep your child on task.  Try not to nag.
  • Allow for natural consequences when things are not completed…don’t rescue an older child from consequences.  Life lessons are very important.

Parenting the inflexible child:

  • A child who adapts more slowly will usually not rush into dangerous situations and may be less peer influenced.  A good thing during the teen years!
  • This child does better when he or she knows what to expect, help them know what is coming up.
  • Give warnings before changing activities.  “After breakfast we are going to the store.”  “In 5 minutes we are going to the store.”  “One more minute, put your puzzle away, we are going to the store.”  This “warning system” will help your child switch activities without a meltdown.
  • Try new routines out first before they have to do it (a run through morning before the first day of school, visiting the preschool before the first day, introducing a babysitter before you leave the first time)

8.  Persistence

This is how long a child will continue with an activity when there are obstacles.  Will your child keep working on a puzzle when he or she is having a difficult time—or do they move on?  Is your child patient when he or she is waiting for you to fix their meal?  Does your child have a strong reaction when they are interrupted from an activity?

Many times a child that continues an activity when asked to stop is labeled stubborn and a child who works at a puzzle that is difficult is labeled patient.  Both of these children are persistent!

A child who is persistent will be able to reach goals easier.  A child who is less persistent may have great people skills because he or she reaches out to others for help.

Parenting the persistent child:

  • A persistent child has a trait that will serve him or her well in adulthood, but can drive a parent crazy!  A persistent child will often not take the word “no” well.  Give a choice whenever possible, “Do you want to brush your teeth first or put your PJs on first?”
  • Give time limits when there is not unlimited time for a task.
  • Step in if your child is becoming extremely frustrated in trying to complete a task, but allow your child to try!
  • Know how not to engage in an argument with the older persistent child.  Remove yourself from the room when the discussion is over.

Parenting the non persistent child:

  • A less persistent child usually is compliant, but often gives up on a task easily when the task does not come easily.
  • This child needs gentle encouragement and sometimes a helpful hand.  Many times “you can do it” is not enough, the parent actually has to help the child physically start a task to help jump-start the child.  Start a task, not do it completely!
  • Success with difficult tasks breeds persistence.

9.  Mood

This is how your child reacts to the world—is it primarily in a negative way or a positive way?  Does your child see the glass as half full or half empty?  Is your child generally in a good mood or generally in a serious mood?  Is your child joyful and pleasant?  Does your child smile and laugh easily?  Is your child more whiny, complaining, or crying more often?

Parenting the little optimist:

  • These children are usually a real joy to be around, but there are some challenges.
  • Sometimes it is difficult for this child to approach something seriously.  A parent may need to bring a child “down to earth” and talk about safety issues, reality, etc.
  • Be careful not to crush an optimist’s spirit

Parenting the little pessimist (or as I like to say,  realist):

  • These children are often more challenging than the optimist, and need a loving parent to guide them through childhood pointing out the small joys in life.
  • These children are usually emotionally intense too, so they will often let others know about their disappointment quite loudly!  Often parents will respond with anger or frustration.  This usually will not defuse the situation.
  • It is hard to be a constant “cheerleader” but a parent’s optimism will often help a child open his or her eyes to the good.  End every day with asking “What was the best part of your day?  What will we do tomorrow?”  This helps focus on optimism.
  • Watch the friends your child keeps, two pessimistic people pull each other down.  Encourage relationships with people who uplift your child’s mood.
  • Do not label your child as a “pessimist”…look at your child as one who is a realist.  Help your child dream a bit about what “could be”.

So all of these traits combine to form your child’s temperament, and remember there is no good or bad temperament!  Understanding your child’s temperament does not excuse undesirable behavior, but it might help you understand why your child behaves or reacts in a particular way.  You may change your thinking about your child that is active and into everything from being “difficult” to just “curious”.  You might see your shy or slow to warm child as more “sensitive and thoughtful”.  All types of personalities have strengths and challenges, and our job as a parent is to work with our children and help them embrace their temperaments to become the best adult possible.

“Kids come with their own ingredients—you have to work with them and cook the best way you can.”  Ari Brown  M.D.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



  1. Stephanie Gurnon

    Excellent guide, Cindy, thanks!


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