Anyone with more than one child knows that toddlers have very different personalities. In fact, everyone has their own way of reacting to their environment, to express their emotions and to relate to others. It depends among other things on their temperament.
The temperament is present from birth. It is moreover genetically determined, although it can also be influenced by the family and social environment. The temperament of a child influences his level of activity, attention, anxiety, shyness, irritability, and adaptability to new situations. Temperament also affects the degree of intensity of his emotions and his level of sensitivity. In other words, a child’s behavior depends largely on the temperament he inherited.
For its part, the personality develops over time, influenced by the temperament, the family environment, the entourage and the life experiences of the child as well as by society and its stereotypes. The personality can also change until early adulthood. It is then considered rather permanent.
The temperament traits
Researchers have established nine characteristics to describe temperament traits. These characteristics explain, roughly speaking, the behavior patterns that define a child’s personality. They can help you better understand your own behavior and that of your child.
Level of activity
This characteristic refers to the level of motor activity and the duration of activity periods compared to periods of inactivity. While some children cannot sit quietly for a minute, others play quietly for hours with their toys. It is possible to help a very active child by giving him lots of opportunities to move, especially just before an event where he will have to stay calm. Conversely, some parents must always insist that their inactive child go out to play or do physical activity.
Regularity and rhythmicity
This refers to the level of regularity of a child ‘s biological functions, such as appetite, sleep/wake alternation, and intestinal functions. Some children fall asleep and are hungry at the same time, while others are much less regular. For this reason, do not worry if a child has a bowel movement once every three days and another one goes twice a day. It depends on its biological rhythm. For some children, it is, therefore, best to always keep a minimum of routine even during special events.
Approach, Recoil and First Reactions
This is the caution or interest shown by a child in dealing with new food, social and clothing experiences or new places. Some toddlers are enthusiasts who react enthusiastically to novelty, while others shy away from what is out of the ordinary. This explains why some children will go to their first swim or karate class with enthusiasm and will barely look at their parents while others will prefer to stick to dad or mom. Children who are afraid of novelty need to be reassured and encouraged to move forward. However, avoid overprotecting them.
This trait of temperament concerns the long-term reactions of a child to novelty and its ease at the moment when it occurs. A toddler who adapts easily feels more comfortable in a new situation (eg, moving, changing a babysitter) than a child who adapts more slowly. One way to help a child adapt better is to gradually bring change to life. For example, for a child starting daycare, it may mean visiting the place first and then spending only a few hours before taking the leap.
Sensory threshold and sensory sensitivity
Children do not react in the same way to differences in flavor, texture, and temperature. Some are strongly stimulated by the noise, the touch, the bright lights, the texture of the clothes and the feeling of them on their skin. Teaching them to tolerate sensation by gradually increasing the exposure also allows them to better understand and control their reactions. For example, if a child does not like the texture of the meat, first giving them very small pieces and then gradually increasing their size is one way to help them get used to this food. Similarly, if a toddler does not like wearing jeans, it is possible to propose to wear them 5 minutes once then 10 minutes the next time and gradually increase the period of time until the sensation of the jeans does not concern him more. When a child has a very high sensory sensitivity, helping him to better understand his senses teaches him to put words on his sensations.
This is the level of energy a child exhibit when reacting to something positive or negative. Some toddlers have intense emotions, which are easily interpreted, while others express themselves much less clearly or less strongly. With an angry child, it’s important to keep calm and talk to them after the crisis to help put words on their emotions. Getting angry with him is more likely to encourage this difficult behavior. For its part, a child who expresses little of what he feels needs to be taught early to recognize and name his emotions.
The proportion of pleasurable, joyful and friendly behaviors to hostile behaviors and frequent crying is an indicator of a child’s mood. Some toddlers usually look happy, while others are easily upset. When a baby cries a lot, the best way to react to parents is to comfort them quickly and warmly. The baby learns to trust and develops a strong bond of attachment with his parents. If they ignore the crying, the baby may become more irritable and impatient.
It is used to describe the influence of external stimuli (eg, noise) on the activity a child is performing. Sometimes these stimuli completely change the activity. Some children can go about their activities despite the noise, while others need calm to do something. If a child is easily distracted, making sure the environment is as calm and quiet as possible is a good idea.
Persistence and duration of attention
This characteristic refers to the length of time a child is engaged in an activity despite interruptions or difficulties. A persevering toddler can spend hours performing a task. To help a child develop perseverance, it must be set realistic goals taking into account his abilities. Suggesting a short-term activity that will easily succeed is also a good idea. Thereafter, it is sufficient to gradually increase the level of difficulty of the activity. The books and puzzles are good examples of this type of activity.
Can the temperament change?
The temperament of a child and the way his parents look after him influence each other. Research has shown that, for example, parents will find it easier to be warm with children who tend to be in a good mood or with those who respect the rules. For parents, it can be easier to be warm with a playful child, because they feel more valued: their efforts are rewarded with a smile.
Conversely, children who have a more difficult temperament (who cry a lot or who often have temper tantrums) may discourage parents or make them more impatient. This reaction is also normal because these children are more demanding for parents.
It should be noted, however, that a child’s temperament is not cast in concrete and does not determine his future. It is also important to remember that each type of temperament has its strengths. In addition, the temperament can change even in adulthood.
With a positive attitude, parents can help their child to improve their temperament, which changes with life experiences. For example, an impulsive toddler can learn to better control his impulses.
A more difficult trait may decrease, but never completely disappear. It is therefore important to respect the temperament of a child. When parents help their toddler and adapt their interventions according to their temperament, it is easier for them to develop and integrate into family life or daycare.