Child temperament: a cornerstone of parenting
Temperament is a a set of characteristics that each of us is born with that affects how we respond to the world and how people respond to us. And as Parenting Research Centre Senior Specialist Dr Naomi Hackworth tells the Babyology podcast Feed Play Love, most parents already have an idea of their child’s temperament.
“We know this when we hear parents say their child is outgoing or that they need routine,” Dr Hackworth says. “As well as knowing what your child’s temperament is, it’s important to adapt your parenting style to take temperament into account.
There is actually no good or bad temperament, Dr Hackworth says. Some children are more reactive than others, some are more sociable than others. And each child has their own individual mix of characteristics, genetically laid down, which persist into adulthood.
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Accepting child temperament is key
“Importantly, if your child feels accepted and valued for who they are, they are more likely to thrive. So if you can find a way to adapt your parenting to support their individual temperament rather than trying to get them to fit your mold it will be a more supportive environment for their development.”
This can be challenging, especially when a parent and a child have temperaments that are very different. Challenges also arise when children encounter situations that are not a good fit for their temperament. For example, a reserved child asked to speak publicly at school. Or a social child asked to settle more in class and manage their own behaviour.
“This is where parents play a really important role,” Dr Hackworth says.
“Even though, when we are born, we do have this blueprint, we also then interact with the world and we have different experiences. We develop ways of behaving based on both our temperament and our life experiences. So parents are important in helping children develop strategies for dealing with situations that might not be a good fit for their temperament. They can help them adapt to different environments.”