Scientists have identified specific behaviors that are part of each person’s temperament. These are called temperament traits. Whether a child is basically happy or serious, active or inactive, are traits that make them the unique individuals that they are.
Everyone fits somewhere in all of the Traits of Temperament categories.
The Traits of Temperament are:
- Activity Level
- Sensitivity to Senses
- Awareness of Feelings
- Strength of Expression
- Ability to Change
- Need for Physical Routine
- Usual Mood
Is my child always moving or usually sitting still? Is there a lot of jumping around at our house, or more quiet and calm playing? What happens when she has to sit still for a long time? What happens when he has to be up and around for a long time?
A child who is very active:
- Needs an outlet for her energy.
- Can’t sit still or quiet for long periods.
- Can be seen as able to do things.
- May be accident prone.
A child who is less active:
- May take more time to finish things.
- Can have physical problems, like being overweight.
- Often can sit still and listen in school.
Tips for working with activity levels.
Sensitivity to Senses
Ask yourself: How sensitive is my child to light, smells, sounds and touching? What happens if there is a loud noise in our house? How does my child react if there is a bright light nearby? What happens when he eats something that has a new taste? How does she react when I hug or touch her? If there is a bad smell nearby, does he notice?
A child who is sensitive to senses:
- May become fussy if there are loud noises or bright lights.
- Learns by seeing, touching, and using all of her senses.
- May be cuddly and sometimes clingy.
A child who is less sensitive to senses:
- Often is not interested in hugging or touching.
- Enjoys brighter lights and louder music.
- May sleep through noise and lights.
Tips for working with sensitivity to senses.
Awareness of Feelings
Ask yourself: How aware is my child of feelings and emotions? Can he tell me what he is feeling? When someone else is sad or hurt, does she notice and seem concerned about what that person is feeling? Does he act mad when he is probably really sad or scared? Does she try to comfort others who are upset?
A child who is aware of feelings:
- Can be very caring and sympathetic to others.
- Can use words to tell how he feels.
- Might act on feelings instead of thinking things through.
A child who is less aware of feelings:
- May not know she upset someone or why.
- Can act angry instead of sad or hurt.
- Is often more interested in the facts than how people feel.
Tips for working with an awareness of feelings.
Strength of Expression
Ask yourself: How strongly does my child express feelings, wants and opinions? Do I have to guess what he is thinking? Does she sometimes get overlooked or bossed around by other people? Does he like to tell others what to do and how to do it? What happens when she doesn’t like something or someone? What happens when he wants something?
A child who is very expressive:
- May yell or cry over small things.
- May have trouble taking turns or letting other children choose games.
- Can be good at talking you into things.
A child who is less expressive:
- Might be seen as an underachiever.
- May get pushed around by other children.
- May be calmer and more cooperative
Tips for working with children who have varying levels of expression.
Ask yourself: How does my child stick with and complete a task? Will she sit and do one thing until she is done? Does he start something and then move on to something else right in the middle? What happens if I ask her to stop doing something? Will he stay with something even if it is not easy, or does he give up?
A child who is very persistent:
- Might have trouble taking “no” for an answer or stopping.
- Will stick with something until it is done.
- Is often considered stubborn.
- Usually does well in school.
A child who is less persistent:
Tips for working with persistence.
Ask yourself: How does my child pay attention? Does he stop what he’s doing often? What happens if there is a sudden noise while she is doing something? When he is fussy, can I get him to quickly think of something else, like a toy?
A child who is more focused:
- Can complete tasks more easily.
- May be unaware of danger.
- May learn quickly.
- May not hear when you call.
A child who is easily distracted:
- May have trouble finishing things.
- May be able to do several things at once.
- Is easily sidetracked from what she is doing.
Tips for working with children who are very focused or easily distracted.
Ability to Change
Ask yourself: How easily does my child accept changes? What would happen if she had to go to new childcare or someone new were to watch her? Is he friendly with new children? What would happen if we moved to a new house or apartment? If everything in her room were moved around, would she be upset?
A child who enjoys change:
- May wander off if not watched in a store or crowd.
- Likes to explore new places.
- Will easily meet and accept new people.
- May become bored with the same things.
A child who prefers the familiar:
- Becomes shy with new people and places.
- Likes his toys, room, and teachers to stay the same.
- Needs more time to deal with change.
Tips for working with children who enjoy change or prefer the familiar.
Need for Physical Routine
Ask yourself: How much routine does my child need? Does he like to do the same things at the same times everyday? What would happen if she had to go to bed earlier or later? Does he have a favorite cup or plate? Does she prefer to eat the same things? Do I need to change his diapers at the same times?
A child who prefers physical routines:
- Usually will go to bed or eat at the same time everyday.
- May have a favorite toy or cup.
- Can get upset when the day doesn’t go as usual.
A child who likes variety in physical routines:
- Has varying needs for food or sleep.
- Enjoys doing things differently.
- May not notice small changes in the day.
Tips for working with children who prefer or like variety in physical routines.
Ask yourself: What is my child’s mood most of the time? Does she laugh or smile a lot? Does he usually see the positive or negative in things that happen? Does she usually seem serious? When things go wrong, is he able to shrug off disappointment? Does she play happily with others or does she prefer to play alone?
A child who is usually in a happy mood:
- Makes friends easily.
- May act happy even when sad.
- Might not know how to act when serious things happens.
A child who is usually serious:
- May have a harder time having fun.
- Can be more studious and learn more easily.
- May be seen as unhappy or having problems when he does not.
A child who is usually less positive:
- Might have trouble keeping friends.
- May become sad or frustrated easily.
- Can be more realistic about things.
Tips for working with children and moods.
Temperament Traits Quiz
Sometimes people label traits as bad or wrong and unfairly label a child with those traits. But every kind of temperament trait can be used in good ways if we learn to make good choices.
Use the online temperament traits quiz to help discover what type of temperament your child has and how you can support his or her temperament. This is not a scientific personality test; it’s a tool to help you think about your child’s temperament.
As you answer each question, take a few moments to think about your child. He or she might be very much one way, just a little bit another way, and sometimes a little of both. The important thing to keep in mind is to notice the way your child behaves most of the time.
When you are done, you’ll get a report summarizing your child’s temperament traits, along with tips for working with your child’s temperament. You will be able to print out this report for future reference.