How’s your temper? Going through transitions can flare up some people’s temper. What is “temperament” and how does it affect how we deal with the difficulties and disappointments of life? Big transitions like a new job, a new school, getting married, a new baby, moving, divorce, adolescence, menopause, mid-life, empty nest, etc. are challenging to everyone, but to some more than others.
I used to think (before I had kids) that a child’s personality and behavior were determined by the parenting he received. How a child is raised has a powerful impact, but as most parents know, every child comes with their own temperament.
What is temperament? It’s how each child naturally responds to the world around him, consistently in different situations and at different times.
For example, some kids have a “short fuse.” They have a low tolerance for frustration and get upset very quickly when life doesn’t go their way. Other kids with a “long fuse” can be in the same situation and not get upset because they can tolerate frustration much longer.
Understanding your child’s temperament as well as your own can help ease the pain of transitions. If you understand that your child has difficulty shifting gears from one activity to another (like leaving a party and going home), you will allow more time to prepare your child before it’s actually time to go.
Many times I remember telling my kids, “We need to get ready to leave in 10 minutes – We’re leaving in 5 minutes…..one more minute…..time to go now.” They still may get upset, but it will be a brief rain shower compared to the tornado tantrums of the past when no warnings were given.
According to Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of “Raising Your Spirited Child,” there are nine different temperament traits: Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction, and Disposition. Each trait is on a continuum from mild to strong reaction.
It’s good to remember that each trait has it’s strengths and weaknesses.
The child that is more difficult to raise because they are more persistent about getting their way, will one day be the adult who will persist until they reach their career goals. Whereas, the child who is easier to redirect and takes “no” for an answer, may one day be the adult who gives up too easily and has a harder time reaching his goals.
There are advantages and disadvantages to all our temperament traits.
You might look at your own temperament too. Does it blend well with your child’s temperament or do you clash? Sometimes differences in temperament can be the root of many a parent-child conflict. (You might apply this to your marriage too. Usually we marry someone who has a very different or opposing temperament than our own. I say, “Life seeks balance, like it or not!”)
Many parents agree when I say, “You may love your child, but not like their temperament.”
You cannot change or choose your child’s temperament, but once you accept her as she is, you can guide & teach her how to express herself appropriately. Your acceptance, guidance, & example will give your child important coping skills for the many transitions of life.
Give yourself credit for all you do for your children.
Go buy yourself a rose.
If you’d like to learn more, see my website for upcoming parent workshops.
(My next workshop is Thursday, Sept. 12th 6:00 to 8:00pm in Westchester.
I will be teaching a workshop on “Discipline & Setting Limits”.)
Go to –