What’s your baby’s temperament? Knowing can help parents

Discovering your own temperament may help you learn your child's temperament

A baby looks to the left with a distressed expression, which could be indicative of the baby's temperament

Ever wonder why you react to situations and people like you do? Do you like a daily plan, or do you just go with the flow in your day? The answers to these questions are likely related to your temperament. A blend of nine inherited traits (below) affects the way you respond to people and situations you encounter during your day.

Your baby has a temperament, too. Your baby’s temperament influences how they express thoughts and feelings now and as they grow older.  Some babies have a blend of temperament traits that require parental patience, guidance and encouragement.

Know your baby’s temperament

Knowing your baby’s temperament provides helpful insight into your baby’s needs today and for years to come.  For example:

  • Very active. Highly active babies are more prone to accidents. Make sure you childproof your home as your baby grows and explores the world.
  • Easily stressed. A low-adapt baby is easily stressed by changes in the day. If your baby is low-adapt, crying, whimpering, tantrums and verbal outbursts may likely be common as your baby grows older. He or she may need understanding and guidance to learn how to manage this trait.
  • Highly sensitive. A highly sensitive baby may fuss when his or her diaper is wet or as you try new food textures. You might discover that he or she dislikes tight clothing or tags in shirts.

Know your temperament

Knowing your own temperament helps provide insight into how you and your baby may be compatible or have differing traits that could cause stress in your relationship. For example:

  • You go with the flow. If you are highly adaptable, it’s hard to understand why little changes in the day cause your baby to cry or throw tantrums as a toddler.
  • Low energy level. If you have a lower activity level and your baby has a high activity level, your baby’s activity could wear you out and consequently stretch your patience as your baby grows older.
  • Reserved or withdrawn. You may be uncomfortable with your over-friendly child as your baby grows older.

Nine temperament traits

  1. Activity level refers to how physically busy a child is. How much wiggling and moving around happens in a day or simply during a diaper change?
  2. Regularity (rhythmicity) refers to how much a child needs a routine to be comfortable. Does your child wake up at the same time every day and dirty his diaper on schedule? Or is his eating and sleeping schedule a mystery?
  3. Approach/withdrawal refers to how a child initially responds to new things. Does your child shy away when introduced to a new food or new toys?
  4. Adaptability refers to how long it takes a child to adjust to change over time. Does your child adapt to changes in schedule or routine quickly, or does she take time?
  5. Sensitivity (sensory threshold) refers to how easily a child is disturbed by changes in the environment such as lights, sounds and touch. Is your child aware of slight differences in taste, clothing or bright lights in the room?
  6. Intensity refers to the emotional energy level of a child’s response. Does your child laugh and cry forcefully, or does your child simply smile and fuss mildly when happy or upset?
  7. Distractibility refers to a child’s tendency to be sidetracked by other things going on. Is your child easily distracted by people talking in the next room, or does he ignore distractions?
  8. Mood refers to your child’s general tendency to have a positive and outgoing or a quiet and thoughtful response. How much time does your child show pleasant, joyful behavior compared with unpleasant crying and fussing behavior?
  9. Persistence refers to the length of time a child will spend on a task and a child’s ability to stay with the task through frustration. How long does your child continue with one toy or game with you? Does your child usually continue if he becomes frustrated?

When you understand that your baby reacts to people, places and situations based on his or her temperament traits, it’s easier to respond with support and reassurance. To request a temperament questionnaire and consultation, email parenting@sanfordhealth.org or call (605) 312-8390.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting