Kids Connection – Temperament: Why you compliment and clash with your kids.

Kids Connection article
January 23, 2013

Temperament:  Why you compliment and clash with your kids.

“Why aren’t you more like your brother?”  Do you remember hearing something along those lines as a kid…or perhaps you have said it to your own children.  There is a good reason one child is not like another.  It is not a choice.  You see, we are all born with a specific disposition which strongly determines our reactions to situations and our likely behaviors in life.

Nine temperament traits in children and adults have been developed by Doctors Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas.  Each temperament has a high level and low level to help you identify your child’s patterns.

Activity level – Is your child always moving or does he/she tend to be less physically active? The answer determines how you incorporate physical activities in your child’s day.  Those with higher activity levels need to run, jump, and swim. Lower activity levels need some encouragement to go for a walk or move to music in between looking at books.

Distractibility –This child may be easily distracted during tasks or he/she may block what is going on in the room to complete their task?

Intensity – Some children respond loudly or dramatically to normal activities while others remain calm. High energy levels can be tiring to caregivers, so keep in mind the need to develop calming activities.

Regularity  or Rhythmicity – A child may be very predictable with eating and sleeping routines, while another may function fine without as much structure.

Sensory Threshold – Physical or sensory stimulation may cause a negative response for some children while others are not phased.  High sensory kids may be picky eaters, are overly uncomfortable with the texture of clothes or have a difficult time with loud sounds.

Approach/Withdrawal – How does your child respond to new places, situations, or people?  Are they hesitant and reluctant or are they comfortable in new settings?

Adaptability – Kids adjust easily to change within their surroundings or they may have difficulty accepting a new routine or change to the plan.

Persistence – One child may be determined and focused when working on an activity. Another child may give up easily or cannot concentrate to complete the task.

Mood – A child may see the world with a positive outlook or a negative viewpoint.  This trait may also show up as a child who has frequent change in mood versus having an even temper.

There is not right or wrong, no good or bad.  Each temperament has its strengths and weaknesses.  You cannot change your temperament, but you can learn to build up on strengths while learning different responses to balance weaker traits. The key is to know the temperament of each child so you can best help them understand their pattern and how to develop other tools that will help them get along with people and succeed in school and in life.

Find more resources on temperament at

Lezlie Burkley is the marketing coordinator for Chaffee County Early Childhood Council.  For more tips on raising young children visit the Council’s website at or call Chaffee County Early Childhood Council at 221-5114.