Several years back hubby and I lovingly nicknamed our young boys ‘Pig Will’ and ‘Pig Won’t’ (thank you, Richard Scarry). It seemed if one child was game to do something, the other was definitely against it, ughh! At the time, one son was very passionate and outgoing and the other was more reserved and cautious in his approach. I won’t lie, this was a challenge on many everyday levels. It took us some time to figure out how to best parent them, given their different temperaments, and ours too!
Research around temperament is continually growing and evolving. Current evidence challenges earlier held beliefs that temperament is inborn and does not change over time. New research tells us that some qualities only become more consistent around the preschool years.
Our temperament guides our personal compass and can determine things like how quickly we adapt to our environment, build relationships and how we make sense of our experiences. A child’s temperament changes as they grow, develop and also in response to different people and places.
Often we hear from frustrated parents on the HaltonParents phone line saying “I don’t understand, (x) worked perfectly for my first child, but not the second”. A parenting strategy that works for one child may not work for another, as each child responds differently to their environment. Understanding your child’s temperament can help you better understand why your child may act the way they do, and how best to support them.
If you’re a parent to more than one child, likely you can rhyme off very different characteristics about each of them. Think back… as a baby was your little one predictable or hard to read, sensitive to noise or very relaxed? I bet that once you figured this out, you tried different parenting strategies to meet their needs. Take a minute to stop and think about what makes your child tick. Reflecting on these things helps, as you parent through the different stages of their development.
Think about your child and consider:
- How your child reacts to new people or situations
- How sensitive your child is to stimulation
- How active your child likes to be
- How regular your child is, do they sleep, eat, and toilet at the same time each day
- How long your child can focus on an activity, or are they easily distracted
- For children under 3, find out more about your child’s temperament using the Infant Toddler Temperament Tool
Back to ‘Pig Will’ and ‘Pig Won’t’ (for the record)… those names did not stick, nor did I want to create labels that would define them. However, being aware of those early characteristics really helped us parent in a more sensitive and adaptive way to support our boys. Fast forward many years, and I am happy to report they are doing great as they embrace life with their own unique styles.
We would love to hear from you. Are your children’s temperaments different from each other’s?
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For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.