Friday, October 21, 2022

Why Does Temperament Matter? 🤷‍♀️

When kids struggle with big feelings and big behaviors, temperament matters. Temperament is part of what can help us understand why these feelings and behaviors occur and how to help our kids learn to manage them.

Kids are born with unique and individual temperaments. Their temperament plays a significant role in how they behave and their overall social and emotional development.

Some kids are relatively calm, chill, flexible and easy going. They aren’t overly bothered by things around them or by the actions of others and they recover from upset, disappointment, or frustrations fairly quickly. 

Other kids experience their environment and relationships in more intentional, intense, deeper ways. These kids are typically very observant, detail oriented, meticulous and focused. While these are excellent qualities to have, especially as an adult, these skills can present challenges in behaviors and relationships for children and teens.

Kids with a more emotional temperament tend to be described as highly sensitive, intense, reactive, dramatic, etc. They take in the world in much bigger ways. Because they are so observant, cautious and detail oriented, they usually have specific expectations in mind for various situations (e.g., how a birthday party will go or what a visit to a certain restaurant will be like) and when those experiences are different than what they expect them to be, it can cause them to become overstimulated, overwhelmed and, ultimately, to act out. Or, when others ask them questions (e.g., What did you do in school today?) or make comments about things they say (e.g., Oh, how do you play that game?), these kids may feel “judged,” “questioned,” or “on the spot,” which can contribute to feelings of embarrassment or insecurity and, ultimately, to acting out.

So, if you have a child with a more highly sensitive temperament, the next time they act out, try to figure out what they might have been feeling or how they might have been experiencing a situation that could have contributed to their behavior. Then, when they are in a calmer emotional state, share your observations of their behavior and what you think they might have been feeling and see what they say. They may not say a word and that’s ok. You’re still helping them begin to reflect on their feelings and how those feelings affect their behaviors and that’s a huge step toward understanding their temperament and helping them with emotional and behavioral regulation!