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Difficult Temperament

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Parent Handouts and Info - Parent


Individual differences in how children relate to other people and approach problems is called temperament. Here are suggestions to get along better a child's temperament seems difficult or challenging.


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Age Groups

Preschool/Kindergarten (3-5), School Age (6-12)

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Difficult Temperament

Difficult Temperament

All children have differences in how they relate to other people and approach problems. This is called temperament. Some children are slow and methodical and others are quick to evaluate and act. Some make friends easily and others are more reserved. It can be challenging if you have a different temperamental style from your child. But no matter what your child's temperament, there are ways you can learn to get along better with them.

  • Take time to appreciate their strengths as a person. Perhaps your child is very shy and likes to hang back when around a lot of people. You might see this as a weakness. But it can be a strength too. Your child is probably a very keen observer.
  • Try to respect your child's temperament. This is who they are. While you can expect to change their behavior, you should not expect to change their temperament. If you and your child have different styles make sure you give them positive messages about themselves and lots of praise.
  • Making your child feel ashamed or guilty about how they do things can hurt your relationship. So don't criticize your child for things that are just about his or her individual style.
  • Listen to your child. Be interested in what they have to say. As an "active listener", you should then be able to repeat back what your child has said in your own words. This way you can really understand your child better.
  • Educate teachers so they understand your child's differences. This can help to avoid common triggers for conflict (e.g., gym, writing assignments, group work).
  • Try the "Basket" approach when you respond to your child. This means to decide how important it is before choosing which way to respond. There are three main kinds of "baskets." The first is emergencies. For example, if your child refuses to go to school, it is an emergency. You must make your child go to school. The second is a time to negotiate and teach your child. You should negotiate with a child who wants to play outside before doing homework. First, discuss the pros and cons of playing first. Then, let your child decide. The third is a time you can let a comment or behavior go. If your child really wants left over pizza for breakfast, you might let him/her. This approach reduces struggles and allows you to treat each child as an individual.

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