Is Your Child a Kandinsky or an Escher?

Little girl discovered the slide today. She climbed up, slid down and landed kerplunk on her tooshie and her back and then spent the next hour repeating the process. Each time she kerplunked, rolled over, pushed herself up and ran back to the slide. She loved it and must have done it at least 25 times.  I imagine she will like roller coasters when she is older.  And hopefully, she will not like doing things like sneaking out in the middle of the night.  She’s a physical little girl who likes to throw things to the ground and loves to paint with bold colors and big sweeps.  She concentrates and delights in practicing physical tasks until she has them down pat.

Little boy climbed to the top of the slide and announced he was unsure. I held on to him. He semi-enjoyed the one time and then went off to play with something quieter and more to his liking. He really loved the obstacle courses we set up which required him to remember such things as run to the white line on the wall, crawl through a tunnel, shoot a foot high basket, do some other things and then climb into a big round thing and raise his arms and say, “hooray”.  I doubt he will love the head rolling thrill of roller coasters, but I might be surprised.  He will almost certainly like puzzles and I could see him getting deeply involved in anything that requires lots of thinking and quiet concentration.  He’s thoughtful and creative, but not so physical.  He, too,  likes to paint and do crafts, but he is more precise about how he does things.  Currently, little girl is  Jackson Pollock.  Little boy is Kandinsky.

There are nine temperament traits that we are born with. I can’t help but read through them and think of my own style, my husband’s, and our kids. It’s fascinating how two children, who are similar in many ways, have such different temperaments and exhibit those temperaments.   Our temperament traits are the building blocks for our personality.  The more we understand the temperament traits the more we can understand each other and the better we can provide supports for our children as they learn how to interact with the world.

Both my kids are slow to warm up in new situations, but if I talk about the situation ahead of time and give the big picture, my little boy will just dive right in.  My little girl doesn’t have the language to do all that, but if I engage her in a physical activity right away, the scowl will quickly be replaced with a smile.

When faced with a situation that is just too much stimuli, my little boy will get quiet, go to sleep, or ask to be held.  My little girl will holler and push aside arms that reach to pick her up.  It’s good stuff for me to understand because my boy needs to be held till he’s ready and then he’s off on his own and my little girl is also not really pushing me away, but asking me to help her.  She’s overwhelmed with all the sensory information and needs my changing the environment, teaching her ways to cope or helping her focus on something that will help her make the transition into the setting.

Below are the nine temperament traits.  Any ones stand out for you with your kids?

Nine Traits of Temperament

1. Activity Level – Many parents define the activity level as the key difference between an easy or difficult child. A child who is very active must have an outlet for his energy. He can’t sit still or quiet for long. A child who is less active may take more time to finish things. He can sit still easily. The challenge may be in helping him get adequate exercise.

2. Distractibility – This is the degree to which a child focuses on a task that he is not very interested in. A more focused child can complete tasks more easily and learn more quickly. He often tunes out everything when working on an activity. An easily distracted child may have trouble finishing things and get easily sidetracked, but can multi-task well. High distractibility is seen as positive when it is easy to divert a child from an undesirable behavior but seen as negative when it prevents the child from finishing school work.

3. Intensity or Strength of Expression – A child who is very expressive may yell or cry over seemingly small things. He may be good at talking you into things. Intense children are more likely to have their needs met and tend to be exhausting to live with. The less expressive child may be seen as an underachiever. He may be calmer and more cooperative.

4. Regularity or Need for Physical Routine – A child who prefers more regular routines wants to go to bed and eat around the same times every day. He may get upset if the day doesn’t go as usual. A child on the other end of the spectrum likes variety in physical routines, enjoys doing things differently and may not notice small changes in the day.

5. Sensory Threshold or Sensitivity to Senses – This spectrum has a child who is painfully sensitive to stimulation on one end and a child who seeks more sensory stimulation on the other. The child who seeks more stimulation will learn best by engaging all of his senses. He enjoys cuddling and snuggling. He may hit or bite when angry. A child who is painfully sensitive to the stimulation may resist hugging and snuggling, may fuss about clothing or food textures. Parents of these sensitive children often feel like they are walking on eggshells.

6. Initial Reaction – A child who enjoys change moves into new situations with ease. He is described as friendly, social, and gregarious. He is also more likely to wander off in a store. He may become bored with the same things. A child who prefers the familiar becomes shy when meeting new people or in a new location, and therefore may be described as anti-social. He needs time to observe and warm-up from the edges. Slow-to-warm-up children tend to think before they act. They are less likely to act impulsively during adolescence.

7. Adaptability (resilient and flexible) – How easily does your child adapt over time versus react initially? A more adaptable child can easily tolerate big changes and the day-to-day transitioning from one activity to the next. A slow-to-adapt child is less likely to rush into dangerous situations, and may be less influenced by peer pressure.

8. Persistence or Tenacity – This refers to the length of time a child continues with an activity in the face of obstacles. A child who is more persistent or tenacious will stick with something until it is done. The tunnel vision can be about food, a material item such as a toy, or even an idea. He may have a hard time taking “no” for an answer and seem immune to typical disciplining techniques. A less persistent child may have a hard time completing tasks and will give up on things that are uninteresting or too complicated. A child with low persistence may develop strong social skills because he realizes other people can help.

9. Usual Mood – Is your child a glass half-full or half-empty kind of kid? Mood combines a lot of different elements, but in general, some kids are more upbeat and others are less bubbly. The child who is usually happy makes friends very easily. In fact, they might even act happy when they are sad. Some kids do very well in group situations (school, play, structured activities) but are much less enthusiastic at home. These kids are moody and may have a harder time having fun. It may seem there is a big problem even when there isn’t. A child who is usually less positive may become sad or angry about things more quickly. Serious children tend to be analytical and evaluate situations carefully.

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