The ease with which a child adjusts to his environment is strongly influenced by his temperament - adaptability and emotional style. For the most part, temperament is an innate quality of the child, one with which he is born. It is somewhat modified (particularly in the early years of life) by his experiences and interactions with other people, with his environment and by his health.
By the time a child has reached the school years, his temperament is well defined and quite apparent to those who know him. It is not something that is likely to change much in the future. These innate characteristics have nothing to do with your own parenting skills. Nevertheless, the behavioral adjustment of a school-age child depends a lot upon the interaction between his temperament and yours, and how others respond to him - how comfortably he fits in with his environment and with the people around him.
Characteristics of temperamentBy being aware of some of the characteristics of temperament, you can better understand your child, appreciate his uniqueness, and deal with problems of poor "fit" that may lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
There are at least nine major characteristics that make up temperament.
- Activity level: the level of physical activity, motion, restlessness or fidgety behavior that a child demonstrates in daily activities (and which also may affect sleep).
Rhythmicity or regularity: the presence or absence of a regular pattern for basic physical functions such as appetite, sleep and bowel habits.
- Approach and withdrawal: the way a child initially responds to a new stimulus (rapid and bold or slow and hesitant), whether it be people, situations, places, foods, changes in routines or other transitions.
- Adaptability: the degree of ease or difficulty with which a child adjusts to change or a new situation, and how well the youngster can modify his reaction.
- Intensity: the energy level with which a child responds to a situation, whether positive or negative.
- Mood: the mood, positive or negative, or degree of pleasantness or unfriendliness in a child's words and behaviors.
- Attention span: the ability to concentrate or stay with a task, with or without distraction.
- Distractibility: the ease with which a child can be distracted from a task by environmental (usually visual or auditory) stimuli.
- Sensory threshold: the amount of stimulation required for a child to respond. Some children respond to the slightest stimulation, and others require intense amounts.
The easy child responds to the world around him in an easy manner. His mood is positive, and he is mildly to moderately intense. He adapts easily to new schools and people. When encountering a frustrating situation, he usually does so with relatively little anxiety. His parents probably describe him as a "joy to be around." About 40 percent of children fall into this category.