Let's Talk Temperament
Updated: May 13, 2019
"Parents are gardeners--planting the seeds of faith, truth, and love that develop into the fairest flowers of character, virtue and happiness in the lives of their children"
J. Harold Gwynne
Every one of us is different. Even as babies, we are each born with different qualities. From skin and eye color to hair texture to personalities. Some babies cry alot, others don't. Some babies sleep well, others don't. When we think of baby personalities, we consider the following variables:
Activity level. Is your child highly active, low key or in between?
Adaptability. Are transitions hard?
Novelty. Does your child approach new things enthusiastically? Or are they more slow to warm up?
Frustration Tolerance. Does your child become easily frustrated and meltdown? Or can they cope when things don't go their way?
Intensity. How intensely does your child feel their emotions?
Distractability. Is your child easily distractible?
Mood. Does your child have a generally positive or negative mood?
Predictability of rhythms. Does your child have a consistent rhythm of sleep, eating, bathrooming, etc.
Sensitivity. How sensitive is your child to loud noises, textures, or other stimuli?
"Making bouquets with some flowers is easier than others"
No temperament is "perfect", because no people are perfect. But it's helpful to know your child's temperament--and your own temperament--so you can be better prepared to meet their needs and respond to them most effectively. Using these variables, researchers have agreed upon four common temperament types.
1. The "Easy" Baby (Baby Sunflower)
Sunflowers are easy to grow! They face the sky, enthusiastic for each new day of sun! Baby Sunflowers are like that too, they wake up happy, have predictable rhythms, adapt to change easily, approach new situations, is moderate in mood, and fun to be around. Approximately 40% of all babies are Baby Sunflowers, so if you're parenting one, enjoy and practice gratitude!
2. The "Difficult" Baby (Baby Holly)
Holly bushes are deeply beautiful, but you do have to navigate the prickliness of its leaves. If you carelessly intrude upon a holly bush, you will receive a poke! Baby Hollies too can be so loving and so lovable, but will also be very prickly! These babies are easily upset, irregular in their habits, have a hard time with transitions, feel their emotions intensely, and are often difficult to console. Nearly 10% of all babies are Baby Hollies, and if you have one, enjoy them any chance you get and take good care of yourself!
3. The "Slow-to-Warm" Baby (Baby Orchid)
An orchid gardener must have great patience to coax the orchid out of the shade, into the sun. Similarly, Baby Orchids are also very slow-to-warm up to new situations--they often prefer to observe from the sidelines before joining in the action. Caregivers are best suited to exercise great patience and gently encourage their Baby Orchids into the world!
4. The "Active" Baby (Baby Dandelion)
Dandelions are beautiful, and with their seeds blowing free in the breeze, can be very difficult to control--they're everywhere! Baby Dandelions are similar, in that they are active! They are busy, climbing, running, with limitless energy. They won't look before they leap, they might have trouble sitting for a teacher. Parenting a Baby Dandelion can be exhausting, and lots of compassion is in order.
"We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it's our garden that's really nurturing us"
By the time your baby is about four months old, you will probably be able to recognize what traits and temperament they have. These genetic, biological tendencies don't have to become destiny--they are not the only story of your child. But knowing what kind of flower you are growing can give you some hints of what life will be like along the way, and will give you perspective of how to respond to your child in a way that works for you both.
In learning about your child's temperament, you might also find another way to see yourself. When you can be mindful about the temperamental needs of your child, as well as your own, your parenting relationship can really thrive!
Creating Space Counseling and Wellness can help you to better understand your child's temperament, your own temperament, and develop parenting strategies that will meet the needs of your whole family.
Call today to learn more! 856-281-1664
**This blog post was inspired by the book "Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start"by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. If you are raising a little one, I highly recommend it!