Temperament Traits: A Guide for Parents

Understanding your child’s temperament is essential for effective parenting. Each child has unique traits that influence their behavior, reactions, and interactions with the world. This blog will explore nine key temperament traits that can help you gain valuable insights into your child’s personality.

Activity Level:

Activity level refers to the level of motor activity and the proportion of active to inactive periods. While some children cannot sit still for a minute, others can play quietly with their toys for hours. A “normal” child has equal active and inactive periods during waking hours.


Rhythmicity or regularity refers to how predictable or regular a child is in terms of biological functions such as hunger, sleep-wake cycle, and bowel elimination. Some children have bedtime and mealtimes that run like clockwork, while others have little natural rhythm or regularity.

Approach or Withdrawal/First Reactions:

This trait refers to a child’s wariness or how easily they respond to novelty, such as new foods, people, places, clothes, or going to school for the first time. Some children are “plungers” and react enthusiastically to new things, while others may immediately back off from the unfamiliar and take time to warm up.


Adaptability applies to a child’s long-term responses to new or changed situations and the degree to which their reactions to stimuli can be modified in a desirable way. Children who are low on adaptability may have difficulty with changes in routines and transitions during the day.

Threshold of Responsiveness:

This trait refers to a child’s responses to differences in flavor, texture, and temperature. Some highly sensitive children may be overstimulated by noise, touch, bright lights, texture, and the feel of clothes. On the other hand, less reactive children may be difficult to arouse and appear passive and uninterested in their surroundings.

Intensity of Reaction:

Intensity of reaction relates to the energy level of a child’s response, whether positive or negative. Some children’s emotions are intense and easy to read, while others express themselves less clearly or loudly.

Quality of Mood:

The quality of mood describes the amount of pleasant, joyful, and friendly behavior a child displays compared to crying, complaining, or unfriendly behavior. Some children generally seem happy, while others may find everything a source of complaint.


Distractibility refers to how effective outside stimuli are in interfering with or changing the direction of a child’s ongoing behavior. Some children can attend to tasks with noise all around them, while others require complete isolation to focus and get things done.

Attention Span and Persistence:

Attention span and persistence indicate the amount of time an activity is pursued without interruption and the ability to continue in the face of obstacles. A persistent child may spend hours getting something just right.

By understanding these temperament traits, you can tailor your parenting approach to meet your child’s unique needs. Remember, every child is different, and embracing their individual temperament will help foster a healthy and supportive environment for their growth and development.

Comparing the parents’ temperament to the child’s can often lead to conflicts within the family. Each individual has their own unique temperament, which includes their activity level, adaptability, threshold of responsiveness, and many other traits. When parents have different temperaments than their child, it can result in misunderstandings and challenges in communication.

For example, if a parent is highly extroverted and outgoing, but their child is more introverted and prefers solitude, conflicts may arise when the parent expects the child to be more social or outgoing. The parent may not understand why the child needs alone time or may push them to participate in activities that they find overwhelming. This mismatch in temperaments can lead to frustration and tension within the family.

Similarly, differences in adaptability can also cause conflicts. If a parent is highly adaptable and thrives on change, but their child prefers routine and predictability, clashes may occur when the parent introduces new routines or disrupts established ones. The child may struggle to adjust, leading to resistance and potential conflicts.

It is important for parents to recognize and respect their child’s temperament, even if it differs from their own. By understanding and accepting these differences, parents can create a more harmonious environment where both the parent and child’s needs are met. Communication, empathy, and flexibility are key in navigating these differences and finding common ground.

In conclusion, comparing the parents’ temperament to the child’s can highlight potential areas of conflict within the family. By acknowledging and appreciating these differences, parents can foster a more understanding and supportive environment for their child’s unique temperament.


  • Thomas, A., Chess, S., & Birch, H.G. (1968). Temperament and behavior disorders in children. New York: New York University Press.
  • Landy, S., & Thompson, E. (2006). Pathways to competence for young children: A parenting program. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

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