Author: Lea Zweig, Psy.D.

Topics in Child Psychology: Child TemperamentChildren come in all shapes and sizes. Some children behave just like you dreamed they would, and other children have a unique temperament that might be more challenging.  Temperament consists of aspects of one’s personality, such as emotions, ability to self-regulate, and behavior. Personality is often seen as innate, which means that people are born with their temperament. According to Chess and Thomas (1987), the majority of children fall into one of three types of temperament.

The Easy Child

These children are typically easy to parent. Parents of an easy child often feel very competent in their parenting style. These children are easy to soothe and often display regular eating habits, sleeping schedules, and elimination patterns. A child’s easy temperament is not indicative of future success; however, such children are more likely to possess characteristics that make it easier for them to become successful in some ways. For example, such children may be more adaptable in certain situations, are more likely to get along well with others, and are more emotionally stable in the face of stressors. Children with an easy temperament often make their parents feel proud, and such parents find that they can engage in a variety of different activities with their children. Such children are more likely to present as adaptable and easy-going.

The Slow-to-Warm-Up Child

Slow-to-warm-up children often move at their own pace, which requires patience and understanding from those around them. The slow-to-warm-up child takes longer to acclimate to novel people, environments, and situations. As these children gain exposure and experience with certain situations, they become more accepting and adaptable to their surroundings. Such children typically possess certain qualities that can lead to success such as thoughtfulness, prudence, and careful evaluation of experiences and potential outcomes. These children may be perceived as shy or reticent, but they simply require time to gain familiarity and comfort. Such children typically prefer to stand back and observe a novel experience before they join in with their peers.   

The Difficult Child

A difficult child tends to be more moody, and they are more likely to have emotional reactions to different situations. Such children may be more finicky or more difficult to soothe, since they are more likely to struggle with emotional self-regulation and coping with negative emotions. Parents of these children tend to report that they feel incompetent, exhausted, or exasperated. While these children may present as more difficult in temperament, they too possess certain qualities that can lead to certain aspects of success.  Specifically, such children may be tough-minded and persevering. Parents describe feeling unsure of how to satisfy their child’s needs. Many parents benefit from educating themselves and understanding that their child’s temperament is not a reflection of the child or the parents’ shortcomings, that they can find ways to better accommodate and manage their children’s temperament and behaviors to improve their child’s reactions to different situations, and to identify their child’s strengths.

There is no way to predict your child’s temperament before your child is born, and you cannot change your child’s temperament. Rather, you can learn strategies to best manage your child’s temperament and help them thrive. It can also be helpful to contact a child psychologist regarding specific parenting strategies and to educate yourself about raising a child with a certain temperament.

Brooks, R. B., & Goldstein, S. (2001). Raising resilient children: Fostering strength, hope, and optimism in your child. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books.