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Temperament Traits

How would you describe your child’s personality? Is he shy and stubborn? Is she hyper and cheerful?

These characteristics are called temperament traits.

Temperament Traits

Temperament traits are our innate emotional differences combined with our life experiences. They help mold our personality and influence how we react to different situations, relate to other people, and study new information.

Understanding these traits helps us identify a student’s learning style. It is an important factor in how we individualize our educational coaching in order to meet our students’ needs.

Temperament traits are sorted into nine different categories. Within each category, we fall somewhere on a continuum based on our behaviors. Low or high tendencies are not always problems, but should be watched carefully. Identifying your child’s temperament traits and their impact on behavior can help you deal with potential problems at home.

Quality of Mood: Everyone displays a variety of emotions, but we are inclined to be generally positive or negative.

Negative <————————————> Positive

Children with a more negative mood tend to be pessimistic and may have a harder time being accepted by others. They need to learn planning and problem solving to deal with challenging situations. Those who are typically in a good mood are able to fit in easily in any environment. However, since they can bottle up negative feelings, we teach them appropriate ways to express themselves.

Activity Level: This indicates how much an individual moves around and needs kinesthetic stimulation for the thinking process.

Low Energy <————————————> High Energy

Children who are less active can adapt well to structure, but may be seen as unmotivated. We help our students stick to an activity and complete it on time. Children with a high energy level are more active and fidgety. We incorporate physical activity into their sessions, since kinesthetic movement improves their ability to learn and retain information.

Regularity: Regularity refers to our internal rhythm and how easily we fall into daily routines and habits.

Low Predictability <————————————> High Predictability

Children with low predictability struggle to follow routines. Their internal clock doesn’t feel a deadline until they’ve almost reached it. Creating daily routines and rewarding successes works well for them. Children with high predictability fall into routines easily but have difficulty when the routine changes. During Educational Coaching sessions, they learn ways to handle variation and develop flexibility.

Approach-Withdrawal: Our common response when we encounter a new situation.

Withdraws <————————————> Approaches

Children who are more hesitant will hang back and watch before engaging in a new situation. They benefit from gentle encouragement to make new friends and try new activities. Those who approach new experiences tend to be curious, but we do have to teach them to use reasonable caution and not to jump to conclusions impulsively.

Adaptability: After the initial reaction to a new situation (which is approach-withdrawal), adaptability refers to the amount of time it takes a person to adjust and accept changes.

Slow to Adapt <————————————> Adapts Easily

More rigid children may find new situations stressful and difficult. They benefit from advanced warning about transitions and changes. Children who adapt easily can get along with others, and they do well in a structured environment. However, we must introduce independent decision-making to ensure they do not take on negative behaviors from peers.

Intensity: Intensity refers to the amount of energy a person puts into a response, not to the intensity of the emotion that is felt.

Less Responsive <————————————> More Responsive

Children who are less responsive still feel the emotion but aren’t as open in their reactions. Their needs may be overlooked, so they must learn to self-advocate. Intense children are easy to read because they react strongly to everything, but they benefit from learning strategies for emotional control.

Sensitivity: This relates to an individual’s sensory system and how a person responds to the stimuli in the environment. It also refers to emotional sensitivity.

Less Sensitive <————————————> More Sensitive

Children who are less sensitive can be more tolerant of noises or changes to the environment. They may need assistance understanding external cues, such as when to pay attention to important sounds or visuals. Highly sensitive individuals are very aware of their environment and can be distracted by itchy clothing or loud noises. They can also be remarkably sensitive to other people’s feelings and build close relationships.

Distractibility: This refers to a person’s tendency to be sidetracked by either outside interruptions or internal dialogue.

Low Distractibility <————————————> High Distractibility

Children with low distractibility can concentrate despite noise or other interruptions, but have to be wary of tuning out too much and not noticing important cues. We might introduce a reminder like a timer to move to the next task or activity. Highly distractible students notice everything going on around them and can be diverted by their own thoughts or daydreams. They benefit from short instructions and a verbal or visual cue to get back on task.

Persistence: Persistence is the ability to stick with a task until it’s completed, regardless of an interruption or frustration.

Low Persistence <————————————> High Persistence

Students with low persistence give up when a task becomes difficult or when they are interrupted. We use the chunking strategy to break the task into manageable parts. Highly persistent students tend to do well but may become overly concerned with perfection.

In conclusion, our mix of temperament traits is part of what makes us unique individuals. These traits influence how we handle difficult situations, build relationships, and learn new information.

Since every student has a different temperament, we adjust our Educational Coaching approach to meet each student’s specific needs. We also provide students with tools and strategies to modify challenging characteristics and take advantage of strengths.


Webinar: Beyond the Label – Helping Kids with Temperament and Learning Issues by Dr. Patricia McGuire

“Your Child’s Temperament: Some Basics” and “Tips for handling problematic temperament traits” by Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.

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