How Tempermental Traits can be Expressed in Children

Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child (© 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
Tempermental Trait Postive Characteristics Difficult or Challenging Behaviors What to do
High Activity Level    Energetic, vigorous. Investigates his environment. Remains active even in boring circumstances Restless, very active. May be impulsive, reckless. Easily distracted from tasks Anticipate high-activity. Use safety precautions if necessary. Practice distraction techniques. Provide opportunities to burn off energy and cool down
Low Activity Level Is unlikely to disrupt activities in small, cramped spaces Slow pace in performing tasks; often labeled "lazy." Gives appearance of drowsiness Provide additional time to finish tasks. Make tasks realistic within the designated time frame. Avoid criticism of child's slow pace
Irregularity (Low Regularity) May not be upset by disruptions in daily routine activities Unpredictable patterns of eating, sleeping, using the toilet Identify child's patterns and adhere to them as much as possible. Don't force the child to eat or sleep when not ready; require child to follow routines of coming to the table or going to bed without forcing eating or sleeping.
Initial Withdrawal Demonstrates caution in risky circumstances Rejection of people, food, situations. Very shy or clingy.  Slow to accept change Introduce new things gradually talk about them beforehand, let child proceed at own pace
Slow Adaptability Lower likelihood of being affected by negative influences Difficulty with changes and transitions. Takes a long time to adapt and adjust Establish daily consistent and predictable routines. Avoid unnecessary changes and prepare the child in advance. Try multiple brief exposures
High Intensity Child's needs get the attention of caregivers Expresses emotions in extremes instead of cries.  Yells rather than talks. Intensity is sometimes mistaken for desire Learn to be tolerant. Model more appropriate responses, give general feedback, and provide alternative responses
Negative Mood Concern may get parents involved in issues surrounding the child Fussy, complains a lot, appears very serious and displays little pleasure in words and actions. Parents may overestimate importance of a child's complaint Understand that mood is a major part of temperament. It is not your fault. Adjust
expectations or demands that intensify mood. Encourage positive responses
Inattention and Distractability Can soothe the child easily Doesn't listen. Has difficulty
concentrating and studying. Gets pulled off task easily, and needs reminders
Keep tasks, instructions, and explanations short and simple. Remove distractions and competing stimuli. Practice good communication skills: Get his attention, address by name, use eye contact, repeat, clarify, and review. Provide frequent breaks and require the child to return to the task at hand when reminded. When necessary, redirect your child without anger or shame. Provide praise for completing the task
Low Sensitivity Threshold High awareness of changes of surroundingsand in nuances in the feelings and thoughs of others Overreacts to normal stimuli (light, noise, smells, textures, pain, social-emotional events) Reduce level of stimulation. Anticipate problems and prepare child. Respect child's preferences when possible