Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler

Understanding your toddler’s temperament

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Can we ever fully understand toddlers? I’m afraid not. But trying to understand your child’s temperament (their unique nature and character) will certainly help you to get to know them throughout their toddler phase. 

While your baby’s temperament may be recognisable from an early stage – they may be relaxed, ‘easy’ or ‘go with the flow’ – while others may take longer to develop. Your child’s temperament may not be the same as yours or they may even have some ‘quirks’ that remind you of a certain family member or even your spouse! Learning that you don’t need to ‘fix’ them will help you to just love them for who God has created them to be and for His purpose. How you respond to ‘who your child is’ can either build them up or break them down.

There is always the question of nature versus nurture. And while they are born with certain character traits, who they spend time with and the type of home environment they come from will definitely have an effect on their temperament.

When trying to understand your toddler’s temperament, remember that each child is different, each parenting style is different and each home is different. For this reason you need to find what works for your child with regards to discipline, social interactions, participation in activities and self-regulation. This does not mean that you allow your child to ‘rule the roost’ but rather that you find what works for them and for you as a family. For example, for one child sitting on ‘time out’ may be the worst punishment in the world, whereas a stern word may do nothing towards getting them to behave in a more pleasing manner. Set clear boundaries, have a few ‘non-negotiable’ rules and explain to them why they cannot do something or behave in a certain way. Using words such as ‘I understand that you want to do xyz but you are not allowed to beacause…’ works wonders!

Talking to and listening to your child goes a long way when getting to know them and for them to learn what is acceptable and what is not. This will enable them to self-regulate a little easier.

‘When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.’ ~ L.R Knost

Another important factor to take into account is that each child is unique and different. Never compare sibling’s characters as your children could be complete polar opposites. This would pose a threat to one being viewed as the ‘good one’ or the ‘difficult one’ which you would never want to happen. Be very careful not to ‘label’ children as their temperaments can change with age, a change of environment or as a result of who is around them. 

How you react to a child’s behaviour makes a huge difference too. Try to remain calm when they are unsettled, reassure them when they are uneasy, be consistent in their ever-changing world, stand firm on rules that matter and pick your battles wisely when it comes to ‘fighting’ them on things. 

At the end of the day just enjoy getting to know your toddler and try to see the humour in things that happen as ‘this too shall pass’. 

I will leave you with this cute little poem that I thought highlighted a toddler’s temperament quite nicely:

I am your parent.

You are my child.

I am your quiet place.

You are my wild.

I am your calm face.

You are my giggle.

 I am your wait.

You are my wiggle.

I am your dinner.

You are my chocolate cake.

I am your bedtime.

You are my wide awake.

I am your lullaby.

You are my peek-a-boo.

I am your goodnight kiss.

You are my I love you.

By Taryn Ingram, Trinityhouse Randpark Ridge 

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