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Flexible, Fearful, or Feisty

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Sonja Cole

on 30 August 2016

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Transcript of Flexible, Fearful, or Feisty

9 Temperament Traits
Flexible, Fearful, or Feisty
Lesson 1 of working with Infant and Toddler Temperament

Activity 3:
Fitting it all Together
Key Concepts:
Training Overview
Activity 2:
9 Temperament Traits
Temperament Activity 1
A Caution About Temperament
Fitting it all Together
Three Temperament Types
Three Temperament Types
Three Temperament Types
Three Temperament Types
What is Your Ideal Child?
Introduction to Temperament
This training provides an overview of temperament by presenting nine temperament traits and three temperament types that represent common cluster of these traits.

Infants come into the world with different temperamental tendencies that play a major role in their behavior.

The relationships that develop between infants and their caregivers both at home and in childcare, are strongly influenced by temperament.

In group care, temperament influences the way infants relate to each other and the way the care teacher experiences the group.

In order for every child in a group to thrive, care teachers need an understanding of temperamental differences and the flexibility to meet each child's temperamental needs.

Right from the start, babies are different from each other. These differences can be classified into nine temperament traits that have been identified through child development research.

The nine traits cluster into three major temperament types: flexible, fearful, and feisty, but not all children fit into one of these types.

An understanding of temperamental differences can help care teacher work more responsively and effectively with the individual infants and toddlers in their care.

Dealing with temperament is dealing with individual differences. Each child has her or his own unique blend of temperament traits.

“Right from the start babies are different. Each has his or her own way of showing feelings and responding to the world around him or her.” (Infant/Toddler Care giving: A Guide to Social –Emotional growth and Socialization. P. 4)

Understanding a child's temperamental tendencies provides a unique view into creating a relationship with the children you work with.
Reviewing temperament of children is not labeling children or putting them into rigid categories.

It is providing a way of looking at the child’s behavioral characteristics.

Think about a two infants or toddlers (birth to 36 Months) you have known
one who was challenging to work with, one who was easy to care for.

Decide on at least three characteristics that immediately come to mind for each of these children.

Did some of these words come to mind?
Sense of Humor

Refers to much more than a child’s intense reactions or tantrums.

Temperamental traits are a person’s natural tendency to respond.

These traits remain fairly constant throughout life.

As we grow up we learn techniques to help us moderate our traits.

Researchers have identified 9 Temperamental traits

Most children in the US fit into 1 of 3 combinations of traits

Activity Level

9 Temperament Traits
Biological Rhythms



Intensity of Reaction

9 Temperament Traits
The Program for Infant and Toddler Care
Nine Temperament Traits of Infants and Toddlers
(from "Temperaments of Infants and Toddlers" by Stella Chess, M.D., in Infant/Toddler Care giving: a Guide to Social-Emotional Development)

These 9 temperamental traits are most easy to see when a child shows a trait in an extreme way.

When you notice a temperamental tendency, do not assume that the child will be that way every moment of the day, or will never change.

When you use your understanding of the child’s temperament to anticipate a response to certain conditions, you can adapt to the children rather than be surprised by a temperamental reaction.

Becoming able to recognize and observe the nine traits will help you understand your children better and help you to respond to their individual needs.

Although temperamental tendencies have been shown to be quite consistent over time, they can become less pronounced.
For instance, when treated with sensitivity a “cautious” child who is extremely shy upon entering childcare can grow up to be an adult who is able to adapt well to new situations.
One way of thinking about it is to say that the boundaries of temperament are flexible. When their temperaments are accepted and their needs met, children of any temperament can be gently guided toward a wider range of responses.





About 15% of children have a fearful or cautious temperament.

Often called shy or timid, these children may need more time and attention to warm up to a new situation or people.

If pushed to join into a group the child may withdraw or cry.

Although fearful children may need time to warm up to new people they often become very attached to their caregivers.

When working with children who have a fearful temperament go slowly and take new concepts step-by-step.
The caregivers role:

Draw the child in slowly

Allow independence to unfold.

Take the child to the activity

Step back and allow the child to interact

Remain available to the child for support

However, when the child is comfortable move on.

Set up the environment so things are in the same place.

Think about the infants and toddlers you identified in the earlier exercise as “easy to care for” and “challenging to care for”.

Did either fit the category of the “fearful temperament?”
Can you recognize the fearful or easy temperament among the children you are caring for now?

Do you think such children’s needs tend to be overlooked in the child care setting?

How can you manage to attend to fearful children will helping other?


The most common temperamental type, 40% of children fall into this category.

Children of this temperament type tend to have regular feeding and napping routines, and adapt to new situations and activities quickly.

Traits of flexible children are:

Regular rhythms

Positive Mood


Low Intensity

Low Sensitivity

Caregivers roll:

Check in with the child regularly

Set aside special time

Needs intimate contact
Children with this temperament style tend to want attention from the caregiver; but may only communicate the need with an occasional glace or wave of the hand.

Traits of flexible children are:

Regular rhythms

Positive Mood


Low Intensity

Low Sensitivity

Flexible children seldom make a fuss, and express themselves in a quite way.

Caregivers roll:

Check in with the child regularly

Set aside special time

Needs intimate contact

Children with this temperament style tend to want attention from the caregiver; but may only communicate the need with an occasional glace or wave of the hand.

Do you recognize this temperament?

Was your challenging infant or toddler similar to this type?
How do you personally interact with a flexable child?

What techniques do you feel would be helpful for working flexible children?

How do you plan to use them in the classroom?


Caregivers tend to find that they will get to know the tendencies of the feisty temperament, very quickly!

About 10% of children fit into the feisty category.
Caregivers often have the most difficulty and enjoyment with feisty children.

These children tend to live with zest and let everyone know when they are pleased or displeased.

Because they are very intense, they can be a handful.

Feisty children are:







Caregivers role:

Use redirection when a child has an intense reaction.

Be flexible

Anticipate transitions by letting them know ahead of time that a change is coming.

(teachers) remain peaceful.

Create a calm surrounding

Make the most of quite moments

Provide opportunities for active and vigorous play.

Do you recognize this set of traits?

Was your Challenging infant or toddler similar to this type?
How do you personally interact with a feisty child?
What techniques for working with a feisty child do you feel that would be helpful in the classroom?

How to pan on using these techniques in the classroom?

Review the PITC Handout # 5 Three Temperament Types. This is an overview of all we have discussed in the training.

Although both children and adults may fit more into one than another of the three temperament types many people have traits from two or even all three types.

Review PITC Handout # 6 The Temperament Assessment Scale for Children.

Activity 5:
Use the scale to observe the children in your classroom to identify their temperament types.

Pay attention to how you interact differently with children of different temperaments.
Have you simultaneously had children with very different temperaments in your care?

What were the challenges of this type of group?

How did you attempt to meet the need of each child's temperament?

Program for Infant Toddler Care Module 1

Flexible children seldom make a fuss, and express themselves in a quite way.

Temperamental Traits and Their Handling
Within the nine different traits, there are extremes in each case-
for example, high levels of energy or sensitivity versus low levels

- because children with these traits are the ones most likely to need special attention or handling.

Lets look at typical examples of how very young children express such traits and the best care giving approaches to take with each type of temperament.
The majority of children display temperament at a level somewhere in between the extremes of temperament, and these children will fit into home or care routines fairly easily.
In this sense, temperament is similar to intelligence, that is, children of love average or very high intelligence may require special attention, and those of average or slightly superior intelligence will adapt to the routine school curriculum without great difficulty.
We will also look at how these specific traits often combine in a child's overall makeup to form a certain major type of behavior.
Trait 1: Activity Level
High Activity
The child who is highly active prefers games with a lot of movement, kicks and splashes, likes to run around, and possibly may get restless and stressed if made to sit quietly in one spot for long periods of time.
Give a child with this level of activity opportunities for active pay. If the group is engaged in a quiet activity, let the child with these type of characteristics move around from time to time.
Low Activity
The child with low activity prefers quiet games and can sit calmly looking at picture books or coloring for long periods of time
You should expect that it will take a child with this level of activity extra time to get things done, such as dressing or moving from one place to another.
Trait 2: Biological Rhythms
The amount of movement and bodily activity
Regularity or irregularity of such functions as sleep-wake cycle, hunger, and bowel elimination.
The regular child sleeps through the night, take s a regular nap, eat about the same amount from day to day, and has a bowel movement about the same time each day.
This child presents no problem with feeding or sleeping schedules and is usually easily toilet trained.
In contrast to the regular child, this one varies in sleep habits and hunger patterns, and she or he may wake up several times at night.
The irregular child's big meal may be lunch one day and dinner the next, and her or his bowel movements are unpredictable. You should accept this child's irregular nap and feeding schedules.
Toilet training will usually take longer and may not succeed until the child learns to be consciously aware of the internal sensation that signals a bowel movement.
Trait 3: Approach/Withdraw
The approacher responds positively to a new food by swallowing it, reaches for a new toy, smiles at strangers, and when first joining a play group, plunges right in. Such a child presents few problems to the care teacher, except when this responsiveness is combined with a high level of activity. Then the approacher may run impulsively to climb a new rock or jungle gym, which she or he can not really manage or try to explore a potential dangerous object.
Typically cautious about exploring new objects, the withdrawer is likely to push a way new top or spit out new food the first few times.
Around strangers or when first taken to a new place, this child may fuss or cry and strain to get away. You should be patient with these initial negative reactions.
Pressuring the child to make an immediate positive adjustment only increases her or his discomfort and makes it harder for the child to accept new people and things.
Instead, small repeated exposures to the unfamiliar let the child gradually over come his or her early reluctance.
Trait 4: Adaptability:

How quickly or slowly a child adapts to a change in routine over comes an initial negative response
High adaptability
The quickly adaptive child adjusts easily to the family's move to a new home or a visit to a strange place. This child accepts new food that was first rejected after only a few trails, and this child is agreeable to changes in mealtimes and sleeping schedules. Such a child does not usually present problems to a care teacher. Occasionally, the youngster may give in too early unreasonable requests for change, such a playmate changing the rules in the middle of a game. The quickly adaptive child may benefit by encouragement to stick to your guns.
Low Adaptability
By contrast, the slowly adaptive child takes a long time to adapt to change or to accept something new she or he originally rejected. Such a child is sometimes misjudge as stubborn or willfully uncooperative. A more accurate term would be cautious. Your approach should be the same as for withdrawing children - being patient giving the child a number of exposures to the change, and encouraging the child when she or he begins to show signs of adjusting. Pressure to make sure a child adapt very quickly will only boomerang and have the opposite effect
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