Decoding Each Family Member – The Nine Traits of Temperament

temperament I recently had the opportunity to present to a lovely group of parents from Deep Cove Parent Participation Preschool on the topic of Decoding Each Family Member – The Nine Traits of Temperament.

We now know that individuals have their own unique temperament and it works much better to understand  a person’s temperament  and work with it than to go head-to-head with it.   Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the various traits of temperament which impact how each of us interacts with others and our environment.

By understanding temperament, a parent can work with the child, rather than trying to change his/her inborn traits.

~ Kathy Oliver, Ohio State University

 I will always remember, 10 years ago, spending my maternity leave with a dear friend whose baby was just a few weeks older than my daughter.  We would often go for walks and end up nursing our babies at the same time.  However, my friend’s child was voracious and would be finished in 10 minutes, whereas 45 minutes later my daughter would finish.  To this day, my daughter likes to take her time and absorb everything in her environment, whereas my friend’s child continues to be active and eager to go.  Both are great kids, just different styles – different temperaments.

Try this physical metaphor…

With another person, hold your hands up against a partner’s hands and begin to push.  What happens?  Without telling the other person, he/she will naturally push back.  This is our natural instinct and this is what happens in parenting too.  If we push our agenda on our children or become too controlling they will sense it and push back.  However, if we use “choice” language such as “I”m happy to support you but if you choose not to do this, that is your choice”.  They are more likely to accept our direction.  To be able to work with our children, and not push against them, is the key to understanding and supporting their temperament.

Recognize the role that temperament, both our own and our child’s plays in family life [as] continued success depends on respecting our differences. ~ Dr. Stella Chess, M.D. Professor of Child Psychiatry, New York University Medical School

The Questionnaire for Decoding Each Family Member’s 9 Traits of Temperament

The following summary of each of the traits of temperament comes from the excellent book:  Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  Have fun working out where on the continuum each member of your family lies, remembering that there are no “good” or “bad” temperaments.  There’s a blank line for each person’s name and score.  Highlight the strategies that will work for your family.  To download and view this questionnaire click on:Decoding Each Family Member – The Nine Traits of Temperament pdf

In summary, there are no “right” or “wrong” temperaments.  If a child scored on the higher end for many of the traits, this child will likely be more difficult to parent.  Therefore, at the end of each trait I have written a strength that comes with the challenge of scoring higher on that particular temperament.   The ultimate goal, is to find the “goodness of fit” – creating an understanding between temperaments within the family environment. Temperament traits are on a continuum, and your child, with maturity and support, may well move along the continuum to become more adaptable, less cautious etc.  It’s important to figure out where on the continuum you are starting from and then provide support to your child to help them develop strategies to be more comfortable.

Have a wonderful week, decoding yourself and those close to you,






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