What parents need to know about temperament

Therapist Julie Wright, MFT explains how understanding your child's temperament can help make them happier and more well adjusted
Parenting Advice | Understanding your child's temperament
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What parents need to know about temperament

Understanding your child's temperament is very important because, one of the cornerstones of attachment is loving and accepting the child you've got versus the one you expected; and temperament is our inborn tendency to respond in a certain way-to the world, to people, to stimuli-and every child has a temperament of their own. Typically, temperament exists on a continuum, so at the very beginning, or at the very one end of the continuum, you have the easy to soothe child who's more mellow, who's more open, who's more easy going; and then you have everything along the way-most of us are somewhere along the way- to the child who is more difficult to soothe, maybe more emotionally intense, is more what we call novelty adverse, which is often used, the word is often used as shy-which I try to avoid using that word in front of children-children who are more selective in what they need and want in the moment, and children who are more sensitive. So, the job of the parent with the child, depending on what their temperament is, is to help the child to function better. So, if you have a child who's a little bit slow to warm up, what you would do with that child is, you would avoid going to too extremes. You would avoid over protecting them and keeping them from having any experiences that would help them start to move out into the world. On the other side of the coin, you wouldn't force that child into something that they found terrifying. Again, this idea of scaffolding where we're helping the child just enough so that they can have enough positive experiences to move forward, what this does is it creates a child who over time creates a personality that looks a little bit different from their temperament. So, you can imagine that you intertwine temperament with support from the parent to create personality. I always use myself as an example because I was a very shy child, but my personality is not shy, and that was due to the support that I got from my parents and from other adults and attachment figures over time.

Therapist Julie Wright, MFT explains how understanding your child's temperament can help make them happier and more well adjusted


Expert Bio

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Julie Wright, MFT

Psychotherapist & Author

Julie Wright, MFT is a marriage and family therapist with an extensive background in infant mental health and early childhood development.  She trained at Cedars Sinai Early Childhood Center and co-developed a program for parents and babies from 0-3 at LA Child Guidance Clinic. Julie specializes in mindful parenting, sleep issues and attachment theory.  She also works in private practice with infants, children, parents and adults.  Julie lives in Los Angeles with her son and often visits family on the east coast.

Julie has written the book, "The Happy Sleeper," Penguin 2014 with her colleague, Heather Turgeon, MFT. The Happy Sleeper gives the topic of baby sleep a fresh perspective. Their approach moves beyond old school ideas like “sleep training”—it’s grounded in research and shaped by new thinking. The Happy Sleeper gives you a clear, easy-to-follow system for transferring the role of independent sleep to your capable child, as they have done for thousands of families in their clinical practice.

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