When educators talk about ‘approaches to learning’, they are referring to the attitudes, behaviors and learning styles children (and adults) use in social situations, in acquiring information and knowledge, and being flexible and resilient when confronted with change or conflict. Your child’s approach to learning is greatly impacted by their temperament.

What is temperament?

Temperament is the style or behavior tendency a child is born with in how they interact with or react to people, places, and things. This differs from personality in that personality is the combination of temperament and life experiences.
Temperament is classified into three distinct types. Most children (65%) fall into one type:
1. Easy or flexible
2. Difficult, active or feisty
3. Slow to warm up or cautious.

Temperament is not good or bad….. it just is!

And we all have it! The three types of temperament are based on nine different behavior traits: activity level; rhythmicity – regularity of eating and sleeping habits; approach/withdrawal reaction to new events; adaptability; intensity of reactions; mood –negative/positive outlook; persistence and attention span; distractibility; sensory threshold – effect of external stimuli.

Let’s look at each of the three temperament types a little more:
1. Easy or flexible – children are generally calm, happy, and have regular sleeping and eating habits. These children are adaptable and not easily upset. About 40% of all children are categorized as easy or flexible.
2. Difficult, active or feisty – children are often fussy, have irregular feeding and sleeping patterns, and are fearful of new people or situations. These children are easily upset by noise and commotion, and are intense in their reactions to it. About 10% of all children are categorized as difficult, active or feisty.
3. Slow to warm up or cautious – children are relatively inactive and fussy without an intense reaction, and tend to withdraw or react negatively to new situations. These children’s reactions become more positive with ongoing exposure. About 15% of all children are categorized as slow to warm up or cautious.

Understanding yourself, and how your children react to different situations is very helpful in knowing how to avoid conflicts and nurture learning. Researchers have added that “goodness of fit” – the match between the child’s temperament and the demand of their environment (family, child care setting etc) is important for successful outcomes.

For the caregiver, understanding about temperament helps to:
• increase the understanding of each child;
• make a strong connection with each child;
• and nurture the child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth.

This is a win-win for everyone!

Part 2 will explore how temperament impacts “approaches to learning” and school readiness skills.

Resources for article:
Feisty, Adaptable, and Cautious: Recognizing and Understanding Children’s Temperaments; Early Childhood News; available online at: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_print.aspx?ArticleId=554
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament; Family Tapestries-Strengthening Family Bonds; Ohio State University
Temperament; University of Maine Cooperative Extension