Principles for Dealing with Temperament Issues (Part 6c )

Discussion of dealing with a child’s temperament issues continues with amplification of the sixth principle: caregivers should identify and adopt strategies that can help them adapt to the child’s special temperament characteristics. In this part, we discuss both withdrawn and uninhibited temperaments.

Temperament extremes: withdrawn or uninhibited children

Asian boy
Children who are withdrawn seem shy, cautious and reserved.

How might a caregiver manage temperamental differences in children who are severely withdrawn or the opposite extreme without fear or inhibition? Withdrawn children seem shy, reserved or isolated. Children who are without inhibition plunge into risk and activities without fear of consequences.

Here are some strategies for caregivers that observe these extremes.

Ideas for children who are withdrawn:

  • Insist on a time-limited trial if you believe an activity fits with the child’s interests or abilities
  • Provide opportunities for mastery and success by supporting the child during new experiences
  • Before beginning a new activity or task, encourage the child to use his imagination by pretending to be an adventurer or an animal ready for a new adventure.
  • Help the child deal with disappointment when things do not work out. Sometimes replaying the episode in “play” can be helpful.
  • If a child has become self-absorbed and withdrawn, use enthusiasm and animated interactions in order to draw him out (play with bubbles or balloons).
  • Encourage any exploratory and safe initiatives and let him lead
  • Remember that the child may take longer to warm up to new situations;  so, stay around until he feels comfortable.
  • Make it easy for him to talk about his feelings.
  • Invite a playmate over to play. 
  • Teach social entry skills and words to use such as “Can I play?” or “Can I help?”
  • Take familiar objects when the child goes to a new place or has to adjust to something like a new car seat.Children who are without inhibition plunge into risk and activities without fear of consequences.

Ideas for children who approach their world too aggressively

  • Watch that the child who tends to be “a plunger” or fearless is safe
  • Make sure the child is also supported to attend to social activities and is taught new skills
  • If a child tends to be overenthusiastic about new activities which can result in significant disappointment, prepare him by talking about realistic expectations before he gets involved. If he becomes disappointed, allow some time to talk and process feelings
  • Give the child appropriate ways to approach other children if he tends to be too pushy with others.
  • Avoid setting up power struggles and use positive interactions to motivate cooperation with discipline.
  • Support the child to stay focused on a task without responding to everything that comes along.

Adapt these strategies

As you think about these ideas, please feel free to improvise and adapt your strategies to the specific needs of the child you are caring for. These strategies offer opportunity to help balance the extremes of our children’s temperaments as they approach a world that can feel scary and overwhelming. 

Thanks for reading my blog. I do hope this information helps those who are parents and caregivers. Our children deserve wonderful care. More to come.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network  

Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 51-52. 



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