Dick Vermeil, NFL Head Coach, once summarized knowing the temperament of team members: “Coaching is relationship building that helps you gain insight into how you can help an individual if there are some holes, like lack of confidence or understanding. A leader has to have insight about their team members. You can’t help or communicate appropriately if you don’t understand how a person is, what motivates him, what’s holding him back, what’s prevented him from being all he can be.”
What Is Temperament?
Understanding a child’s core temperament helps you know your child and communicate clearly. Then interactions become easier. What exactly is temperament? Here is a formal definition in which the author integrates the four styles:
Have you ever felt that you and your child speak different languages when it comes to tackling tasks? Do you feel your child doesn’t hear you? Do you chalk up any incompatibilities or miscommunications to underlying personality conflicts? If so, you’re onto something!
“Temperament…consistent dispositions inherent in the person that underlie and modulate the expression of activity, reactivity, emotionality, and sociability. Major elements of temperament are present early in life, and those items are likely to be strongly influenced by biological factors. As development proceeds, the expression of character increasingly becomes more influenced by experience and context.” (p. 524)
Most likely you’ve noticed that each child has a unique and different way of interacting with people or tasks. Knowing a child’s temperament traits and responding or guiding accordingly can repair the disconnections you feel emotionally when your child doesn’t respond or shows you disrespect. The children feel the disconnect also.
You were born with a natural predisposition to interact with people and do tasks in a certain way. Your temperament traits are the unique constellation of how you do what you do and why you do it. For example, Sandy is a super organized mom who is heading out for groceries. Her son Josh is a laid-back daydreamer. His thoughts and daydreaming consume him and distract him from a task or goal. . While Sandy waits at the door to leave, Josh is wandering about the living room. He searches for a Game Boy he just can’t find, and he still hasn’t eaten his breakfast!
Differing Temperament Traits
Sandy can’t stand to be late and grows increasingly frustrated every moment that Josh isn’t moving fast enough. When she couldn’t hold her words any longer, she screamed: “Why can’t you get it together? Why do you always do this?”
At times, Sandy feels that Josh intentionally tries to make them both late for their morning destinations. The real truth is that Sandy and Josh have very different ways of interacting, focusing, completing tasks, and responding to each other. Sandy doesn’t know how to connect with Josh to motivate his movement or focus. Often, this clash of temperament styles is the root of miscommunications, unpleasant interactions, nd the misunderstandings of expectations, like the one Josh and Sandy experienced.
Sandy identified that time limits couldn’t compel Josh’s to take action. By virtue of his temperament, he was out of time more than aware of time. She looked for something that would inspire him to help mom and get them both get out of the house on time. Sandy found success in setting up a solid morning routine of four activities: get dressed, go to the kitchen to eat breakfast, gather gear, and leave. Also, Josh was motivated to help with morning breakfast and organized the clean up. Josh felt connected to Sandy when she was more directive in her expectations and appreciated him for helping her, and he did so gladly.
In addition to being part of the force that drives interests and actions, your core temperament is the foundation from which you…
- Build your values,
- Shape your preferences and
- Formulate your reactions and responses
Core temperaments are why some people thrive when working on deadline, and others can barely function by the clock. It’s why some kids learn by reading, and others learn by doing.
Basic Temperament Styles
There are four distinct temperament styles: the achiever, the thinker, the supporter, and the influencer. While there are aspects of each character in each of us, individuals typically exhibit one to two dominant styles that influence how they interact.
Children who fall under the achiever category have a great need for independence and for self-expression. These children can be bold, willful, productive, competitive, unemotional, and self-reliant. They rarely talk about their problems or emotions, and instead they set goals, and independently take action. Children who are in the Achiever category tend to be leaders, and enjoy being recognized for their achievements. These children are independent learners, and prefer real-life, concrete examples to abstract theories or discussions. Achiever children enjoy structure, dislike control, and will question authority if their parents fail to present a united front.
Children with this interactive style tend to think a lot about life, and can live in the lofty world of the abstract. Who knows what future Einsteins can emerge from this group? Thinkers need ongoing affirmation, instruction, and understanding. These children are deep intellectuals who like to examine thoroughly issues. However, their feet are not always on the ground, and they might prefer to talk about it then do it.
They value intimacy, respect, and healthy relationships. Thinkers will take instruction well, and they tend to admire expertise and knowledge. These children are organized, enjoy working with data, and can be perfectionists. Because their talents often lie in numbers and mathematics, these children may want to spend hours on their computers.
On the other hand, Coach, thinkers understand the logic of any game, and can explain it and model it well for their teammates. Thinkers work well on a team, whether an academic, sports or family team.
Children with the supporter tendencies need appreciation and trust. They are highly perceptive children and require honesty in communication and relationships. If parents are out of integrity, these kids will feel it. Supporters are the family peacemakers and negotiators. They worry if there are arguments or illnesses amongst people close to them. They tend to feel disharmony deeply and often internalize it. Helpers value harmony, and like being practical. They are sometimes shy, and they value secure relationships and stable environments. When it comes to transitions, these children like to plan and be aware before events happen.
Children, who are influencers, have a positive, inspiring effect on others. They are highly creative and artistic. They are o called dreamers and effective communicators. Influencers feel their way through activities and making decisions. These children live in a world of ideas and are drawn to expressive outlets like writing, acting, or organizing games around friends. These children enjoy variety and seek out stimulation. They like being the center of attention and crave acknowledgment for their creativity. They also value their friendships and easily enjoy life. They can forget time completely if absorbed in creative endeavors.