Before you start and skip ahead to the pretty graphic, please note that although the categories for temperament are "Easy" "Shy" and " Spirited", one type of temperament is not more desirable than another. These are psychology terms and unfortunately having a category called "Easy" makes it seem like a) this is an "easy" child to raise and b) this is the type of temperament you want for your child. Well it doesn't work that way!
Temperament is inborn. It is part of your DNA. It is how you view the world and how you react to stress. This is something that is predetermined from birth. Funny enough, most parents don't think much about temperament until they have a second child and they are "toooootalllly different". Similar biology, similar environment, but a completely different child. This is largely due to the child's unique temperament.
So back to the "easy" temperament style. This type of world view just means the child is easy going. Are they easier to parent than a spirited or shy child? No! All types of temperament have strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, your own temperament comes into play when parenting your child. Your styles can fit together like two peas in a pod or two sticks of dynamite.
Now that we have cleared up the misleading categorization of temperament, we can move on to why it is important. Identifying your child's unique temperament style can help you solve tricky behaviours and situations before they occur. For example, starting daycare or school. How much and what types of preparation should you do? Some kids do better with a gradual progression and some do better with complete emersion. Which preparation strategy is better? Well, that completely depends on your child's individual temperament (this is why you shouldn't compare your child to another child in a similar situation including siblings).
Ok great! So now lets look at the chart and determine your child's temperament.
The 10 second temperament test (adapted from Dr. Harvy Karp's The Happiest Toddler on The Block)
Imagine you are in an uncrowded mall with your Tot. You unexpectedly drop your Tot's hand, turn the other way and walk a few paces. Does your child a) cry initially, but quickly recover and is happy to wait for you to return b) Cries out, screams for your attention, races after you and holds on to your leg as you walk away c) run the opposite direction. I may have over-exaggerated on these examples, but you get the idea. If you answered a) your child most likely has an "easy" temperament. If you answered b) your child most likely has a shy temperament and if you answered c) you may have a spirited child. Check the other descriptor words for each of the personality traits on the right hand side. Does your child have one dominant type of response? The majority of kids (50%) fall into the "easy" category. The next most common is shy and a handful of kids are spirited. Some kids fall between categories and that is ok too! This is just a quick look at the different categories, more in-depth assessments can be made and I can point you in the right direction if you are interested.
Temperament helps keep relationships spicy. How boring would it be if we all thought the same things, reacted the same way to stress and had the same strengths and weaknesses? In my family I have one "easy" child and one "shy" child. They have one "easy" parent and one "shy" parent (see the biology there?) This match up makes my family who we are (quirks and all). Knowing about each child's unique temperament helps my husband and I understand why our children are "toooootalllly different" and how to tailor our parenting to meet each child's individual needs.
I hope this post has helped you gain a glimmer of insight into your toddler's behaviour; maybe even your own (or partner's) too! Each child deserves to be parented differently. Yes I said differently! That is the only way to be fair.