What is an example of a difficult child temperament?

If you’re a parent or caregiver of a young child, you likely already know that parenting has its fair share of ups and downs. But when your child has a difficult temperament, these challenges can happen more often than you might expect, leaving you wondering how to cope.

Though the challenges are real, having a difficult temperament does not mean that there’s something “wrong” with your child or your parenting style or that you are a “bad” parent.

Instead, it indicates natural differences in personality and individual styles relating to people, events, or the environment.

Even so, there are effective ways to manage problematic behavior and help your child become their personal best.

What is a difficult temperament?

Parents or caregivers often instinctively know their child has a difficult temperament. For instance, their child may cry or act fussy more often, be more difficult to console, or be described by others as “a handful.”

According to a 2017 study Trusted Source, difficult temperament is characterized by:

Negative mood: Your child may have an overall negative perspective on things and may be hard to please or difficult to comfort.

Withdrawal: Instead of actively participating in new activities or environments, your child may retract away from them.

For example, when invited to a new playgroup, a child experiencing a difficult temperament may adamantly refuse to join in and shut down emotionally if you attempt to coax them to socialize.

Low adaptability: Your youngster may have difficulty accepting changes in routines, environment, or activities. For instance, your child may become angry if plans to go to their favorite toy store change abruptly, resulting in a temper tantrum.

High intensity: Emotional responses in a child with a difficult temperament may be more positive or negative than expected. An example of this might be inconsolable crying over something that typically shouldn’t elicit this response.

Low regularity: A child with a difficult temperament may not have a settled routine or predictability — impacting their ability to learn or complete tasks. For instance, a child with low regularity may have chaotic sleep schedules or difficulty learning developmental skills like toilet training.

Why does my kid have a difficult temperament?

Having a difficult temperament does not mean your kid is “bad” or that you are a “bad” parent. Instead, it simply indicates natural differences in personality and individual styles relating to people, events, or the environment.

Although having a difficult temperament is not a developmental disorder, challenging behaviors can sometimes indicate conditions such as:

  • autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • emotional disturbance (ED)

So, if your child regularly displays emotional or behavioral challenges, consider talking with your child’s healthcare professional about your concerns. Based on symptoms and behaviors, they may pursue testing to determine if your child may have something else going on besides a difficult temperament.

As far as causes, 2017 research suggests that genetics may play a significant role in temperament and personality. Even if raised in separate households, identical twins still share similar traits, scientists note.

In addition, 2022 research indicates that negative and positive parenting early in the child’s life does not moderate the pathways of difficult temperaments. Children may have a challenging temperament no matter what their parents do.

Still, although a child’s basic temperament doesn’t change as time goes on, it can lessen in intensity with appropriate management.

What is an example of a difficult child temperament?

  1. Intense emotional reactions to minor changes
  2. Persistent tantrums beyond the typical age
  3. Difficulty adapting to new environments or routines
  4. Strong resistance to authority figures
  5. Extreme sensitivity to sensory stimuli
  6. Impulsivity and difficulty with self-control
  7. High energy levels that are hard to manage
  8. Frequent mood swings
  9. Oppositional behavior
  10. Persistent defiance of rules
  11. Low frustration tolerance
  12. Difficulty with transitions between activities
  13. Overreacting to perceived slights or injustices
  14. Resistance to following instructions
  15. Impaired ability to focus or concentrate
  16. Frequent and intense arguments with peers
  17. Difficulty making and keeping friends
  18. Refusal to participate in group activities
  19. Tendency to blame others for problems
  20. Difficulty with sharing and taking turns
  21. Impatience in waiting for turns
  22. Aggressive behavior toward peers or adults
  23. Excessive bossiness with peers
  24. Difficulty with accepting criticism
  25. Inability to cope with disappointment
  26. Strong need for control in all situations
  27. Difficulty with peer collaboration on tasks
  28. Persistent lying or deceitful behavior
  29. Difficulty expressing emotions verbally
  30. Fearfulness or anxiety in social situations
  31. Avoidance of new or challenging tasks
  32. High activity levels during inappropriate times
  33. Overreacting to changes in plans
  34. Difficulty with sleeping routines
  35. Frequent and severe complaining
  36. Noncompliance with household rules
  37. Unwillingness to share personal belongings
  38. Perfectionistic tendencies
  39. Difficulty with accepting limits or boundaries
  40. Tendency to blame oneself excessively
  41. Overly competitive behavior
  42. Persistent attention-seeking actions
  43. Difficulty with self-soothing
  44. Chronic indecisiveness
  45. Difficulty with transitions between caregivers
  46. Unpredictable or inconsistent eating habits
  47. Excessive fearfulness or shyness
  48. Difficulty with frustration tolerance
  49. Overly cautious behavior
  50. Extreme reluctance to try new things

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