Understanding a Child’s Temperament & Personality
Ever feel frustrated by your high-energy baby? What can you do about a child who screams himself silly when he doesn’t get his own way? A youngster who gets overexcited when a playmate come over?
Children are born with unique behavioural styles that influence their development from the womb until death. Each child is unique, and has a different way of looking at and interacting with the world. Children have different talents that develop as they grow and practice them. The child is not mere a piece of clay to be molded into an obedient citizen, but he should be seen as a force to be guided into a competent adult.
Children are born with their natural style of interacting with or reacting to people, places, and things—their temperament. Since the 1950s, many scientific studies of temperament have continued to show that children’s health and development are influenced by temperament. Children’s temperament traits do appear to be quite stable through infancy and into childhood.
A child’s personality is determined by the interaction of temperament traits with the environment. Each person (including your child) comes with a factory installed wiring. How your child is wired can determine whether they will be easy or difficult to raise. How well their temperament fits with the environment and how well they are received by the people in the environment will determine how a child sees himself and others.
What is Temperament?
Although the word “temperament” has no universal definition, it is generally used to describe individual differences in children or their behavioural styles. Thomas and Chess (1977) explain temperament as “the characteristic way the child experiences and relates to the environment.”
Temperament is a set of in-born traits that organize the child’s approach to the world. Temperament is the innate behavior style of an individual that seems to be biologically determined. They are instrumental in the development of the child’s distinct personality. These traits also determine how the child goes about learning about the world around him.
Children are born with unique temperament characteristics. The examination of a child’s temperament generally occurs when the child’s behavior is difficult. We Homoeopaths use a series of interviews, observations, and questionnaires that measure the nine temperament traits using a spectrum (scale) indicating mild to intense responses or reactions. By understanding temperament, we homoeopaths can very easily get to know the personality of the child which thereby helps us in selecting the exact constitutional medicine & then a Homoeopath can work along with the parent in improving the personality of a child rather than trying to change his or her inborn traits.
The nine temperament traits which I use in my practice and an explanation of the dimensions are given below.
- Activity: Is the child always moving and doing something OR does he or she have a more relaxed style?
- Rhythmicity: Is the child regular in his or her eating and sleeping habits OR somewhat haphazard?
- Approach/withdrawal: Does he or she “never meet a stranger” OR tend to shy away from new people or things?
- Adaptability: Can the child adjust to changes in routines or plans easily or does he or she resist transitions?
- Intensity: Does he or she react strongly to situations, either positive or negative, OR does he or she react calmly and quietly?
- Mood: Does the child often express a negative outlook OR is he or she generally a positive person? Does his or her mood shift frequently OR is he or she usually even-tempered?
- Persistence and attention span: Does the child give up as soon as a problem arises with a task OR does he or she keep on trying? Can he or she stick with an activity a long time OR does his or her mind tend to wander?
- Distractibility: Is the child easily distracted from what he or she is doing OR can he or she shut out external distractions and stay with the current activity?
- Sensory threshold: Is he or she bothered by external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, or food textures OR does he or she tend to ignore them?
These traits combine to form three basic types of temperaments. Approximately 65 percent of all children fit one of three patterns. Forty percent of children are generally regarded as “easy or flexible,” 10 percent are regarded as “difficult, active, or feisty,” and the final 15 percent are regarded as “slow to warm up or cautious.” The other 35 percent of children are a combination of these patterns.
By understanding these patterns, parents can tailor their parenting approach in such areas as expectations, encouragement, and discipline to suit the child’s unique needs.
- Easy or flexible children are generally calm, happy, regular in sleeping and eating habits, adaptable, and not easily upset. Full of emotions, imaginations & sensations without any objective basis or ultimation. Full of ideas but no tendency to materialize any of them. They have a timid disposition, filled with anxious forebodings, mentally alert, quick in action and active, easily fatigued both mentally & physically.
Because of their easy style, parents need to set aside special times to talk about the child’s frustrations and hurts because he or she won’t demand or ask for it. This intentional communication will be necessary to strengthen your relationship and find out what your child is thinking and feeling.
Homoeopathic Remedies for this group: (Predominant Miasm: – PSORA)
Arsenic Album, Carcinosin, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Sulphur, Silicea etc.
- Slow to warm up or cautious children are relatively inactive and fussy, tend to withdraw or to react negatively to new situations, but their reactions gradually become more positive with continuous exposure. They have a peculiar tendency of making everything secret. He is suspicious about others lest they read his mental state, fearful of new people and situations. Keep everything about him secret; does not like to talk about his family. He broods over the things because of his secretive nature.
Sticking to a routine and your word, along with allowing ample time to establish relationships in new situations, are necessary to allow independence to unfold.
Homoeopathic Remedies for this group: (Predominant Miasm: – SYCOSIS)
Aurum Met, Baryta Carb, Borax, Calc Carb, Nat Mur, Sepia, Thuja, etc.
- Difficult, active, or feisty children are often fussy, irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, easily upset by noise and commotion, high strung, and intense in their reactions. He can very easily destroy himself or anybody or any precious thing quite cold bloodedly. An urge for destruction seems to be his only emotion. They may be called an iconoclast both in idealistic as well as materialistic sense.
Providing areas for vigorous play to work off stored up energy and frustrations with some freedom of choice allow these children to be successful. Preparing these children for activity changes and using redirection will help these children transition (move or change) from one place to another.
Homoeopathic Remedies for this group: (Predominant Miasm: – SYPHILIS)
Acid Fl, Anac, Cina, Cham, Merc, Nux Vom, Syphilinum, Tarent, Zincum etc
Most children have some level of intensity on several temperament traits, but one dimension will usually dominate. Refrain from using negative labels such as “cry baby,” “worrywart,” or “lazy.” The child’s abilities to develop and behave in acceptable ways are greatly determined by the adults in their lives trying to identify, recognize, and respond to his or her unique temperament. By doing so, the adults can alter or adjust their parenting methods to be a positive guide in their child’s natural way of responding to the world.
I hope by now you must have got some idea as to how these temperaments helps us in depicting the personality of a child thereby helping us in the selection of a similimum or a constitutional remedy.
Since each child is unique as do his temperament so let’s try to understand the personality of a Causticum Child.
Causticum Child’s Personality
Causticum is suited to children of a scrofulous habit in whom, though emaciated generally & particularly about the feet, the abdomen is large & tumefied. The face is a correct picture of the mental condition, & is expressive of this Causticum’s low-spirited state. The face is apt to be sallow & sickly looking.
A causticum child is very much sensitive. But this sensitivity is an emotional one rather than physical sensitiveness. They are not sensitive to pain but are particularly sensitive to any emotional disturbance. They are extremely aware of others and intensely sympathetic for the suffering of others. The emotions are very intensely felt. Often these children will cry because they think you are hurting another child. It is idea of pain which affects them rather than the actual pain to themselves, and they often stand pain quite well, but can-not bear to see another child crying. They enjoy nature and are very involved with it, just like music and dancing. They are sensitive in every sense and need to be protected, because there are numerous things that can put them off balance, even too much joy and excitement (Joy, ailments from excessive. Excitement, ailments from).
Causticum has the tendency to exaggerate everything, is quick to become emotional and to dramatise little things (Anxiety about trifles, weeping about trifles). In some ways you can confuse Causticum with Ignatia (Mood changeable). What is seen with Causticum is a much more forceful self expression. During a discussion they can become far more excited than to be expected considering the topic being discussed (Excitement during debate).
Causticum has very voiced and clear-cut ideas of what is good and what not. For them things are either black or white. For Causticum to come to a compromise is very difficult. The ideals of Causticum are always combined with great power and perseverance. They radiate self-confidence and admire people who appear strong. They are very ambitious and wish to make a successful career for themselves. Making choices is very simple for them. They know what they want. Even in their way of expressing themselves you notice how their vocabulary and choice of words are centred on powerful expressions and invigorating words (Impetuous).
It is probably safe to say that every child has fears in varying degrees. Some are the normal fears of childhood while others are not. A certain amount of fear is healthy and understandable. It keeps us and our children out of harm’s way. We teach our children to fear running into a busy street, accepting candy from strangers, swallowing unidentified substances from the medicine cabinet, etc. In such cases, we are teaching our children to fear the results. We are, in essence, teaching them caution which is quite a different matter from dealing with a youngster who is responding to an imaginary rather than a real danger. Causticum is especially suited to children who are timid, nervous & anxious, & full of fearful fancies, particularly in the evening at twilight, when shadows grow longer & fancy more rife. The child is afraid to go to bed in the dark. This applies not to the unfortunate child who entertains these fears by reason of faulty education, but to the child who is afraid as the result of nervous disease. When closing his eyes, he sees frightful images.
The child is apt to be tearful & melancholy. A Causticum child may burst into tears from a slight provocation. The patient is either taciturn & distrustful, or is inclined to fits of anger, with scolding. They are slow in learning to talk. The child stumbles when it attempts to walk.
So, this was just a brief idea as to how a Causticum Child will present to us.
In summary, my recommendations are to keep the constitutional remedy as a constant goal. Observe the parent’s emotional tone with the child and the parent-child emotional interaction. Study the child’s temperament and bring the behavioral symptoms into focus within the context of the underlying temperament picture. Look for key emotional and characteristic general symptoms that point directly to remedies. Then apply a comparative materia medica approach to the remedy possibilities. Give the constitutional remedy and then maintain caution around too much extraneous prescribing. Observe how well a child under the action of the right constitutional can resolve acute flare-ups of symptoms with minimal intervention. Approach constitutional prescribing for children with a sense of adventure and watch the amazing responses and rewards of this fascinating homoeopathic realm.