Temperament is not a choice. Environment and life experiences may affect personality, but temperament is inborn. What does this mean in a group care setting for adults who work with children? It means we have to be aware of children’s temperaments… and our own.
The hard part of this temperament stuff is taking care of individuals while also paying attention to our own needs. Ron Lally, an expert in the field of early childhood, said that “to treat children fairly, we must treat them differently.” Each child deserves to be treated and respected as an individual. Things that we may feel have negative connotations, like shyness or feistiness, are actually super powers! The cautious child may be analyzing his surroundings and will one day become a forensic detective. The hesitant child may become a detail-oriented interior designer. The child who runs into the room every day excited to be alive may be practicing the skills she’ll need to become a motivational speaker.
If these characteristics are ridiculed or squelched at an early age, these children may not become who they are meant to be. So, what can we do? As adults we need to take care of ourselves. Sounds sort of backwards, doesn’t it? Here’s my rationale: if adults know themselves, know their temperament, know if they need quiet or noise to rejuvenate, then they would be ready to be with children. The adult then needs to be responsive, reflective and observant. An observant adult will see that some children need to slowly enter the room, analyze the environment and then engage in activity. A reflective, responsive adult would allow the child time to do that analyzing then invite the child to play when the child is ready. An observant adult would also see when the more exuberant child needs to be up and moving instead of sitting and listening to stories. A responsive adult would then allow the child to get up and move.
If adults are reflective, responsive, and observant, not only will the children be more likely to have successful days, but so will the adults.