Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Daily Biological Cycles

Do you go to bed and wake up around the same times every day? Are you hungry for meals around the same times every day? If so, your temperament score on daily biological cycles would be very regular.

Children have the same temperament issues as well. They don’t have control over their daily lives as adults do. Kids have not learned how to express themselves appropriately or how to understand their feelings when things make them uncomfortable. So they typically react in ways they are familiar with: crying, hitting, tantrums, etc.Do you find yourself sleeping and waking on random schedules? Are you sometimes starving when nobody else seems hungry or feeling full when everybody else is ready to eat? Your temperament may be highly irregular.

There’s a lot we as parents can do to make these situations easier for them — and for ourselves!

If you have a child who’s very regular
This seems like good news — you can establish a routine, schedule quite easily and home life can be predictable. That is all good until: what happens when it’s vacation time? What if you have out-of-town visitors over night? What if someone in the household is sick? In these circumstances, schedules and routines are often lost. This can be difficult for a very regular child to handle.

So what should you do?
Certainly, we don’t want to give up vacations or overnight guests and we can hardly avoid all illness. Try to accommodate her inborn need for regularity. This means making time for regular meals, naps and sleep times in the midst of the things that change typical schedules. This simple maneuver takes a little thought, planning and attention to your child’s cues but the result can be a more relaxed time for everyone.

How about if your child is highly irregular?
This can be frustrating — it seems just when you’re ready to go run errands your child says “I’m hungry!” Or, it’s 9 p.m. and your little one is still going strong. Maybe it’s 7 a.m. and you need to be going to work and you can’t get your sleepyhead up. How can you manage this?

First off, your child isn’t doing these things to make you crazy even though it sure seems like it from time to time! There are approaches you can use to minimize the impact of your child’s irregular nature.

Meals: Continue to serve three nutritious meals every day, whether your child is hungry at mealtime or not. Also offer nutritious snacks at intervals between meals. Most little ones cannot eat enough at mealtime to last until the next meal because their stomachs are not large enough. Keep portable nutritious snacks handy for those off-times when hunger strikes outside of the regularly scheduled meal plan. Don’t offer junk food at those inconvenient times. Your child learns a whole different lesson from this!

Bedtime: If your child isn’t sleepy, she just isn’t sleepy and you really can’t change that. However, you can still establish and enforce a bedtime. Quiet play followed by bedtime preparations, reading, prayers, etc., can set the mood for slowing down and relaxing even if your child isn’t sleepy yet. It’s OK if your child wants to stay in her bed and look at books before she drifts off to sleep. Don’t allow TVs or other electronic screens in your child’s room. Keep the rest of the household somewhat subdued for a while to encourage the little one to get to sleep. If your child isn’t sleepy and hears fun and interesting sounds from the rest of the house, she will be drawn to join in, even after the established bedtime.

Wake-up time: If it’s difficult to wake your child in the morning, try getting her to bed earlier at night. Adequate amounts of sleep are important for many different reasons, so we need to make sure our little ones get enough. We also need to make sure that nap times are not occurring too late in the day.

If you’d like to find out what your child’s temperament scores are like, email the child’s date of birth and your mailing address to temperament@avera.org

Learn more about your child’s temperament: 
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: What is Temperament?
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Level of Activity
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Adaptability
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Distraction Level
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: First Response
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Intensity of Expression
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Persistence
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Quality of Mood
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Sensitivity 

By Betty and Doniese

Family Life Instructors at Avera McKennan

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