Conventional wisdom regarding temperament recommends that parents “work with your child’s temperament, not against it." What this sage advice means is that you seek to understand your child’s inborn personality, accept its genetically-based limitations and cultivate its associated unique assets. The biological nature of temperament renders children blameless for certain unsavory tendencies they inherited, whether little Joey exhibits moody reclusiveness or a daredevil streak. As parents, we want to make the most of our kids’ personality strengths and minimize the potential harm of what could be weaknesses.
A shy, reactive child will be slow to warm up to new situations, need strong encouragement about participation in activities and thrive best in certain low-stress niches. His well-informed parent will understand that he needs firm nudges to join social groups but avoid overwhelming him with excessive expectations, especially in unfamiliar circumstances. The high-energy and thrill-seeking child will love activity, risk and stimulation. Her savvy parent will accept the chaos that accompanies her personality type and provide opportunities for her to explore her curiosity safely, learn to curb her excessive zeal and cope with limits.
Basic aspects of temperament endure from the cradle to the grave, but in between the role of nurturing is huge in shaping a child’s life. The introverted child may become a famous professor or a hermit, and the aggressive extrovert may become a successful entrepreneur or a con artist. Parent navigation plays a big (but not all-determining) role in the map-quest. Good and bad random events, neighborhood, school and financial resources also play large roles.