Children with difficult temperaments can be harder to soothe and quicker to anger. It’s important to avoid responding to this by falling into a pattern of negative parenting.

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While parenting can be a rewarding experience, it can also be demanding. Especially if you have a child with a difficult temperament, there may be days when you feel exhausted and overwhelmed. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of negative parenting when you feel like your child is constantly crying or throwing temper tantrums.

Following a routine and teaching your child to label their emotions can help reduce the amount of struggles you face. However, if you’re worried that there could be a medical reason behind how your child is acting, you may want to speak with their doctor or healthcare professional about your concerns. They can help you determine if a health condition is affecting your child’s behavior.

A difficult temperament has been described as a child who gets angry quickly, struggles with change, and is intense or moody, but people may describe it differently. There’s no “official” definition for the term. Many people call it a challenging temperament, a more positive way to view a child’s temperament.

If a baby has a difficult temperament, they may fuss more quickly, be harder to soothe, and struggle to sleep.

In an older child, a challenging temperament can be displayed through frequent conflicts in the classroom and playground. They may have trouble adjusting to changes in their routine.

A variety of genetic and environmental factors are thought to contribute to a difficult temperament.

When a child is born, many aspects of a child’s temperament are already built into their DNA. In fact, studies have indicated that up to 75% of the variance in difficult temperament may be associated with genes.

But, as a child grows and ages, how caregivers respond can play a factor in a child’s temperament. Research shows that parents are more likely to use negative parenting techniques when their child has a difficult temperament, such as:

  • authoritarian control
  • being emotionally cold or distant
  • conflict
  • coercion

These parenting behaviors can further reinforce a child’s difficult temperament by causing a them to feel more anger, irritability, or fear.

If you have a child with a challenging temperament, there are things you can do to help them.

Especially when your child is very young, it’s important to:

  • ensure all of their needs are met
  • establish and follow routines
  • spend time learning about your child and how they respond to different situations

As your child grows, you may find it helpful to:

  • model appropriate behaviors
  • label and discuss emotions
  • make sure that they’re eating nutritious foods and getting enough sleep
  • choose your battles
  • find ways to showcase your child’s strengths and build their self-esteem

Although it can be hard at times, it’s important to accept your child for who they are. Knowing that they’re loved and accepted can help them to feel secure.

Even if you take steps to help your child, they may behave in difficult ways. It’s important to remember that this is not your fault or a reflection on you. If you’re feeling your stress levels rising, it can be helpful to arrange breaks and opportunities to connect with other adults.

Finding support if you have a kid with a challenging temperament

If your child has a difficult temperament, you may find support from:

  • local or online parenting support groups
  • a child or family therapist
  • books about positive parenting
  • parenting classes
  • your child’s caregiver or teachers
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What is characteristic of a difficult or challenging temperament?

Children with a difficult temperament may be more stubborn and prone to temper tantrums. They can withdraw, have negative moods, or have a harder time coping with change. They may be harder to please.

What is difficult vs. easy temperament?

Children with an easy temperament are typically easy to soothe and slow to anger. They tend to have an easier time adapting to change than children with a difficult temperament.

Do most children have a difficult temperament?

While you’re not alone if you have a child with a difficult temperament, more children are classified as having an easy temperament than a difficult one.

Children with a difficult or challenging temperament can be quicker to anger and more difficult to calm. Before deciding that your child has a difficult temperament, it’s important to rule out chronic illnesses and other stressors that may be contributing to their behavior.

If you’re parenting a child with a difficult or challenging temperament, you may find that it’s helpful to stick to a routine. It’s important to make sure that their needs are met and avoid a pattern of negative parenting. There are resources available if you think your child may have a difficult temperament.