Picture this: you plan to take your child to a birthday party. Your child is excited the entire car ride talking about everything he will do at the party. You arrive at the party and, as you’re walking in, your child:
Runs into the crowd, ready to jump right into the action
Hides behind your leg as he clings on for dear life
Well, of course, there is an entire spectrum of behavior in between these two extremes, but what we are alluding to is your child’s temperament. The way your child approaches new situations, environments, people, foods, places, and/or things can be a factor of temperament. Some children are slower to warm-up, while others are considered quick adapters. Neither of these is better than the other, as there are pros and cons to both. Quick adapters tend to need help with boundaries like “stranger danger,” or even physical/emotional boundaries with people they know (they can get overly excited or become impulsive), while children who are slower to warm-up tend to need support with calming themselves enough to gain the confidence needed to join in the new environment.
There is nothing wrong with a child who tends to be on the shy side...and, in actuality, there are advantages. Children that take their time warming up to new situations are really good observers. They screen their environments before entering. These children can become selective of friends and activities, which will come in handy as they get older.
It is important to understand that our temperament is innate - meaning we are born with these traits. Our temperament influences the way we see the world, and how safe we feel when interacting with it. Learning about our temperaments gives us a good way to understand a person’s behavioral tendencies. The key here is to recognize, though, is that just because we are born with a certain tendency or trait does not mean that we cannot grow and develop skills to help us navigate situations differently. So, that kid arriving at the birthday party (whether jumping right in or hiding behind your legs) can learn new skills and ways of relating with a little bit of practice and patience.