Temperament and Dysregulation

Children have problems with their feelings. Some, a little more than others. Although immaturity is a factor, a lot has to do with temperament, which is why a younger child can appear more flexible, calmer, and easier to handle. We come into the world with a genetic blueprint of nine traits. Is your child high in any of the following?

  • Active children often use their bodies to learn and to express themselves, so it isn’t unusual for this child to come out swinging when they are dysregulated. Yes, even past the preschool years.
  • Perceptive children can quickly absorb other people’s stress; they see it, they feel it, they act it out.
  • Persistent children have difficulty letting go of their agenda. They grieve the loss of their ideas. 
  • Cautious children experience strong, overwhelming emotions when they are faced with a new situation or person.
  • Children who aren’t adaptable like things to be fair, and of course, life rarely is.
  • Very regular children like routine and can easily be triggered by hunger and fatigue.
  • Sensory sensitive children often feel overwhelmed by their environment. This leads to depletion and an empty reserve of patience.
  • Intense children feel things in a big way and have difficulty keeping their reactions to a dull roar. Remember, adults have temperament too.
  • Some children come into the world with a more serious mood. 

What to do:

  • Stop seeing a child’s eruptions as a problem to be fixed. Time will take care of this if handled well.
  • Regulate yourself. Focus on your breath and your inner dialogue. “My child isn’t giving me a hard time; they are having a hard time”. (Dr. Ross Greene) 
  • Keep everyone safe and stand by without words, lectures, threats, or lessons. Breathe. 
  • Be present if you can, and if you can’t, say you will be back and that you love them.
  • Your task is to protect your children from getting stuck in the bad kid role. It does not make sense to punish a child for dysregulation.  Remember this is simple immaturity plus temperament. It’s normal.
  • Children need to know you can handle their big feelings. If they see fear or helplessness in you, they will believe that there is something wrong with them. This will lead to more dysregulated episodes and low self-esteem.
  • Remember to translate I HATE YOU, into HELP, I’M STRUGGLING.
  • When it’s over, just connect. You don’t have to talk it out but show that you get it and you’ve got their back. 
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