Child Temperament and Attachment in the Classroom
Submitted by: Michelle J. Peterson
From Chapter 6, Attachment and Personality
Children have different types of personalities and temperaments. Each child is unique. Temperament refers to the nature of a person. Temperament is often brought to light by experiences, even in the earliest stages of life. Genetics do not necessarily predict temperament, “It includes the characteristic way that an individual responds emotionally to people and objects. (Culpepper. 2008). The temperament of a child creates a foundational block that contributes to a child’s success in school, and in human interactions (social) aspects. In the classroom setting, the temperament of each student helps create the classroom makeup. The development of temperament has a psychological basis. Although temperament is not always easy to predict, but there are nine general characteristics to be aware of and plan for when determining a child’s temperament according to healthychildren.org:
- Activity level: The activity level of a child is an important factor to understand. Does the child require a unique pattern of activity to function properly?
- Rhythmicity and regularity: Does the child eat sleep, etc. on a regular schedule?
- Approach and withdrawal: How does the child respond to stimulus? Does the child make quick, bold decisions or in the child hesitant and more reserved?
- Adaptability: When there is changes in the child’s normal routine, does he/she struggle or adapt?
- Intensity: The energy level the child responds with (either positive or negative). Is the child’s response enthusiastic or lackluster?
- Mood: The pleasant or unpleasant attitude a child responds with. Are the child’s behaviors friendly or unfriendly?
- Attention span: Is the child able to concentrate or does he/she struggle to stay on a focused task during activities?
- Attentiveness: Is the child easily distracted by other surrounding stimuli?
- Sensory threshold: The amount of sensory input a child needs to remain focused. Does the child require calming, alerting or stabilizing activities to function at their best?
These questions can help guide your classroom planning for environment, lessons and even relationships with your students. It is important to consider each individual child when looking at these areas. Research has shown that children whose temperament matches the expectations of their teachers, are more likely to succeed. However, just because a child does not fit with one teacher’s temperament or expectations, does not mean that they will not be successful with another teacher.
Attachment is another important factor to predict a child’s success in the classroom. Attachment refers to one person’s bond to another. “It is not synonymous with dependency; instead, secure attachment liberates children to explore their world” (Bergin and Bergin, 2009). Students who struggle with an attachment problems often have a difficult time in the classroom, children who have formed strong attachments to their parents often are more secure in the school setting.
The structure of the relationship between students and teachers varies greatly. The structure of some schools provides too little opportunity for a relationship to develop” (Bergin and Bergin, 2012). When students feel secure with their relationship with their teachers, they are often more accepting of guidance and comfort in the classroom. Students who engage in avoidant or resistant relationships often have difficulty at school.
As an educator, there are things you can do to build students relationships with you and form a healthy attachment to aid in their success. Relationships are vital. To be effective, teachers must connect with and care for children with warmth, respect, and trust” (Bergin and Bergin, 2009).
According to Dr. Bruce Perry (2013), “In order to be capable of forming the wide array of healthy relationships required throughout life, a young child’s attachment capacities must mature. While the roots of attachment are related to the primary caregiving experiences in early childhood, full expression of attachment potential requires social and emotional interactions with non-caregivers. As children become older, they spend less time with parents and more time with peers and other adults. This time with peers and other adults provides many opportunities for continued emotional growth.” As the children mature, consistency and effort from the adults in their lives will aid in the healthy attachment process. Teachers can:
- Smile and make eye contact with your students. This allows them to see you willing and happy to interact with them individually.
- Spend quality time with the children. Make time to listen to each child.
- Teach appropriate social skills such as verbal language, body language and space.
- “Remember that there are many styles of forming and maintaining relationships-a shy child is not an unattached child. If you sense a child is having a hard time engaging others, help facilitate this by actively including her or pairing her with another child who has a matching temperament. (Dr. B. Perry, 2013).
Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Child and adolescent development in your classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Bergin C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2009). Attachment in the Classroom. Educ Psychol Rev (2009) 21:141–170 DOI 10.1007/s10648-009-9104-0
Culpepper, S. (2008). The Temperament Trap: Recognizing and Accommodating Children’s
Personalities. Retrieved from http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=241
How to Understand Your Child’s Temperament. (2013) Retrieved from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/pages/How-to-Understand-Your-Childs-Temperament.aspx
Perry. Dr. B. (2013). Attachment: The first Core Strength. Early Childhood today. Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/attachment.htm
- Reflecting over your practice, have you ever had a child that you were unable to match temperaments with?
- Have you struggled to communicate with parents who do not have a healthy attachment relationship with their child? If so, how did you respond?
- Are there specific practices you are using to help form healthy relationships with students? If so what are they?
- Has your temperament ever caused you to struggle as an educator? If so, how did you work through it?