Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Understanding your Child’s Temperament

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What is temperament?

The child’s temperament is the social and emotional part of their personality, which they are born with. Understanding our children’s temperaments and the way it contrasts with our own can help make life easier so that we can:

>>> prevent and manage problems more easily
>>> modify the child’s environment to best suit their needs
>>> set reasonable limits & expectations

There are no bad or good temperaments, only constructive or non-constructive expectations towards them. 

We can be a positive model of temperament control by accepting the child’s natural tendencies and adjusting our reactions through self-observation.

Try to avoid giving the children labels like, “she is fearless; he is social…” because it can be difficult later to free them from this role. This temperament questionnaire is simply meant to help us to recognise their patters of behaviour so we can maintain a peaceful and positive connection with our little ones. 🙂

Use the questionnaire below to compare your temperament and your child’s. Do you have similar or differing personalities?

Montessori Temperament Questionnaire

1. Activity level

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – rarely bored
– enjoys playing independently moves
– constantly seeks out new things
– wiggles and needs to move around
– makes decisions impulsively (or perhaps recklessly)
– needs frequent breaks from sitting
– Try to anticipate what’s going to happen throughout the day and plan several steps ahead.
– Allow enough time to burn off energy
– Give activities one at a time, particularly when traveling.
– Find new skills and challenges or materials to keep them interested and engaged in the environment .
LOW – generally calm and easy-going
– content to sit quietly for long periods of time
– often found engrossed in a task
– sits through mealtimes
– Let them play and figure things out at their own pace (don’t interrupt or rush them).
– Allow enough time for the child to transition to a new task.
– Accept that they will take their time doing things. 

2. Adaptability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – can easily cope with unexpected situations or events
– easily influenced by the feedback from others
– Be a positive model of behaviour and language. They are absorbing everything. 🙂
– Give positive feedback instead of general praise: “You put the puzzle together! You look very pleased with yourself!”
– Give plenty of opportunities for new challenges.
LOW – takes time to warm up to new situations or places
– does not enjoy switching from one task to another
– changes in the daily routine may be upsetting
– Aim for a routine whenever possible. 
– Prepare your child in advance if there’s likely to be a change.
– Allow them to repeat as much as they need to whenever possible.
– Invite them to try something new, but respect their choice if they decline.

3. Approach to new situations & sociability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
BOLD – has a carefree, fearless approach to life
– enthusiastic about new situations and people
– doesn’t consider possible dangers
– Let them have their own experiences, but monitor closely for safety
– Give frequent reminders
– Set clear boundaries
HESITANT – less likely to put self at risk
– exhibits caution
– hesitates often and for long periods of time
– Prepare for new situations and experiences ahead of time
– Don’t force them to participate if they are not comfortable

4. Attention span

temperament qualities Montessori tips
SHORT – eager to move on to the next thing
– most work is not done to completion
– doesn’t follow long demonstrations
– gets great satisfaction from completing tasks
– forgets to tidy up
– Keep language and instructions to the minimum
– Allow them to get involved quickly
– Use points of interest to help them notice what they are doing.
– Remind them what they were doing if they get distracted
– Have a place fore everything and a clear order to the space
– Encourage practical life activities
LONG – without distractions, can concentrate for a long time
– persists even when facing difficulty
– can return to an activity even if their attention has been briefly redirected
– does activities to completion
– gets great satisfaction from completing tasks
– Allow the child to  continue or repeat a task as long as they need.
– If you need the child to do something or go somewhere, wait until their state of concentration has ended.
– When you see that the interest and intensity of their concentration is fading, invite them to tidy up or try something new.
– Respond to tantrums with gentleness and compassion.
– Introduce activities that require multiple steps .

5. Distractibility

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – notices every sound and movement
– doesn’t maintain a constant  state of concentration, but can come back to their current task (if attention span is long)
– finds it very difficult to become fully engaged in a task (if attention span is short)
– Provide a quiet and orderly workspace to limit distractions
– Remind them what their work was if they get sidetracked
– Never interrupt  if they have achieved focus
LOW – can remain focused, even amidst chaos
– becomes frustrated if something isn’t working perfectly
– Allow them to go through a process at their own pace.
– Show them slowly and clearly each new activity so they can have success
montessori toddler playdough clay work art materials mother

6. Intensity of Reaction

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – must have all needs met at all times
– very self-aware
– demands attention
– attracted to what other children have
– Have patience
– Model mindfulness and respect
– Remind them of other people and children in the environment
“Alfie’s working on that. It will be available soon.”
– Set kind a firm limits.
LOW – laid-back
– enjoys most things
– doesn’t react when their work is taken away
– Try to give them the language to express their wants or needs
“Do you want to say, ‘this is my work. It will be available soon?” 
– Look for signs of their desires which they may not be expressing
– Offer 2 choices so they can practice choosing for themselves and self-awareness

7. Mood

temperament qualities Montessori tips
CHEERY – smiley
– seems to have fun in most situations
– Observe closely because the child may have developmental needs or obstacles that may be overlooked. 
SOMBER – difficult to read
– complains often
– Accept the child for who they are.
– Make sure they know their feelings are being heard
– Invite to try something new or try a new way

8. Rhythmicity

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – naturally falls into routines for eating, sleeping, and toiletting
needs and behaviour are predictable 
behaviour can become erratic with the daily routine is changed if the child has a high reactivity
– Try to anticipate changes and have an appropriate alternative available
“Your boots are unavailable right now. Would you like to wear your boots or your sneakers?”
– Make changes one at a time, for example reading one new story before bed or one new flavour at snack time. 
– Give 2 choices and for opportunities to try something new, but respect their choice if they say no.
“Would you like to go to the pond or the playground today?”
LOW – can ‘go with the flow’
– is not upset by changes in the routine
– it’s difficult to predict their needs without a clearly established routine
– Respect that the child’s patterns may vary from day to day. Some nights they need sleep more than other nights. Some days they need to be more active than other days. 
– Incorporate a regular routine, but allow the child to have some control. For example, make the same quantity of food available at mealtimes, but let the child control how much they eat. 

9. Threshold of sensitivity

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – sensitive to the feelings of others
– may react negatively to sudden noises or movements
– may exhibit compassion and try to soothe others
– Allow them to feel and express their feelings in an appropriate way
– Give language to express that they are understood and language to understand the outside person or situation.
“Are you feeling concerned? You noticed that Yuna was crying. Let’s go see if she’s alright.”
“That was a loud noise! Did it startle you?”
LOW – seems not to notice the feelings of other people
– might notice others’ reactions but not realise that they can affect or cause them
– Be a positive model of awareness and sensitivity
– Try to give them the language to understand how others may be feeling.
“Let’s ask if Luka would like a cuddle before we give him one. Luca, would you like a cuddle?”
“Stomping is loud and disturbs others. Let’s go outside and stomp.”

10. Cuddliness & soothability

temperament qualities Montessori tips
HIGH – feels relaxed when you hug them
– can be soothed by cuddles and words of reassurance
– Offer a cuddle when they are upset before picking them up. “Would you like me to hold you?” Allow them to express yes or no. 
LOW – feels more comfortable at arms length
– just needs time to relax after being upset rather than cuddles or caresses
– If they push you away, don’t take it personally. Stay nearby and let them know you are there for them without giving a hug. 
– Offer a cuddle and allow them to express yes or no. 

Photos by Chad Chittenden and  Kerly Ilves at Montessori Mother ELC