Articles and Topics
Is it possible to change a child’s temperament?
Angela Indianapolis
We can’t totally change the “personality” we come into this world with (or acquire very soon thereafter). The word most professionals use for it is “temperament.” Some babies seem to be unusually responsive, startling easily to any sound or sudden movement. Others, experiencing the same type and level of stimulation, are almost lethargic. Still others are in-between. Other characteristics shown to vary in this way are activity level, tolerance of discomfort (hunger, cold, wetness), and response to parental efforts to soothe and comfort.

At home, I would deal with it pretty much the way her friends do—I would isolate her (even from the dinner table) whenever any “over-reaction” occurs that you don’t consider legitimate. (A factor you can’t ignore here is that her brothers and sisters know exactly what will set her off and probably delight in pushing her button.) “You’re not going to ruin dinner for the rest of us tonight. You can just stay in your room until we’ve finished and then come out and eat by yourself.” Likewise, if you spot one of the other kids subtly trying to get her riled up, give the same treatment to him or her. Your daughter has shown some adaptability by managing not to ostracize herself from her friends, so I think she’ll catch on if the same rules apply at home.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education