Home > Kids > Behavior and Discipline > Behavioral Problems > Anger and Aggression > Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament
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Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament

3. Adaptability: How quickly does your child adapt to changes in routines, intrusions, surprises, or transitions?

getting up and getting dressed usually aren't difficult

easily falls asleep at night

enjoys suprises

easily switches from one activity to another

able to leave a friend's home

enjoys schedule changes on field-trip days

easily switches clothing from one season to the next

      getting up and getting dressed are a hassle every morning

takes a long time to settle down and fall asleep at night

hates surprises

switching from one activity to another is a monumental task

very difficult to leave a friend's home without a battle

finds the change in schedule on field-trip days upsetting

giving up summer's shorts for fall's long pants is a major endeavor

1 2 3 4 5
adapts quickly       adapts slowly

Adapts Slowly
Kids who adapt slowly make us aware of our overcommitments. These are the kids who let us know that ten transitions in a day are a bit much. It's distressing to them to leave a friend's house or switch from one activity to another. Intrusions upset them. They let us know that the phone ringing, a neighbor knocking on the door, a delivery person's arrival, an unexpected request, or being scooped up for a diaper change or to use the bathroom are all irritating interruptions and unwanted surprises. Settling these kids down for sleep can take 60 to 90 minutes. Slow-to-adapt kids can teach us to stop rushing! They need to know what to expect; they need time to shift from one thing to another; and they need some warning about what's coming next. Routines give them a sense of predictability that they thrive on.

Kids who adapt slowly need words and phrases like:

  • In ten minutes you'll need to stop and . . .
  • Today we will be doing ...
  • That was a surprise. You don't like surprises.
  • Change is hard for you.
  • You wish you didn't have to leave.
  • I appreciate how you remind me to stop rushing.
  • Changes in your routine upset you.
  • After lunch we always . . .
Quick to Adapt
Kids who are quick to adapt aren't triggered by transitions. They can shift from one thing to another a dozen times a day, without even noticing. This may actually be their challenge, for it is easy for these children to get overcommitted. It may also be difficult for them to understand others who don't shift as quickly as they do. We can help them learn to be more sensitive to others by pointing out transitions and teaching them the importance of forewarning their friends and family members who are not quite as quick to adapt.

Kids who are quick to adapt need words and phrases like:

  • Think about how many things you've agreed to do.
  • It's important to forewarn your brother that you're going to quit playing.
  • I appreciate how easily you shift from one thing to another.
  • Let's slow down.


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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.


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