Sunday, 3 June 2007

Behaviour vs. Temperament

I've been learning an interesting lesson this week on the differences between behaviour and temperament - and I'm sure glad I picked this up now and not in another six months. I'm classifying behaviour as something learned, a habit picked up. Temperament, rather, is part of the innate personality. Where behaviour can be disciplined and rewarded, temperament needs careful checking and overcoming, although it will always lie there, deep inside. "Little Women" is one of my favourite books, and in it Mrs. March and her daughter Jo discuss a little bit about parts of their temperament. Mrs. March reveals that she has an awful habit of flying off the handle when her emotions rise, and she lets them get the better of her. Jo remarks that she has never seen this side of her mother, and Mrs. March confides that those moments when she slips out of a room quietly, or presses her lips together, she is battling that very temper. Although after years of careful practice this part of her rarely seeps out, it still lies dormant inside.

Lately Colin has taken to displaying his impatient side more often. He is a brilliant toddler who picks things up after only seeing them done once, but he is easily frustrated by his lack of ability to complete more difficult things. He also screams and yells when he isn't getting what he wants. I know that some might observe him and comment "what a terribly behaved little boy" - but he can't help these innate characteristics right now. As he grows we'll have to work with him on them, but being only 18 months, we can't expect too much from him.

A perfect example of this personality is evident in a story I will always remember, of when he was only a day old. Everyone had left the hospital and it was just Colin and me, settling down for his first night. Then, all of a sudden, he started to cry - scream, really. No amount of feeding, rocking or singing would calm him. The nurses couldn't figure out why he went on and on, for hours. Tired and needing to use the bathroom, I finally laid him down in his crib and stepped into the bathroom for a minute. Within a minute, there was silence. After the initial panic passed, I rushed to the crib and found him sleeping peacefully. I was completely puzzled, until I my foot stepped on something on the floor, beside the bed. It was his little ankle identity bracelet. His poor little foot was red from scratching where it had bothered him. Somehow in the minute I was away, he had managed to wiggle his way out of the anklet and toss it out onto the floor! The nurses were astonished - they had never seen a baby able to do that before! But that was my little persistent, brilliant and frustrated child.

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