Infant Toddler Temperament Tool (IT3)
Getting Started With This Resource
- Laptop or computer access for each participant
- Spiraled notebooks, paper and pen for journaling notes, 1 per participant
- Printer or printing access on site
- Copies of the Micah and Ms. Mitchell case study for each participant (optional)
- Prior to using the tool with parents and caregivers, you are encouraged to visit the childcare center or home and observe interactions between and amongst staff and children, or amongst parents and their children during socializations or other opportunities, such as a home visit.
- Share your observations with parents and caregivers where applicable as you move through the tool. “Ms. Johnson I noticed that you and Latecia both laughed and smiled as you danced to the music together.”
- Familiarize yourself with the temperament/goodness of fit concepts and vocabulary in order to help caregivers better understand the questions on the IT3 and the recommendations that are automatically generated. Practice completing the tool a few times.
- Allow enough time in your session or home visit for participants to complete the IT3, reflect and come up with a plan for supporting a child’s temperament. This should take approximately 30-45 minutes to complete the IT3 for one child and to discuss specific “goodness of fit” strategies with caregivers and/or parents.
Facilitating Use of the Tool in a Group Setting or During a Home Visit:
A. Warm-Up Activity:
Before beginning the IT3, have caregivers think about a specific child and ask them to tell you a bit about the child and their reaction style. You can help generate thought by asking the following questions: How old is the child? Who do they most like to be with?, Which experiences do they enjoy most?, What word(s) first come to mind when you think of this child?, etc. You will need to jot a few notes while the caregiver is speaking. You may use their comments later to assist them in answering the assessment questions or as reference when you discuss specific “goodness of fit” strategies.
B. Preparing Participants
- Discuss with caregivers the definition of temperament and briefly review the nine dimensions of temperament using the Temperament Chart.
- Discuss with caregivers the concept of “goodness of fit” and how it relates to supporting a child’s social-emotional development. This information can be found in The Introduction to Temperament section.
- Explain to parents and caregivers that this tool will determine a child’s “likely” temperament traits, which can be situational, or a response to something the child is experiencing. For example, a child who is new to the center may appear to have a tendency to withdraw because they are currently experiencing separation and stranger anxiety. Once the child becomes more adjusted they may resume their more normal tendency to approaching the environment.
- Walk them through the process of using the tool by using the case study provided.
C. Completing the Assessment
- Have the participant(s) review the directions at the top of the Infant Toddler Temperament Tool. Ask them if they have any questions.
- Provide help to parents and caregivers as they talk through their answers to the assessment questions by using the temperament trait definitions and behavioral indicators provided in Table 1.
- Once the parent or caregiver has completed the assessment questions for a child, have them complete the assessment questions for themselves. Remind them to answer based on their current behaviors, not how they would prefer to behave. Reflect with participants that there are no “good” or “bad” temperamental traits; we are each born with unique personalities and they make us who we are. Sharing your observations of them interacting with children at the site or within the home setting might also assist them in accurately answering the assessment questions.
D. Reviewing Results/Incorporating Recommendations
After both parts of the assessment have been completed (adult and child), a series of auto-generated outcomes and recommendations will appear which will assist in supporting “goodness of fit”.
Review with parents and caregivers each outcome and recommendation. Have them provide you with examples of how they might successfully integrate the recommendations offered by the tool and add this information to the reflections section of the printout. For example, if a caregiver has a tendency towards distractibility while working with a less distractible child, because there is a difference here, one recommendation will be to “follow the child's lead in play”. Maybe this could be done during free play time in the center. Each difference in temperament will generate several recommendations, and you can work with the adult to identify the one or two that might be the best fit based on her knowledge of the child or together you may generate new ideas! Help the parent or caregiver generate practical ideas on integrating this strategy by asking the following questions: What types of experiences is the child particularly fond of (for example, music, art, outside play, etc.)? At what time does this experience generally occur? What might be the impact of extending the length of the experience? How might you maintain greater focus and engagement during the experience?
When there is similarity between the temperament of the child and parent or caregiver, reflect together on what current strategies appear to be working well to support the goodness of fit. Confirm with them the accuracy of the results (Does it appear true based on their daily interactions with the child?) and discuss which strategies should be continued and enhanced.
Encourage participants to add a few specific ideas to support this child onto the reflections/planning section of the auto-generated summary.
E. Share Reflections and Ending Thoughts for Consideration
Share some of the following tips/reflections with caregivers and encourage them to consider these when working with adults to better manage issues related to temperament and to support “goodness of fit”. May want to open up discussion by asking what other helpful hints participants might have for using this information.
- A Recipe for Success
When working with infants and toddlers, it is important to remind yourself that infants and toddlers, like adults, are unique individuals. What is helpful for one infant may change daily and even change within the same day and may not even work for a different infant. Flexibility and creativity go a long way. It might be helpful to think of yourself as a cook following a recipe. Just as a creative, flexible and knowledgeable cook recognizes that there are key ingredients and principles of cooking that affect the outcome; there are key ingredients and principles that can help you manage when your child has a different personality than you, even if there is not one “cookbook” for handling differences in temperament.
- Avoid Making Comparisons or Labeling Children
It may be tempting to compare a child to yourself or others ("Why can't you be more like so and so?"), but try to avoid these thoughts and certainly making comments like this to children. Avoiding statements like, "I wish you were more outgoing," or, "I wish you were less sensitive" are not helpful and risk making a child feel inadequate. it may be helpful to use words that state what you see and hear versus using a label like "shy." These labels can stick.
- Slow Down and Loosen the Schedule
Many of us are busy multitasking and rushing from one activity to the next, children, even those with active temperaments, have not perfected that skill and require a bit more time to transition between activities than adults. Avoid having a schedule that is not flexible enough to accommodate children’s needs and developing interests. Leave room in the day for unstructured time with a child.
- Empathize with Young Children
Think about how vulnerable it feels to be a child. You are dependent on someone else for food, a good night's rest, love, and reassurance. You have little control over much of what happens in life. Seeing life from a child's perspective may not be easy, but once learned, can lend clarity into how best to work with a child.
- Remember the Pluses
It is all too easy to focus on the challenges and difficulties of a child's temperament, particularly when it does not match your own. But for every drawback there is at least one major advantage. For example, slow-to-adapt children are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure, highly active kids are often good at sports and do well in demanding jobs as adults, while serious children tend to be analytical and good evaluators. Look for and acknowledge children for their special traits and talents.
- Aim for Support,
The goal is to better understand and then effectively support a child's temperament, not to change it. Temperaments make every child unique and remarkable in their own way.
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