Parenting Kids With Slow-toWarm-Up Temperament

– by Karen Stephens, sourced from:


Within the first hours, days, and weeks of birth, a child’s unique style of responding to the world is revealed by his or her behavior. That style, called temperament, is genetically influenced as well as affected by parents’ and caregivers’ guidance.

Temperament is stable throughout life. How well children (and their parents) learn to cope with individual temperament can vary a lot. For simplicity, researchers and educators group temperament characteristics into three descriptive categories: easy, difficult’ and slow-to-warm-up. They aren’t meant to label, just describe general tendencies. Each temperament has its own strengths and challenges; one isn’t better than another. Working with temperament, rather than denying or ignoring it, is a constructive, respectful way to guide children’s development. It helps kids navigate their expanding social world with their self esteem intact.

This column examines the characteristics of slow-to-warm-up temperament. Slow to-warm-up children, about 20% of kids, are distinguished by their cautious nature and wait and see attitude. Given time to warm-up at their own pace, they gradually adjust to new circumstances or routines. When making decisions, they need more time as they pause and check out options. Slow-to-warm-up kids do adapt slower to newness and change, and they are less flexible adjusting to first encounters or new routines. But when well prepared for change, they do adapt.

These children tend to be very sensitive to external stimulation. In fact, research shows their brains literally take in more sensory information to process. And thus, they are more prone to becoming overwhelmed or over-stimulated by loud sounds, new textures, extreme temperatures, pain, and environments that are crowded, chaotic, disorganized. Slow-to-warm-up children are very sensitive to their own emotions and the emotions of others. What they feel, they feel intensely. With wise guidance, they become people of great compassion and empathy. These traits help them establish close friendships with peers and adults. They prefer to establish a few loyal friendships, rather than many.

Early in life slow-to-warm-up children can be unflatteringly labeled as: shy, reserved, timid, fearful, picky, whiny, slow-poke, bashful, anxious, scaredy-cat, touchy, stubborn, delayed, babyish, or backward. These labels typecast children into stereotypes that mask and even stunt their true abilities. When attitudes behind labels change, children can be taught to adapt well.

Overall, slow-to-warm-up kids are usually only shy or disoriented at first, and they aren’t as fearful as they are judicious. Slow-to-warm-up kids don’t leap before they think things through; they stand back, look, and listen. Once they establish a rapport with people and trust in a situation’s safety, they can be as outgoing, friendly, creative, and adventurous as the next child. That said, below are tips for being the affirming and responsive parent that slow-to-warm-up kids need as they mature to their full potential.

sensitive child


Parenting Tips

Accept your slow-to-warm-up child for who they are. Resist trying to change them. Build on their traits rather than wish them away. Avoid unflattering comparisons with siblings or peers.

Focus on the positive side of temperament. A slow-to-warm-up child has many skills that can be nurtured; find and reinforce them.

Prepare children in steps for new experiences. For instance, break down how to meet a new dog into manageable steps so your child experiences success. “Stand still with your hands down so the dog can see you mean no harm.” “Use a quiet voice.” Avoid unflattering comparisons, “Look, that girl isn’t afraid of the dog. You shouldn’t be either.”

Increase your patience. Avoid teaching kids with sink or swim strategies. Pushing a child too fast makes kids more rigid and frightened rather than more confident and safe.

Interpret situations matter-of-factly. Resist coddling and giving a child’s hesitance too much attention. Make simple statements such as, “You watch the children singing before you join in the circle. That’s your way of relaxing.”

Provide time for reflection and re-filling emotional reserves. The author of The Highly Sensitive Child believes daily exposure to nature outdoors is also necessary for these children.

Help children become in tune to their own body rhythms. Schedule special activities that demand extra energy, such as going to the dentist or festival, during your child’s up times.

Give kids time to respond when adults try to talk to them. Resist jumping in and answering for them in hopes of hiding a child’s slower approach to new people. Not giving children time to respond is a subtle way of saying you think they will fail if you don’t talk for them.

Translate your child’s behavior for new people. This is very helpful for new teachers at child care or school. Tell them: “It takes John a little while to get used to a new place. It’s best if we don’t push him too fast.”

Stand up for your child if someone labels him or her. If a teacher reports, “Tarah wouldn’t try her cottage cheese at lunch today. Is she that stubborn at home, too?” You can graciously respond that you don’t consider your child stubborn, just wary of the food texture. If someone calls your child “shy” you can counter with: “It will take a few days, but once she knows it’s safe, she’ll be building blocks with the other kids in no time.”

Believe kids when they feel more than you do. Avoid discounting children’s feelings, including claims of pain.

Model coping skills. Coach kids in prevention and problem-solving. A friend’s child took forever ordering at restaurants. Rather than face a predictable ordeal, she collected menus from their favorite spots and kept them in the car. While en route, her child got a head-start on ordering decisions.

Prepare kids for changes or new experiences. Slow-to-warm-up kids need more time to process information. The bigger the change, the more questions a child will have. Spend more time preparing or even rehearsing for change. Playing with dolls or puppets is a great way for kids to work through their feelings.

Coach children on ways to join their friends’ play. Example: “They’re pretending a house is on fire. You can ask if you can help spray water on it.”

Alert kids to predictable sensitivities. “It’s going to be loud and crowded in the grocery store tonight. We’ll finish as soon as we can.”

Model calm expression of feelings. Of course, this is especially important when you’re mad, frustrated, or tired.

Use positive discipline. Guidance and coaching should be your first responses.


Helpful Parenting Books

• The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron.
New York: Broadway Books, 2002.
• The Shy Child: Helping Children Triumph over Shyness by Ward K. Swallow. New York: Warner Books, 2000.
Reassuring Children’s Books
• Let’s Talk About Being Shy by Marianne Johnston. New York: Powerkids Press, 2003.
• Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. New York: HarperCollins, 1971.
• The Shy Little Girl by Phyllis Krasilovsky. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.


Foundation Skills #CareerReady


The Foundation Skills
The Foundation Skills are the ones every worker needs. They are organized into four groups: Basic, People, Thinking, and Personal Qualities. They are marketable and transferable skills.

The 17 Foundation Skills are those required of all workers in the high-performance workplace of the 21st century. They are grouped into four clusters:


1. Identify relevant details, facts, and specification in what is being read;
2. Locate information in books and manuals, from graphs and schedules;
3. Find meaning of unknown or technical words and phrases;
4. Judge accuracy of reports; and
5. Use computer to find information.

1. Communicate thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing;
2. Record information completely and accurately;
3. Create documents, including letters, manuals, reports and graphs;
4. Check, edit, and revise documents for correct information, appropriate emphasis, grammar, spelling, and punctuation; and
5. Use computers to communicate information.

1. Use numbers, fractions, and percentages to solve practical problems;
2. Make reasonable estimates of arithmetic results without calculator;
3. Use tables, graphs, diagrams, and charts to obtain numerical information;
4. Use computers to enter, retrieve, change, and communicate numerical information; and
5. Use computers to communicate data, choosing the best form to present data (e.g., line or bar graph, pie charts).

1. Organize ideas and communicate oral messages appropriate to listener and situations;
2. Select appropriate language, tone or voice, gestures, and level of complexity appropriate to audience and occasion;
3. Speak clearly; ask questions when needed.

1. Listen carefully to what a person says, noting tone of voice and other body language to understand content and feelings being expressed; and
2. Respond in a way that shows understanding of what is said.


Creative Thinking:
1. Use imagination freely, combining ideas or information in new ways; and
2. Make connections between ideas that seem unrelated.

Problem-Solving Skills:
1. Recognize problem, a gap between what is and what should or could be;
2. Identify why it is a problem;
3. Create and implement a solution; and
4. Watch to see how well solution works and revise if needed.

Decision Making Skills:
1. Identify the goal desired in making the decision;
2. Generate alternatives for reaching the goal;
3. Gather information about the alternatives (e.g., from experts or books);
4. Weigh the pros and cons of each alternative (i.e., gains/losses to yourself and others, approval/disapproval or self and others);
5. Make the best choice; and
6. Plan how to carry out your choice and what you will do if negative consequences occur.

1. See a building or object by looking at a blueprint, drawing, or sketch; and
2. Imagine how a system works by looking at a schematic drawing.


1. Show understanding, friendliness, and respect for the feelings of others;
2. Assert oneself appropriately, stand up for yourself and your ideas in a firm, positive
way; and
3. Take an interest in what people say and why they think and act as they do.

1. Identify common goals among different parties in conflict and the ways they depend on each other;
2. Clearly present the facts and arguments of your own position;
3. Listen to and understand other party’s position; and
4. Create and propose possible options for resolving the conflict, making reasonable compromises.

1. Communicate thoughts and feelings to justify a position;
2. Encourage, persuade, or convince individuals or groups;
3. Make positive use of rules (e.g. “Robert’s Rules of Order”) or values of the organization;
4. Exhibit ability to have others believe in and trust you due to your competence and honesty.

1. Work cooperatively with others; contribute to the group with ideas and effort;
2. Do own share of tasks necessary to complete project;
3. Encourage team members by listening to them, providing support, and offering tips for success, as appropriate;
4. Resolve differences for the benefits of the team; and
5. Responsibly challenge existing procedures, policies, or authorities.

Cultural Diversity:
1. Work well with people having different ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds;
2. Understand the concerns of members of other ethic and gender groups;
3. Base impressions on a person’s behavior, not stereotypes;
4. Understand one’s own culture and those of others and how they differ; and
5. Respect the rights of others while helping them make cultural adjustments where necessary.


1. Understand how beliefs affect how a person feels and acts;
2. Listening to what you say to yourself to identify any irrational or harmful beliefs you may have; and
3. Understand how to change these negative beliefs when they occur.

1. Assess your own knowledge and skills accurately;
2. Set well-defined and realistic personal goals; and
3. Monitor your progress toward your goals.

1. Give a high level of effort toward reaching goals;
2. Work hard to become excellent at job tasks. Pay attention to details. Concentrate on doing tasks well, even unpleasant ones; and
3. Display high standards of attendance, honesty, energy, and optimism.

From Job Skills for the 21st Century: A Guide for Students Copyright © Oryx Press, 1996.





And to all who are WiseHearted I have given wisdom and ability to make all that I have commanded you. (Ex. 31:6)

And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and wisdom, with intelligence and understanding, and with knowledge and all craftsmanship, To devise artistic designs…for work in every skilled craft…even of those who do or design any skilled work. (Ex. 35:31-35)

Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding (applying all your powers to the quest for it); Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek (Wisdom) as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures,

Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of (our omniscient) God. For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He hides away sound and godly Wisdom and stores it or the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with Him); He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and in integrity, That He may guard the Paths of Justice; yes, He preserves the way of His saints.

Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and fair dealing (in every area and relation)’ yes, you will understand every good path. For skillful and godly Wisdom shall enter into your heart, and knowledge shall be pleasant to you. Discretion shall watch over you, To deliver you from the way of evil and the evil men, from men who speak perverse things and are liars, Men who forsake the Paths of Uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.

Skillful and godly Wisdom is more precious than rubies; and nothing you can wish for is to be compared to her. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are Highways of Pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a TREE OF LIFE to those who lay hold of her; and happy (blessed, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who holds her fast. (Prov. 2:2-18)

And you my son, know the God of your father (have personal knowledge of Him, be acquainted with Him, and understand Him; appreciate, heed and cherish Him) and serve Him with a blameless heart and a willing mind. For the Lord searches all hearts and minds and understands all the wanderings of the thoughts. If you seek Him (inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him as your first and vital necessity) you will find Him. Be strong and do it! (1 Chron. 28:9-10)