Understanding Temperament: Quality of Mood

Temperament Matters

Do you have children who always seem to be in a good mood and cheerful, no matter what the circumstances? Parenting them seems to be almost easy because they rarely question or challenge your decisions.

Or, on the other hand, do you have children who appear glum and negative about whatever they encounter, and no matter what you do, you just cannot seem to get them to see the good in the situation?

Chances are that what you have been noticing in your children is the temperament trait described as quality of mood.

Part of what makes all children unique is that each one is born into this world with their own unique style or temperament that determines how they react to the world. An individual’s temperament profile consists of ten traits, one of them being quality of mood, which will remain consistent throughout life. Understanding these traits can help you to parent your children in the most effective way possible so you are able to meet each individual child’s needs.


What is Quality of Mood?

Quality of mood refers to your children’s predominant and overall mood or disposition. Some children are born into this world more positive and optimistic, while others seem to be more negative and pessimistic. Many children will fall somewhere in between.


How can you determine your children’s quality of mood?

To identify your children’s mood as it relates to temperament, it helps to look at their mood throughout the course of the whole day. What is their mood first thing in the morning and while doing daily routines? What is their mood when being introduced to new things and new people, while playing with others, and when playing alone?

You can use the following questions to help you identify your children’s overall mood.  Track your answers on the scale from one to five:

  • Do your children seem to be more optimistic about life, pessimistic or somewhere in between?

  • Do they seem to be more happy and cheerful or more serious and glum most of the time?

  • Do they show mostly friendly and pleasant behaviors or mostly unfriendly and unpleasant behaviors during different situations?

  • Do your children seem to smile and laugh a lot, or whine and complain much of the time?


1                                                                                 5

Positive                                                                          Negative

Optimistic                                                                  Pessimistic


Children with a More Negative Mood

serious moodIf the majority of your responses fall toward the right side of the scale, then you have children who have a more negative mood.

This means that your children have a tendency to respond to the world in a more pessimistic way, seeing the “glass half empty” and pointing out the downside of most situations before commenting on the joys.

  • It is more difficult to get positive and upbeat responses from children who fall on this end of the continuum. Their overall mood can feel discouraging to parents.

  • They may grumble more about things and show little or no emotion at times when their parents might expect them to be happy. However, that does not necessarily imply that these children are not excited or pleased.

  • Children who are generally more serious tend to be more cautious and careful about jumping into things.

    • They take their time to analyze situations and feel comfortable before showing any outward approval.

    • They also tend to be hard to fool, making them not so gullible to things like media and advertising campaigns.

  • Do not to take their mood personally or as their final opinion on things. These children need to know it is okay to be serious so that they can feel alright about their temperament.

  • They need help learning to monitor and express their emotions in socially appropriate ways.

  • As adults, these children can do well in activities and careers that benefit from their serious nature: law, academics, medicine, news reporting and journalism.


Children with a More Positive Mood

happy moodIf, on the other hand, if most of your answers to the questions above fall toward the left side of the scale, then you have children who have a more upbeat mood.

These children tend to view the world as primarily a positive place. They are generally more optimistic and light-hearted, tend to be easier to parent because they respond more cheerfully to you, and are more pleasant to be around. They receive feedback that is more affirming which reinforces the cycle.

  • They get along more easily with people, and often show more enthusiasm and trust when meeting new people or encountering new situations.

  • On the other hand, these children can tend toward superficiality and don’t analyze or consider the down-side a situation before jumping in.


Things Parents Can Do

  • Know that quality of mood is a part of your children’s temperament.

  • Avoid negatively labeling your children.
    Children who have a more negative quality of mood could be described as “grumpy” or “spoil-sport.” Instead, use descriptive, more positive words like “cautious,” “serious” and “analytic.” Realize this is temperament, not a bad attitude.

  • Acknowledge your children’s temperament.
    Help them to understand their own temperament. Point out in a positive way behaviors that you see reflect their temperament.

  • Teach children the words to express how they are feeling.
    The more accurately and appropriately children can describe how they feel, the better those around them can understand what these children are experiencing and what they need.

  • Children with a positive mood need to learn to recognize when things are serious.
    These children can be perceived as insensitive as they sometimes don’t understand when something is wrong. You can help them to respond appropriately.

  • Use the skill of active listening.
    This allows you to reflect the child’s feelings back to him and to communicate acceptance on your part of how he is feeling: “You sound disappointed that we can’t go outside now.”

  • Children with a more negative mood need to learn to monitor what they say by thinking before they speak.
    They need to take the time adjust their attitude or consider how their analytical comments might impact another person. Social skills training that includes understanding the other person’s feelings would be helpful.

  • Learn not to let your children’s mood make you feel guilty or angry.

  • Learn to work together.
    Understand how your temperament fits or does not fit with your children’s temperament and create strategies to help each other.

  • Send messages to your children that help them to appreciate their unique being and help them to feel good about who they are:

  • “You are very cautious.”

    “You consider things seriously.”

    “You think things through before you jump on board.”

    “You notice things that need to be fixed.”

    “You have a critical eye for finding ways to improve things.”

    “You light up a room when you come in.”

    “You see the good in situations and in the world.”



For more information about temperament, check out the following books. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.

Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka The Difficult Child Understanding Temperament by Schick The Challenging Child by Greenspan
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