As I prepare to teach a temperament class today at a conference, I’ve been reflecting on the topic of temperament and goodness of fit. As I thought about the nine different temperament traits, I became very aware that the importance of knowing about these traits isn’t actually in the traits themselves but rather in learning how to approach, accommodate, and adapt to the traits. This adaptation is what goodness of fit is about. Sure, it’s always beneficial to have information about yourself or someone else to understand how they approach the world. Still, that information is pointless if you don’t do something with it.
What is Goodness of Fit?
Therein lies the importance of the term “goodness of fit.” Goodness of fit is a term used in various contexts. When the term is used to talk about temperament, it means matching your caregiving style to the child’s needs. This is especially important at an infant and toddler level. I often see that teachers try to force children to adapt to behavior that they find easier to handle. For example, a teacher that has a highly active child may try to help that child calm down. This isn’t what’s intended when we ask caregivers to practice goodness of fit.
Aspects Important to Understanding Goodness of Fit
To truly understand this, we need to take a look at the developing brain. Two aspects are fundamental to comprehend goodness of fit:
- First, the limbic system, which is the system that experiences and controls emotions, has two components. The lower limbic system experiences emotion and the higher lymbic system regulates emotion. The higher limbic system is located in the cortex. The cortex doesn’t really start developing until children are a bit older.
- Young children (below kindergarten) tend to live more in the right side of their brain than the left side. The right side of the brain processes things like emotions, facial cues, gestures, and body language. The left side is what processes the language.
So how does this relate to temperament and goodness of fit, then? First, infants and toddlers do not yet have the brain skills to control or regulate their natural state of being. For young children, it’s the things unsaid that make a huge difference in their self-concept. What is the unspoken message you are sending when you try to make an infant or toddler adapt to your preferences?
In Your Classroom
The key to promoting a positive sense of self is for the adult to adapt. For example, do you have a toddler in your classroom whose activity level is exceptionally high? Provide a climber for the child. Or maybe you have a child who is slow to warm to new experiences? If so, provide extra time for that child to become comfortable. Meeting the child at their developmental stage will allow the child to develop the positive self-concept and regulation skills that will help the child to be able to adapt to situations at an older age. You can learn more about goodness of fit strategies at Head Start’s website.
Remember always to ask yourself this one question. What is the unspoken message I’m sending, and is that what I want this child to hear?
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Learn about the nine temperament traits and strategies to promote goodness of fit! Geared towards infant/toddler teachers.