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Published on March 26, 2015

children doing art projects

Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Intensity of Expression

Ever notice how some kids can stub a toe and cry for half an hour while another can fall and bloody his nose, but just gets up, wipes his nose and goes on as if nothing happened? These would be examples of the opposite extremes of the intensity temperament trait.

Kids who are high in intensity tend to be loud and long in their responses to just about everything. Another issue is that this child tends to get the “lion’s share” of attention, often taking attention away from another who might have a more serious problem. (The squeaky wheel gets the oil, right?) He’s not doing this on purpose; it’s just the way he’s wired.

There are several tricky things about highly intense children. You may need to learn how to filter this child’s intense responses so that you aren’t constantly “jumping through hoops” to pacify him. As he gets a little older, you can teach him how to modulate his voice so he’s not shouting so much of the time. Also, you can help him learn other techniques for expressing his strong feelings. Some things parents have discovered that help in this regard might be:

  • Sensory play: playing with water, varying textures, play-dough, finger painting, etc.
  • Art activities: painting, drawing, coloring; this can turn to writing/journaling as the child grows
  • Big muscle activity: running, jumping, biking, climbing; anything that uses the large muscles of the body

We must also be mindful so that this little squeaky wheel doesn’t prevent us from noticing someone else’s difficulty.

On the other side of this trait is the child who is very low in intensity. It sounds like it would be wonderful to have a child who isn’t always erupting like Mt. Vesuvius all the time. And truly these low-intensity children tend to be low key in their responses to everything.

The tricky part is that the child may be upset and we might miss his subtle cues. An opportunity to provide this child with much needed support and encouragement might be missed because we failed to notice his distress. If you have a child who scores very low on the intensity scale, you will need to sharpen your observation skills. You will need to recognize his subtle signs of distress so that you can provide him with the support he needs. When the child has developed speech, use extra effort to teach him the vocabulary for his emotions so that communicating these strong emotions will be easier. Listen as the child speaks so he is encouraged to use the words he has learned.

If you’d like to find out what your child’s temperament scores are like, email the child’s date of birth and your mailing address to

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