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Published on April 17, 2015

little girl with a big smile

Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Quality of Mood

What is the first thing you do when a small child looks up at you and breaks out in a big grin? Typically we grin back at him. This interaction is important for a child even though the adult responds with hardly a thought. The message tells the child he is likable and perhaps the adult could be counted on for some degree of help or protection.

But what if the child doesn’t smile at the adults around him? Chances are, he isn’t getting that smiling response or the sense of self-worth that comes from the smiles of adults he encounters. These are the opposite ends of the quality of mood temperament trait.

For children with a very positive quality of mood, little adult intervention is needed — this is a good thing and works well for those children.

For the child with a more negative quality of mood, we may need to do a few things:

  • Remember that your child isn’t SAD. He just isn’t very smiley. We don’t need to try to cheer him up or worry that he’s unhappy. We may need to sharpen our own skills of observation so we know when he IS unhappy.
  • Because the positive feedback from you is so very important for his sense of well-being, it is important to smile at him — even if he doesn’t smile back
  • Encourage others around your more somber child to respond to him in positive ways, also.
  • Sometimes it is easy for others to ignore the more reserved child. Teach him ways of getting positive attention like showing grandma an art project he’s happy about or telling his uncle about something he has built with blocks, etc.

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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