One of the biggest factors to take into consideration when thinking about sleep training your child is their temperament.Temperament is the aspect of an individual’s personality that is innate rather than learned.
There are three basic types of temperament, here’s a run down of each.
- The Easy Child – this child showed regular eating, sleeping, elimination cycles, a positive approach response to new situations, and could accept frustration with little fuss. They adapted to change, such as new food or a new school quickly. They showed a good mood most of the time, and smiled often. Most of the problems reported with these children resulted when the child was placed in situations that required responses that were inconsistent with what they had learned at home.
- The Difficult Child – this child showed irregular eating, sleeping, and elimination cycles. They displayed a negative approach response to new situations, for example frequent and loud crying or throwing tantrums when frustrated. They are slow to adapt to change, and need more time to get used to new food or people. Most of the problems reported with these children centers around socialization patterns, expectations of family, school, and peer groups. If pushed to become immediately involved in a situation, these children were more likely to exhibit loud refusal and sometime oppositional and aggressive behavior.
- The Slow-to-Warm-Up Child – this child showed negative responses of mild intensity when exposed to new situations, but slowly came to accept them with repeated exposure. They have fairly regular biological routines. Problems with these children varied depending on the other characteristics they showed.
The ‘Easy Child’ rarely has long lasting sleep issues. They are very adaptable and can easily be sleep trained with any sleep training technique.
The ‘Difficult Child’ is the hardest to sleep train (my eldest daughter has a difficult temperament and was hard to train). When sleep training a difficult child you want to choose your sleep training technique with care. I have found that cry it out techniques (elimination techniques, including; controlled crying and the Ferber method) don’t work with this temperament. I have heard of children crying for anything up to 6 hours! If you have a ‘difficult child’ please don’t use a cry it out technique, it’s not fair on you or your child. Take a look at some of the ‘no cry’ sleep training techniques out there (there are lots of them).
The ‘Slow-to-Warm-Up Child’ is a bit in the middle when it comes to sleep training. You may find it difficult to get started with the sleep training, but when you do you’ll see results fairly quickly.
It’s hard to say which type of sleep training technique will work with a ‘slow to warm up child’, no cry techniques will certainly work, but it really depends on the child as to whether a cry it out technique will work. You’ll also want to make sure your not training the ‘slow to warm up child’ during a stage of separation anxiety (between 8 and 12 months is the hardest stage).
When you hit a bump in the road (i.e. teething, illness or travel) you’ll again want to take into consideration your child’s temperament.
You should try and use the same technique (you may need to adapt it as your child get’s older), to get back on track. It will never take you as long to get back on track as the initial sleep training did (that is if you start getting back on track as soon as you can).
If you are interested in finding out more about your child’s temperament there are many quizzes online, and for more indepth information you can buy my book, Sleep and Your Child’s Temperament.