The nine traits of temperament: Biological rhythms

Understanding your child’s biological rhythms can help you understand and support your child.

Does your child have regular or irregular biological rhythms?
Does your child have regular or irregular biological rhythms?


Temperament refers to personality traits that determine how someone reacts to the world. Are they quiet or rambunctious? Easygoing or apprehensive? The traits of temperament are mostly innate traits that we are born with, although they can be influenced by an individual’s family, culture or their experiences. A person’s temperament style plays a role in how they behave and how they interact with other people and within their world.

There are nine different traits of temperament, and in this article we will explore the trait of biological rhythms.

Biological rhythms

Biological rhythms refer to the regularity of someone’s internal drives, like eating, sleeping and toileting. Some individuals will have very regular routines; they like to get up at the same time each day, eat at the same time and sleep at the same time. Others may be more irregular; their daily rhythms will vary quite a bit and it is harder for them to stick to rigid routines.

Regular rhythms

Children who have regular rhythms will easily stick to a routine. It will be easy for them to eat meals and snacks at the same time each day, nap and sleep and even toilet around the same time each day. This makes it easy for parents to have a predicable routine.

Irregular rhythms

Children with irregular rhythms will have varying schedules because their patterns are irregular. It will be difficult for them to nap, eat or toilet at the same time each day. It may be challenging for these children to stick to a strict daily routine, as they may not feel tired at the same time each day.

Parenting and biological rhythms

When you understand your child’s biological rhythms, it can be easier to set up your expectations or you daily schedule for your child to be successful and to avoid stress for you and your child. If your child is highly regular, you can set a daily schedule and do your best to stick to it. If your child has rhythms that are more irregular, it can be helpful to have a more flexible routine when possible. Try letting your child nap when they are tired instead of insisting on a 1 p.m. nap every day.

Letting your daily schedule and your expectations vary to meet your child’s natural rhythms can prevent conflict and stress, and allow your child to have their needs met in a way that plays to their strengths and builds upon their natural temperament.

For more information about children and temperament, check out the other articles in this series:

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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