Add This to the List of Essential Skills: Temperament

The term “temperament” came up when I was listening to the radio Saturday, in an interview of Doris Kearns Goodwin, the author and expert on several U.S. Presidents, by Scott Simon of National Public Radio.

The program dealt with the temperament of a leader. They discussed the temperament of President Trump, referring to recent tweets of the President promoting his character, and criticizing his perceived enemies.

“The ability to control impulses and emotions is a really important part of temperament of any leader, not just a president,” said Kearns. “Most of our best presidents had resilience. The ability to get through troubling times. When they’re attacked, they don’t take it personally.”

I thought this term absolutely defines what I wrote about in last week’s post on essential skills – how to get through life without making mistakes that can derail your success, and that of others.

Controlling impulses is an important skill for kids to learn, and it comes from a more even temperament. Some psychologists say temperament is innate, but it is something one can work on.

The Merriam-Webster definition of temperament is: characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response.

The definition of the adjective, temperamental, helps explain the trait more clearly: marked by excessive sensitivity and impulsive mood changes; unpredictable in behavior or performance.

If one is temperamental, they may react inappropriately in a work-based setting. Maybe they would be quick to become angry, sensitive, and unable to deal with unexpected events. Maybe they would lose their job.

An even temperament creates a more discerning, deliberate person, able to reason with criticism and/or consider different points of view.

In education, you hear often about children who get in trouble. They get mad or sad easily and sometimes react in violent ways. This behavior impedes their development and often becomes a cycle that pulls them behind in school.

The efforts in schools to promote mindfulness and calming down can help children develop a more even temperament. And learning to deal with disputes by coming together to find ways to avoid conflict and restore relationships will suggest different ways to react, including not reacting without thinking things through.

What I will say about our President is that I wish he wouldn’t react so quickly to perceived slights, but instead, would communicate with inspiration, wisdom and discernment. We would all benefit, including our children.


About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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