family dancing

How Active Are You?

When do you feel the most relaxed?

When you can be actively involved in a project.

Or with a group of people who love to explore the outdoors or the city.

Maybe you are most relaxed if you can take a stroll, or better yet, find a nice place to sit and watch nature.

What if you are feeling stressed?

Do you try to find something to do to release the stress?

Or do you look for a quiet spot to chill and destress?

These are all examples of your temperament trait of activity. Activity consists of how fast or slow you prefer to go if nobody tells you to hurry up or slow down.

Activity or energy is found on a spectrum, ranging from those who are naturally terribly slow and like less active situations to those who would love to dance all night in a crowded party. Of course, you may be somewhere in the middle, enjoying times of high activity and other times of low activity, just kicking back.

Your child is the same way. His temperament trait of activity is a blend of you and his other parent, plus some environmental factors that may have affected his brain development. You may be a good fit for him, each wanting to be on the go or enjoying just doing board games or other more still activities. Or, you may have a poor fit, where one is high activity, and the other is low. The same goes for his other parent.

When you talk about goodness of fit, you describe how easily each of you can accommodate the other's response to situations. In the case of high activity, it would be necessary to expend internal energy. If you are high activity, you feel energy building up within you often. It would help if you found ways to use that energy that does not disrupt your situation. If you are low energy, you must plan or schedule downtimes to recharge for the next energy-depleting activity.

These accommodations are more straightforward for you to do as an adult than your child can since you get to make the decisions. To help your child, you need to determine if he is high or low activity or maybe more of a midway active child. Then it would help if you considered where you are on the activity spectrum to understand when you may need to be somewhat uncomfortable for your child's needs.



If your child is low activity, he will feel like he is running when you see him as barely walking. Asking him to hurry up will lead to a slight increase in energy, but he will quickly tire out. He will then begin to ask for a break to rest. If you don't allow it, he will start to whine and cry, eventually falling to the ground. Getting mad and yelling at him won't help since your emotions drain his energy faster.

In these situations, you are the adult who can delay gratification longer and needs to bend. Give him the first rest. Then set up one of these possible strategies:

  • Ask him how long he thinks he can walk until he needs the next rest. Then go that far and ask him if he has any more steps in him or if he wants the rest now. Keep doing it until you get where you are going.
  • Make it into a game based on his interests. For example, have him pretend to be one of his favorite characters and be that character for 5 minutes of walking.
  • Race to the next stop point. He needs to beat you, but you must ensure that you are only moving slightly faster than he is, allowing him to win if he stays close. Then be excited to see who will win the next stop point.
  • For getting dressed, have a race, where your mouth makes the clock ticking sound as you both try to put on a piece of clothing first. If he is working hard at it, let him win. If he begins to stall out, you can encourage him a bit that he is doing well, but if he continues to drag, have the clock tick faster and finally go off with you winning. Then you get excited and say (after a rest, of course) you wonder who will get the socks on first (or if he is extremely slow, one sock at a time).

These strategies can be modified for activities such as chores, brushing teeth, eating, etc. As your child can tolerate going a little bit faster and maybe having shorter breaks, you can encourage him to go a little faster. You don't want to stress him too much since that will drain his energy quickly and put you farther behind on what you are trying to do.

He will always be more comfortable at a slower pace, but with patience and practice on your part, he will be able to increase his tolerance in short bursts and learn to build in down times to recharge as an adult.


Although it may sound odd, many of the same strategies can work with high-activity children but with a focus on taking more time and going slower. You will have to be a pacing model, and when it is time for a break, you want to let your child be more active.

  • Before starting any activity or chore, have your child do some running in place, jumping jacks, or other activities to lower his internal energy.

If you need him to walk someplace, like from the car into the house, or a store, make a reverse race out of it. To do this, you let him know that you want to race, and that the winner is the one who gets there LAST! Start side by side, and after you say go, have a continuous conversation about how each of you is doing to get there last. If he gets ahead of you, be excited that you are winning. If you get ahead of him, act frustrated at how good he is doing. If he has been working hard at staying even or behind you, allow him to win.

  • If he cannot slow down long enough, you can go ahead and win but then excitedly say that you can't wait to race him again.
  • You need to break the activity down into parts for chores or homework. Then focus on your child getting it down accurately, not fast. You may want to develop a checklist of the steps to do the activity right and check off what he has done and what he needs to work on. For example, on a worksheet, he needs to put his name at the top, number his problems, show his work, etc.
  • In between parts of a chore or homework, give him 5 minutes of activity time to expend the energy that has built up. If you don't, he will have more difficulty completing the following task with a slower, more detailed focus.

Your high-activity child will always need additional outlets for his energy to do what he needs daily. But with your help, through modeling and support, he will get better.

In summary, the temperament trait of activity is inborn, frequently inherited, and neither good nor bad. If on the extreme end of the spectrum, your child may need extra attention and support to gain control over his activity level for different tasks. You do this with your love and guidance. And you may also learn how to control your activity also.

If you are interested in an in-depth look at three factors of children and adolescents that can create positive or negative futures, check out my program, Developing a Calm Classroom.