From as early as four months, your child will start to show who he is with specific personality traits. They may be social butterflies, happily bundled from one new grown-up to another. Some may be bubbliest when kept to a routine. Others may giggle hysterically at loud noises, while their siblings well up with tears. These little differences are the beautiful things that set individuals apart. And as a parent, you have the privilege of watching these little quirks blossom.
Many parents wonder if they had any role in the development of these personal tastes. And while the subject has been researched and debated for decades, the answer seems to be yes and no.
Is personality inherited?
Long-term research* on identical twins separated at birth revealed uncanny similarities in life choices. These twins sometimes chose the same careers and hobbies, similar partners and gave their kids the same names – all the while being influenced by different parents, role models and environments.
While some parents opt for gender neutral parenting – treating boys and girls exactly the same – the outside world, from TV adverts to other children they’ve met, will influence the tendencies of your children. If a little boy sees his favourite TV character playing raucously, he may imitate those behaviours, while his sister twirls in front of a mirror. These are clearly socially developed behaviours.
Understand their ways
According to Susan Cain, author of Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller Quiet (£8.99, Penguin), determining whether your child is an extrovert or an introvert will help you understand why they behave in certain ways. Basing her theories on decades of research, she believes that children are born one or the other.
The best way to tell from an early age is a sensitivity to noise. Tests on tots showed that those who find loud noises upsetting had a tendency toward introversion, while those who barely noticed banging and popping sounds were seen to be extrovert.
Plan for patience
This might seem very basic, but consider how far-reaching it could be for them. Says Susan: ‘The classic distinction between introverts and extroverts is that introverts recharge their batteries by being alone, while extroverts recharge them in company – often, a lot of company.’
According to Susan, introverts ‘tend to be keen observers who look before they leap.’ On the other hand, ‘extroverts tend to be quick-thinking multi-taskers who lean toward impulsiveness.’ This means your introverted child more than likely won’t be found hanging upside down from a tree with their extroverted sibling.
Notice how your child behaves in different environments, and plan ahead instead of getting annoyed in the heat of the moment.
By accepting them as they are, you will allow them to do that for themselves – building a healthy self-confidence money can’t buy.
Encourage them to be unique
Your might find one of your child’s traits irritating, but remember that’s part of who he is, resist the urge to stop him acting from natural instinct
- Your child has a unique personality – your role is to help it blossom
- Don’t expect your child to be what you’re not, and don’t put pressure on him to fulfil your own dreams
- All children have positive qualities, and these need to be supported. For instance, curiosity is hugely important; be patient and answer all those ‘but why’ questions
- Remember that you are your child’s role model, and he will learn from watching and doing things with you
- Try not to label your child ‘naughty’ or ‘grumpy’ – it’s better to see him as constantly changing and adapting to the situations around him
- If your child is regularly out of sorts in specific situations, consider the reasons why, instead of forcing them to change the way they are
- Try not to compare your baby with other children – if your friend’s child appears far sunnier spirited, don’t be downhearted, they could be a nightmare to get to sleep
'Every baby is hard wired with their own traits. Responding to them in a positive manner will support your infant's unique personality and bond the two of you together as he grows into his own.'
Look out for the signs that reveal his little personality
INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?
Babies who are sensitive to sensory stimulation may react strongly to loud noises and bright lights. Other babies may be oblivious. Knowing what upsets your infant goes a long way toward helping his avoid the troubling triggers.
CALM OR ACTIVE?
Does he wiggle and jiggle all day, or is he content to sit back and relax? More active babies may be tougher to parent, day-to-day. They don’t sleep as much, they become restless, and you have to watch them like hawks. But at the same time, they are curious, alert, and quick to pick up new skills.
HAPPY OR SAD?
Some babies are smiley and sunny – and some just aren’t. That doesn’t mean they’re not content or that you’re doing something wrong – it’s just the way they’re wired.
PREDICTABLE OR NOT?
The ‘regular’ baby sets he schedule all on his own – waking, sleeping, eating, and playing at the same time, in the same way each day. If your baby is unpredictable, you’ll need to ease him into a more regular pattern if you can. Be gentle, but consistent.
ADAPTABLE OR CAUTIOUS?
When faced with a new person, place, or even plaything, does your baby carry on as if nothing’s changed, or does he need plenty of time to warm up? Once you know, you can (try to) plan accordingly.