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When children are very young, parents and family members may start attribute traits to them. Some parents may feel that their child is ‘shy’ or ‘sensitive’. Others might say their child is ‘easy-going’ or a ‘happy child. While these characteristics might just give hints of what parents can expect, a child’s true personality may take some time to emerge. That said, learning about a child’s personality from early on, can help parents use the right techniques to raise their child!
How Is Temperament Different from Personality?
One can get a hint of a child’s personality from very early on in life. For example, some infants crave routines while some want flexibility. Researchers and psychologists call these early clues ‘temperament’. Temperament is innate to a person. Babies will naturally have some temperament but that need not necessarily become their personality.
Personality is what one would call the total of an individual’s emotional, behavioural response, and attitude. This generally emerges, in the truest sense, only in the adolescent years. Most psychologists believe that an individual’s personality can be observed over a course of years. These traits keep changing and building in a clear and consistent manner until the teenage years. Prior to adolescence, a child’s behaviour can be seen as a reaction to other personalities. The behavioural responses start to show at around 11-12 years of age.
At What Age Does a Child’s True Personality Emerge?
Typically, at age of 3-5, your child will display certain personality traits. In fact, you will learn some traits even in the first few months of life. As your child becomes more mobile, you will see them indicating their independence. As they grow they start showing signs of being more social or shy. As the child experiences the outside world as they grow, start going to school, and making friends, you will see their personality emerging.
By the time they are adolescents, they will have specific traits that will become evident and their personalities will more or less be sealed in their teenage years.
What Are The Different Types of Personality Traits in Children?
Different child personality types can be classified according to personality traits. Like temperament, personality traits have been differentiated in different ways by different researchers. The most common personality theories focus on five key personality traits:
This trait is characterized by someone who is very precision-driven, responsible, and working towards a long-term goal on their own accord. Such people tend to need less supervision to complete any undertaking.
Such people tend to be social and have positive social interactions and experiences, are pleasant to interact with, work towards helping others and cooperate with others when working in a group. They also display their affection readily and more often.
3. Openness to Experience
A person willing to experience new things is flexible, creative, curious, and adventurous. They like stimulating their mind and sense and enjoy different things like art, music, sampling exotic cuisines, and reading. Open-mindedness in their approach, they see the novelty in their day-to-day life.
People who tend to display negative traits like guilt, anger, anxiety, stress, and depression regularly find it difficult to cope with day-to-day life. People with high levels of neuroticism generally respond poorly to stress and also tend to interpret a situation as threatening and difficult.
Extroverts are generally people who have high energy levels and enjoy being around people, unlike introverts who like being by themselves.
Most of these traits tend to crystallize in children during their tween years (years between childhood and teenage). The resulting combination of traits is what will define their personality ultimately.
How Parents Can Adapt To Their Child’s Different Personalities
Children have different personalities. A child’s strength could be another child’s weakness. The key is to identify the specific traits, differences and understand them. Parents need to know how to raise a child in a manner that is sensitive and congruous to their specific traits. A few tips that parents can use to adapt are:
1. Study your child’s personality.
Study your child and how they interact with others. Observe your child to understand if your child is bold, shy, observant, or extrovert. Try to figure out the kind of activities your child enjoys. Understand their energy level, tolerance to frustrations, and their reactions to changes. All these answers would be a guide to gauging your child’s characteristic traits.
2. Appreciate their individuality.
It is difficult for parents to accept that their child is different from what they expected. Parents would want their child to love tennis but the child may prefer reading books. Likewise, if your child has inherited your traits and flaws, you may constantly be at loggerheads. Let go of any preconceived notions and accept their personality as is. Some behaviours could be challenging, but it is important to accept that and work on it with love and appreciation.
3. Show empathy.
Sometimes, personality traits can be frustrating. Your child may love flexibility but you love routine. You will find times when your personality or the things you do, or rather the way you do them, may not match with your child’s ways and could lead to conflict. It is important to step back and view things from a different perspective. It is important to show some empathy to your child’s likes and dislikes and find ways to compromise and find a solution to evade any potential conflict. For instance, if your child needs time to prepare for something, keep repeating, giving them opportunities to unwind, and help them in every way to prepare for what they wish to.
4. Separate your needs.
Your needs may be different from what your child wants. For example, you and your partner may like going out and socializing, but your child may prefer staying home. Adapt your parenting style to set healthy boundaries and see your child as an individual with different likes and dislikes.
5. Advocate for your child.
There might be some people who will judge your child’s actions and mannerisms. Try and avoid them. Advocate your child’s unique traits and always use positive affirmations to counter negative comments. For instance, if someone thinks says that your child is too independent and daring, acknowledge it by saying that your child is bold, spirited, and knows exactly what they want. This way your child will feel that you are always with them and they will always trust you with everything.
How to Test Your Child’s Reaction
Each trait triggers a different reaction in children. The below five traits are prefect indicators or levels on how your child reacts to routines, familiarity and other things. Each of these levels is present in every child and what differs is how they are expressed. It is important to note any particular patterns and adapt your parenting style according.
1. The Intensity of Reaction
Some children are big reactors and some the opposite. Some children may squeal in excitement or shout when happy and throw things when they are angry. Some may never create a fuss and won’t show any change of emotions in their facial expressions or tone of voice.
Kids can show their reactions in different ways. Walking away, screaming, making a face are just some ways in which they might react when angry or upset.
What You Can Do
- If you have a low-key child
- Engage in activities that encourage turn-taking so that the child is engaged.
- Keep doing things to generate attention like music and using different, dramatic voice while reading.
- Get your child to be more active.
2. If your child throws tantrums
- Avoid very loud music and lighting
- Avoid any triggers for a meltdown and gently move away. Show signs of love and affection like a hug or a high five.
- Get your child to sleep well and a few extra hours.
2. Level of Activity
Right from the time your child starts walking, you can gauge the activity level of your child. Some may just be on the go, constantly walking and moving whilst some may choose to explore toys right where they are sitting. Some children may be interested to use their hands and legs to explore their toys than being out and about.
Some kids may be energetic and enjoy running around while others may like to sit and play where they are. Each child will exuberate different energy and activity levels. Here’s how you can deal with them.
What You Can Do
- If your child is not very active.
- Place a toy or object a little away from the reach of your child to stimulate them to move ahead and reach for it.
- Follow your child’s lead and first get them to watch. Slowly introduce them to move with your assistance.
- Listen to music together and groove to it. Encourage your child to move with the beat by using your hands to shake their hands, legs and hips.
2. If your child is active.
- Offer opportunities for exploration. Hide and seek, tag, etc., are some games that will keep them busy.
- Do not expect the child to sit for very long and keep them moving.
- Limit playtime before going to bed to get them to relax.
3. Tolerance to Frustration
Toddler years are ideal to gauge frustration levels. A child who is more tolerant will keep trying and the ones who lose steam will exhibit signs of frustration and irritation.
Some kids may have a positive attitude and will keep trying until they reach their goals. While other kids may give up easily if they are frustrated. Here’s how you can deal with both!
What You Can Do
- If your child tends to give up easily.
- Encourage them by saying that what they are doing is a tough task and that they should keep trying.
- Assist your child with solutions to achieve the outcome.
- Get your child to take a break and try again later.
2. If your child is persistent.
- Join in with your child while playing as the interaction could bring out the best in him.
- Keep checking to see what your child is doing and suggest new and alternate ways of trying things.
- Be firm as a persistent child may refuse to give up. Mention that sometimes things will take time and they need to wait.
4. Gauging Response to Change
Children tend to adapt to change quickly, but on odd occasions, there will be children who disagree with any change. A small change to the placement of the furniture in their room could disturb them. On the other hand, there are children who take things in their stride and carry on.
To some kids, changes hardly seem to matter, and they accept them. But other kids may not like the change at all. Here’s how parents can deal with children who love or resist change.
What You Can Do
- If your child resists changes.
- Use familiar objects to ease transitions.
- Familiarise them before introducing any new activity so that they get comfortable.
- Give advance notice before the start and finish of any activity.
2. If your child is comfortable with changes.
- Understand that a child may be sending soft signals and accepting change.
- Be sure to spend quality one-to-one time to catch any signals that may seem questionable.
5. Gauging Reactions to New People
Most children differ in their response when they see new people or unfamiliar faces. Some may give their best grin and some may withdraw into their room.
Children may or may not like meeting or interacting with new people. Let’s look at how to deal with children who like or dislike interacting with others.
What You Can Do
- For the child who resists new faces.
- Be a part of the introduction process and get new people to know about your child. Mention about their favorite toy or book so that can be a topic as an ice breaker.
- Prepare your child if they are going to see unfamiliar faces.
- Do not label your child and support them. Do not give names like ‘shy’ or ‘introvert’.
2. For the child who is enthusiastic about new faces.
- Offer several opportunities for your child to interact to help build their social skills.
- Step in if your child is having a difficult moment. Even the most gregarious child could have a tough time.
- Offer your children time to play by themselves.
Observing your child’s behaviour and how they function in day-to-day life can help you understand your child’s temperament and personality. Raising a child is not easy, but understanding your child’s personality traits can help you raise them better. As a parent be involved and take time to decipher what your child needs and customize it to help your child grow into a good individual.