Child development experts are still locked in a debate over nature versus nurture. It is the longstanding argument over whether a person’s innate qualities (“nature”) or her personal experiences (“nurture”) carry more importance in determining individual differences in her physical, behavioral, and personality traits.
As a parent, you may have often wondered what your child’s personality type is. Although tons of books on parenting and child development have coined many different terms to describe children’s temperaments, they pretty much boil down to these three basic types:
The difficult or spirited type finds it difficult to adapt to new situations and often tends to have a negative attitude. If your child easily gets frustrated when things do not go her way, she might belong to this type. For example, if she insists on getting that pricey doll in the baby boutique and you say no, before you know it she will probably start an elaborate public tantrum and not stop until you give in. Some children are just naturally harder to manage than others and a spirited child can still be taught limits and healthy self-expression over time.
The slow-to-warm-up or shy type is very cautious when facing new situations and is usually slow to warm up to new people. If your little one finds it difficult to socialize with other children, she might belong to this type. While shyness is not necessarily a “problem,” you can help her break out of her shell. Help her build self-esteem by praising her whenever she tries new things. Pretty soon, she may be happily showing off her massive hair accessories collection to her new friends.
The easy type is upbeat and adapts easily to new people and situations. Her response intensity is mild to moderate. An upbeat child can be a joy and a challenge too. Children under this type are usually easygoing, sociable and have positive temperaments and on good days, there’s nothing challenging about that! She loves being with her friends and meeting new ones. And she is usually the type who does not mind sharing her baby gifts with others.
Of course, these basic types are far too general to sufficiently describe your wonderful little tot. So here are a few more key characteristics discussed by Helene Goldnadel to help you define your child’s personality type:
- Energy level: Can your child sit quietly long enough to read a book? Or is she in perpetual motion? It is not just her behavior during the day that her energy level affects. It also affects the quantity and quality of her sleep at night, and this can in turn affect her behavior the following day.
- Adaptability: How does your child adjust to new situations? Does this reaction change over time? For example, she may be uncomfortable going to a new place like school at first, but she may warm up to her surroundings eventually.
- Intensity: How intense are your child’s emotional reactions? This goes for both positive and negative reactions. For example, if she is prone to tantrums, she is likely to be described as an intense child.
- Mood: If you could sum up her general attitude in one word, what would it be? Some children tend to be naturally upbeat, while others tend to be melancholy.
- Attention span: Is your child able to stick with a task without getting distracted? For example, if she cannot do her homework when someone is talking or music is being played, it could be because she has a short attention span.
- Sensory threshold: How much stimulation does your child require before she responds? For example, some children find even the faintest noise annoying while others are not bothered even with a steady bombardment of TV, radio and computer noise all at once.