Ok, I run the risk of sounding naive when I say this but, I’ll take the chance anyway. I always knew that babies had personalities but what I didn’t expect was how early they truly develop their own personality. My daughter’s personality has changed only a little bit since she was born. She still is to this day, very determined, knows what she wants, doesn’t give in easily (if at all), and it requires work to hear her sweet laugh!
Knowing and understanding your child’s temperament can help them in different situations and also help you be a more understanding parent. To recognize your child’s temperament you’ll need to assess your child’s activity level, how predictable they are (eating, sleeping, adapting to new situations), sensory threshold (how sensitive is your baby to lights or loud noises), how loud or quite they are, and their general mood. These clues will give you an idea as to their general temperament. Here are some examples of common baby temperaments:
Unicorn or angel baby: This is the easiest going baby e.v.e.r. On average this baby is calm, easy to feed, put to sleep, and doesn’t fuss much. On the occasions she does become upset, she is easily distracted and calms down fairly easily. These parents pat themselves on the back and carry on with life as if not much changed when their baby joined the family.
By the book baby: This baby develops right on time, experiences leaps and milestones precisely when he should, and all calming techniques work like a charm when he gets upset. This is a very predictable baby who can easy join along on a trip as long as food and sleep are taken care of for him! These parents know how to help calm and soothe him and he responds appropriately. They are able to set a schedule for the day based on his predictable body clock.
Sensitive baby: This kiddo is sensitive to light, sound, and touch. It doesn’t take much for her to become uncomfortable and then tell everyone about it with wails! Everything must to just right and it’s hard not being able to communicate needs with more than cries. She most likely will be sensitive to food textures and tastes. She will also need a dark, quiet room for sleeping; otherwise sounds and light will distract her. It is shown that sensitive babies have an over-active sympathetic nervous system that increases the experiences of touch and sound. Parents of sensitive babies know it because they will be standing on their left foot, feeding their baby with the spoon tilted at a 45° angle, and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star because that’s how Baby Sara will eat her sweet potatoes.
Spirited baby: A spirited baby has a strong personality right from the beginning. Spirited babies are described as being…..more. More of everything. More intensity, personality, wants, high-energy, and intense reactions. Parents of spirited babies often feel worn out from the amount of energy their child has. As they get older they are able to remember small details of events or point out little changes from before. I often recommend the book, Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, for parents with spirited children. Although sometimes exhausting, spirited children can offer parents a lesson in understanding people at a new level.
Your baby will fit into more than one category and probably is a combination of more than one temperament. Our baby’s personality also shapes how we are as parents so understanding your child’s needs can help you develop your parenting technique too.
Now, look at your own temperament! Do you recognize any of the same traits in yourself?
Hogg, T. (2005). The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. New York: Atria Books.
Kurcinka, M.S. (2006). Raising Your Spirited Child, Rev. ed. New York: Harper.
Kutner, L. (Ph.D). (2016). What’s Your Baby’s Temperament? Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/whats-your-babys-temperament/