Because our personalities are primarily genetic and therefore mostly determined at birth, we can look for signs of a baby’s temperament from even the earliest moments. Temperament is considered to be our natural disposition.
Learning about your baby’s temperament helps you become a better parent. When you know what your baby’s preferences are, you can anticipate them and plan accordingly. You can also help your baby adapt when he has difficulties, and guide and modify his reactions.
Your child’s temperament may be similar to yours, or very different from your own, so it can be very helpful for a parent to recognize how your baby is beginning to look at the world.
Though there may be many signs and signals of a baby’s future personality, we can look to the following areas for the most reliable predictors of temperament:
What kind of movement style does your baby prefer? Does she kick and move around frequently, or is she more relaxed? Can she stay in one place for periods of time or does she like to be in motion?
Adaptability to Change
How does your baby react to new places and new people? Does he pick up and examine a new toy right away? Is he apprehensive and wary of unfamiliar people and situations? Does he jump right into different experiences or does he stay on the sidelines and ease into new things?
Sensitivity to Stimuli
How does she react to noise? Do loud sounds interest or frighten her? How does she react to changes in light? Does she prefer a dark or bright space? Does she react poorly to some fabrics, clothing, and tags, or does she not seem to notice?
Reaction to Frustration
How persistent is he when it comes to challenges? Does he give up right away, or does he keep going until he accomplishes what he sets out to do? Does he reach out to you for assistance quickly or does he attain goals on his own?
Regularity of Behavior
Does your baby follow a regular routine easily or with difficulty? How well does your baby sleep or nap? Does she eat and sleep at roughly the same time each day, or is she more unpredictable?
While most temperaments are somewhat fixed, environment can play a role, as well as developmental differences down the road. Babies also go through periods where they may have a particular difficulty in one area, but that change is not lasting.
Temperament is not something your baby chooses nor is it your doing, so don’t place blame. There’s no right or wrong here. Instead, learn how you can best foster your baby’s emotional growth and support the unique individual your baby is becoming.