Understanding your baby better

One of the more challenging (and interesting 😊) aspects of parenting is the realisation that your baby is not a replica of yourself and that they have their own unique personality. This can be even more challenging for you when their temperament traits are completely at odds with your own! What is personality?

There is no one definition for describing personality, but this is a pretty good one: "Although no single definition is acceptable to all personality theorists, we can say that personality is a pattern of relatively permanent traits and unique characteristics that give both consistency and individuality to a person's behaviour." -Feist and Feist, 2009 Your child's personality will be influenced by their temperament. Temperament is a set of in-born traits that influence a child’s approach to the world. They are considered instrumental in the development of your child’s distinct personality and will determine how your child both learns about the world around them and then interacts with it. Understanding your baby’s temperament can help your relationship with them and also their relationship with the world. By working with their traits instead of against them, you can help reduce conflict between yourselves, learn to understand them better and increase their sense of self-esteem. It is important to note that how a personality trait is regarded by the world can have a significant effect on how a child perceives themselves. As with all aspects of your baby’s development the caring and sensitive love of a parent/carer is a major factor for their happiness and sense of security. By recognising their individual traits and working with these traits, you will be helping your child learn how to interact with their wider community more successfully. Temperament traits have been categorised as follows: Activity Refers to the level of physical activity, motion, restlessness, or fidgety behaviour that a child demonstrates. A highly active baby will be constantly on the move, whereas a less active baby will be content to lie quietly or sit in your lap listening. Regularity Refers to how easily babies develop and stick with routines. While some babies seem to demand a routine, other seem not to be able to settle into a schedule no matter how hard their parents work on developing one. Adaptability Refers to how quickly babies adjust to new experiences. Those babies that are considered adaptable will quickly relax when they meet new people or are brought to new places. Less adaptable babies will take a long time to feel comfortable in these new situations and may rarely venture far from their carer’s side. Intensity Refers to the strength of a baby’s emotions when dealing with the world around them. Some babies scream hysterically when they are unhappy and others just whine. Babies can show differences in intensity when they are feeling happy too: some babies will giggle with glee while others just smile. Sensory Threshold Refers to how much sensory input is needed to get a response from a baby. Some babies are highly sensitive to noises, smells, and bright lights and can find loud, busy places overwhelming. Distractibility Refers to how easily babies can be distracted from perhaps something they want or something dangerous. One baby maybe redirected away from the TV remote by giving them a toy or a book, while another will keep crawling back, no matter what parents do to distract them. Attention Span Refers to how long babies stay focused on something that interests them. What Parents Can Do:

Parents and carers can work with these traits to make their children’s interaction with the world easier. As an example:

If you are a parent of socially cautious baby you should ensure that they do have lots familiar, quiet activities to enjoy. You should also try to expose them to lots of different people and situations. When taking them to new places or engaging in new situations always be mindful to let them go at their own pace and letting them know that staying ‘safely’ near you is ok. Alternatively, if your baby is considered outgoing, you will be encouraging them to play with others and try new things, but always remember to include some quiet, individual play into their routine to help build their concentration.