Understanding your child’s personality
Research on temperament shows babies may differ in several ways:
- Regularity: Some babies eat, sleep, and even mess their diapers at around the same times each day. Others never do things at the same times from one day to the next.
- Approach or withdrawal: Some babies shy away from new things, while other babies seek them out.
- Adaptability: Some babies won't take their formula if it isn't the right temperature, and some babies can only sleep in their own cribs. Others seem to do fine wherever they are.
- Intensity of reaction: Some babies whimper quietly if they're cold or hungry. Others howl as soon as they're unhappy.
- Sensitivity: Some babies notice the tiniest change in their surroundings. Others can sleep through thunderstorms.
All these things together make up your baby's temperament. Some combinations are easier to live with than others.
Easy babies are somewhat active, have regular bodily functions, adapt easily to change, and are usually happy. Slow-to-warm-up babies have variable bodily functions, pull away from new things a little, and adapt slowly to change. Challenging babies tend to have irregular bodily functions, withdraw from new situations, adapt slowly to change, and react very strongly. For example, challenging babies may have a more difficult time going to sleep and may cry longer and louder.
If your baby is challenging, remember these three things:
- Baby is not being difficult on purpose and is not a bad baby. He can grow up just as bright and loving as other children.
- This is the "style" of behavior your baby was born with, but she may change as she grows.
- A challenging baby needs a more caring and patient parent, who will accept him and help him learn.
To help a challenging baby, pay attention to your baby's signals and adjust your parenting to her temperament. Introduce new things slowly so she gets used to them. For example, try new foods a week later if he doesn't like them at first. Praise baby when she accepts something new. Limit the number of changes you make in baby's routine so he won't be overwhelmed. Over time you will find just the right amount of stimulation and change to suit him. Remember, the style of temperament that makes baby a challenge at this age can help her be careful in making decisions when she is older.