After the birth of a child, parents are very aware that an important new person has entered their lives. However, it can still take a while to figure out just who that new person is.
The personality that your child eventually develops will be a combination of nature and nurture, that is the personality traits that your child is genetically predisposed to and the way the world reacts to them.
Research has demonstrated that a predisposition to many personality traits is inherited. The “big five” personality traits with a genetic component are extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and an openness to experience. Everyone is a combination of these traits to varying degrees. As well as inheriting such tendencies toward personality traits, who your baby will grow up to be also has a lot to do with your parenting.
During the first few weeks of a newborn’s life, parents can already derive some insight into their child’s personality. For example, how your child reacts to stimuli, may become apparent. How sensitive is your baby to noise? Some babies can sleep through the noise of a running vacuum, while others startle at the drop of a pin. How easy is your baby to soothe? Some babies cry more easily and are difficult to console, while others are calm and adaptable. How open is your baby to new experiences? Some babies are happy to be held by anyone while others only feel comfortable with familiar faces. In the early weeks you may already notice how regular your baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule is, how physically active he is, how easily you can calm or distract him.
These predispositions will in turn influence your parenting style. For example, if you have an easily overstimulated baby, you may want to limit your excursions, especially around nap time. If your child is more adaptable, you may be more inclined to go places with him, since he is likely to fall asleep anywhere.
It’s important to note that while some early behavior may hint at aspects of a child’s personality, many different factors, some of them temporary, can influence a baby’s behavior. A fussy baby does not necessarily grow up to be a fussy child.
A fretful newborn or a baby who cries inconsolably because of colic can grow up to be an easy-going well-adjusted toddler. A six-month old who refuses to eat unfamiliar food can go on to enjoy a wide variety of food later on. Illness, colic, teething, or changes in the immediate environment can make babies more irritable and they can’t yet use words to tell you what’s bothering them. If it seems that your baby must adhere to a fixed schedule, don’t worry too much, since he may become more adaptable later on.
Some behavior does becomes more intense as a child ages, while other behavior may be moderated by parenting and the behavior of those the child encounters.
Recognizing personality traits such as introversion or adaptability can help you parent in the most proactive way. For example, if your baby seems shy of new people and experiences, you may want to introduce them slowly, giving your child a chance to warm up. If your child won’t eat spinach at nine months, wait a while. He may enjoy it later.
Caring for a baby who is sensitive and difficult to calm can be exhausting and may cause you to doubt your parenting skills. Studies have shown, however, that some babies are just easier to care for than others. Caring for a fussy, difficult-to-calm child can also make you worry about your baby’s future as a child or adult, but the same qualities that make some babies difficult to soothe, can contribute to their success later on.
By about four months, you will able to recognize many aspects of your child’s developing personality and parent accordingly. Developing a parenting strategy that suits your child’s personality can take a while but that personality also takes a while to develop. Although the temperamental characteristics that emerge during the first year do form the basis of a personality, that personality probably won’t crystallize until your child is about three years old. Whatever personality traits your baby displays during the early years, responsive conscientious parenting can make the most of them.