“My girls are so different,” a friend told me recently. “Maddie is so placid – nothing phases her, and she’s so smiley. Charlotte flies off the handle at the slightest thing – she’s got such a temper.” When you consider how different we all are as people, it’s no surprise to realise our personalities and characters are forming even at such a young age. So, what’s your baby’s temperament?
What is temperament?
Temperament is your baby’s style of behaviour when it comes to reacting to unfamiliar situations, expressing emotions and handling their feelings. It includes factors like their natural activity level, how easily distracted they are, how adaptable, how they respond to new experiences, how sensitive they can be and general mood.
Temperament is innate, part of your baby. It’s different to personality, which is something that is acquired and develops over time.
The four main temperament types are easy, challenging, cautious, and sensitive or slow-to-warm-up.
The easy baby
Parents of easy babies make it look so effortless. Their little ones settle quickly into a routine but aren’t fazed when it changes, or by new situations. They sleep well and are generally happy and in a good mood. If something is wrong, they’ll fuss a little – but not excessively, and they’ll soon calm down again.
The challenging baby
Luckily, only around 10% of babies are classed as challenging or difficult. They tend to cry a lot, find it hard to adapt to new situations, and tend to have irregular routines for a long time. They’ll be slow to come out of a mood or temper, and may seem to be unhappy a lot of the time. If your child is challenging, you might find yourself wondering what you’re doing wrong, but the answer is – nothing.
The cautious baby
If your baby seems timid and doesn’t really make many claims on you, chances are they are cautious. They’ll seem calm most of the time but are usually resistant to change – they’ll take a while to settle into new situations or activities. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because your cautious baby doesn’t demand your attention she doesn’t need it – she does. She still wants to learn and be with you, so make sure you spend as much time as you can playing with and talking to her.
Sensitive or slow-to-warm-up
Sensitive babies tend to jump at sudden noises, get upset by mess and don’t like unfamiliar tastes or strong smells. They’re usually alert and can be hard to calm once they start crying – sensitive babies aren’t good at self-soothing, either. A sensitive baby can need more personal space, too. Be patient, and while it’s good to set basic routines, be flexible – a sensitive baby might suddenly want change, but also won’t want to be pushed into anything.
A bit of a mix
Around half of parents will find their baby doesn’t fit neatly into any one category. Instead, they’ll combine elements of two or more temperaments. You’ll likely find one is the most dominant, though, and shapes your parenting.
You’ll also find, as your baby gets older and develops more skills and knowledge, this will even out their most extreme behaviour – and you’ll begin to see their personality emerge.