Just the Way You Are: Parenting According to Your Toddler’s Personality

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parenting toddler's personality

By: Nina Malanay

From the moment my eldest son was born, I already knew I was in for a wild ride. I had to deliver him via emergency C-section because his heartbeat was slowing down – a sign that he was in fetal distress. Turns out, he had managed to loop his umbilical cord around himself 6 times! He was that active!

While it is true that a child’s personality is shaped by his experiences, his environment, and the kind of nurturing he receives, many experts agree that temperament – a person’s natural disposition — is generally hardwired at birth. While most children do not belong exclusively to one personality type, knowing the general predisposition your child falls into can help you embrace your toddler’s personality and adapt your parenting style to meet your child’s needs.

Here are the three main personality categories that most experts agree on, and how to best parent each personality type to help them reach their fullest potential.

The Easy Child

The Easy Child is always cheerful with a sunny disposition, is active and cooperative most of the time. They are flexible and adapt to change quite easily, and tolerate new people and situations. Easy children, however, can easily fade into the background because they demand very little attention.

How to parent the Easy Child:

  • Make sure you don’t neglect your easy child. Shower her with love and affection just as you would your other children.
  • Reinforce positive behavior. Praise your child when he does what you ask. If your easy child sees you giving more attention to his misbehaving sibling, he might imitate the bad behavior to get attention from you.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. The Easy Child is still a child, so he can have tantrums and misbehave from time to time. Don’t be too hard on him when he breaks down.
  • Spend time with him. Parents often let easy children play on their own, and while this fosters independence, it can deprive your child of interactive learning. Join him in his play and use that opportunity to get to know your child better.

The Shy Child

The Shy Child is often anxious, especially when faced with an unfamiliar situation. They are slow to warm up to unfamiliar people, often clinging or hiding behind their parent’s leg when introduced to new friends or family members. A Shy Child is more of an observer than a joiner. They need a lot of time to transition from one activity to another, and often resist change in routines.

How to parent the Shy Child:

  • Avoid teasing and harsh criticism. Shy children tend to take rejection personally and can make them fearful and retreat further back into their shell.
  • When meeting someone new, let your child hold your hand, or better yet, hold her in your arms as you ease her into the unfamiliar.
  • Allow her to take her time. Slow-to-warm-up children need more time to transition and join in an activity. Don’t rush her. A shy child might get anxious about being swooped up by a distant family member. Instead, suggest to offer a toy to connect with your child first.
  • Offer support. Be with her as she treads into the unfamiliar – try out a new activity together, or chat up visiting family members together.
  • Prepare her. If you are going to a new place or go on a new experience, talk to her about what to expect. The more she knows, the more comfortable she will be.
  • Don’t tell other people, “She’s shy” to explain her behavior. Doing so will further validate her shyness.
  • Build her confidence with praise. Highlight the skills she is good at and show that you are proud of her talents.
  • Accept her for what she is. Not everyone needs to be a social butterfly. There is nothing wrong with having only a few close, treasured friends.

The Spirited Child

The Spirited Child is joyful, entertaining and a bundle of energy. But he will also stand his ground and let you know (loudly and clearly!) when he is unhappy over something. He can be strong-willed and challenging. They are intense individuals who usually have “high highs and low lows”. Spirited children are usually more active, more impulsive, and more defiant.

How to parent the Spirited Child:

  • Set a firm structure or schedule to keep them safe and stable. When the spirited child knows what is expected of him, power struggles and resistance can be lessened.
  • Be patient with them. More often than not, they, too, are lost in the intensity and turmoil of their moods and emotions. Help them work their way through it by being calm and talking to them through it. Meeting their tantrums head on can easily get things out of hand. They need your help expressing their feelings in healthy ways.
  • Keep them active. The Spirited Child needs to burn off their excess energy and work through their emotions. Get them outside to play. Aside from giving them the opportunity to put their energy to good use, being outdoors and close to nature can do wonders to uplift one’s mood.
  • Anticipate meltdowns. Pay attention to what makes him tick and plan ahead to curb his tantrums. For example, if he has a hard time sharing his toys, plan to keep his toys away when his friends come over. For older children, or if you feel he is ready, explain that he needs to share his toys with his friends and have him choose toys he is willing to share.
  • Avoid overstimulation. Rowdy play can easily get the spirited child overstimulated, which can easily lead to tantrums and meltdowns. When you sense he’s had too much excitement, take a break and move to a more settled activity.
  • Embrace his wild, carefree spirit. Spirited kids are passionate, loving and creative. Feisty kids are passionate, loving, and creative.

Every child is different, each one special and unique. Our job as parents is to teach them helpful strategies to harmonize their own behavior and adapt to the world around them as we raise them in a way that embraces, loves and celebrates their quirks and individuality.

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Nina Malanay is a mother to two rambunctious, affectionate boys, aged 7 and 4. Her husband-slash-best friend died in a tragic bombing incident in 2013. As she tries to navigate through life with her boys as a solo parent, she hopes to rediscover herself beyond the many hats she wears – mother, teacher, writer, baking enthusiast, student of life – and move boldly into her future.

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