As parents it is important to understand our childs temperment and personality. It helps with the interaction with our children. A child that may naturally be shy for example, we may want to gently pull them out of their shell and be understanding when they need their 'alone' time. It is also important to understand that each child is different, and as such needs to be treated and interacted with a bit differently. Here is some good background information on temperment and personality.
Most child development professionals, following a study by Thomas and Chess in the 1950s, hold that temperament is inborn. Personality, by contrast, is influenced by environment and self-development. Watching my 4 year old son pick up my good habits, and unfortunetly some of my bad habits, I have concluded that personality is heavily affected by those around them, especially their parents who they look up to and who are their role models. As they grow older those role models may change, but it all starts with us as parents which is why it is so important to set good examples.
The characteristics of temperament – nine categories, including Activity Level, Sensitivity, Adaptability, and others – are sometimes regarded by parents as a source of frustration, since they are inborn and therefore not subject to much change.
But the fact that inborn traits are stable can work to the parents' advantage. Individual humans are so complex and varied that it can be difficult to develop effective strategies for healthy child development. The existence of inborn traits, however, can help parents by providing an identifiable pattern on which to base their guidance.
The first important element in any parenting strategy is objectivity. That's a difficult status to achieve given the enormous importance and value of the child, but much frustration can be avoided by making the attempt. But objectivity does not mean emotional or value neutrality. It simply means honestly assessing the facts. Evaluation of those facts, and deciding what actions to take is a later step.
Temperament is one area where objectivity is easier to achieve, since a variety of tests exist to help measure its dimensions. Such tests are typically a mix of questionnaire, interview and observation of both parent and child. Even an Internet questionnaire can represent a good first start.
Knowing whether your child is inherently more active, more easily distracted, exhibits a higher intensity of emotional expression, and so forth is a good first step to understanding his or her nature. Parents would do well to test and analyze their own temperaments, as well. Some temperaments mix better than others. To me this is a key point. A patient parent may not undertand why their child is not for example. Understanding our own temperments, and our childs will help when interacting with them and hopefully provide for less frustration, and more understanding.
Beyond the inborn characteristics of temperament lies the vast realm of personality.
Personality is even more complex than temperament, and ideas about it correspondingly more controversial. Theories abound about what shapes it and to what degree – environment, heredity, self-development. Added to the mix are the many cultural factors around the world that differ with regard to parenting approach. Values, both individual and social, make an objective assessment much more difficult.
Even so, non-professionals can readily recognize different personality types. Parents rapidly gain valuable experience in assessing and dealing with the personality of his or her own child, especially when the child is not the first.
That experience should not be too lightly dismissed, even in the face of a bewildering array of professional tests, theories and advice. Good science requires taking seriously experimental data, whatever theory the parent may be exposed to or inclined to favor.
Many parents are surprised to find that one child is so different from the other. They often wonder how this could be and what could be attributed to their own parenting. Parents rest easier when they know that some inborn features are just that, and can easily differ from one child to the next. For example, already at the age of 5 months, I know my youngest child Tristan is going to be a lot different from his older brother Kailan. It is comfortating to know what some things are just inborn traites.
Knowing the actual nature of your child is the first step toward developing a sound parenting strategy. Developing strategies geared toward the individual child will help in effective parenting. The results are less frustrated parents and healthier children.