Who is this little creature, this dictator dressed in a diaper? She's your baby, of course. And if you want to understand the newest member of your family, you need to study her in her natural habitat. In short, learn her temperament.
Child development experts watch several key traits when determining a baby's temperament. So maybe your baby is feisty or easygoing; or maybe she hates change. By identifying her behavior, you can work in tandem with her -- making everyone's life in her little kingdom smoother, easier, and happier.
Want to determine your baby's temperament? Take our quiz:
- If you could just jam the buckle into the slot between your baby's chubby little legs, you could make it to the bank drive-through before it closes. Your baby's reaction?
- No, no, no, no. Bottle hits -- with amazing accuracy -- your forehead.
- Why are you taking so long? You've got errands, I've got a car nap. Let's get to it, woman.
- Ouch, the belt's snug and the buckle's hot, and I'm trying to work with you, but you're really starting to annoy me.
- Wow! There's a bug on the sidewalk. Let's:
- Eat it, of course. Yummy!
- Watch it and either 1) jab it with stick 2) let it crawl all over my legs
- Run! It's a bug!
- You have just put on Baby's pants and socks and shoes and hat and shirt and are now sure:
- That you will smell something funny because your baby takes great pleasure in surprise, very necessary diaper changes.
- That despite the fact you are headed to Grandma's, your baby will sleep through the visit because it landed during his daily nap time.
- That he might fall asleep during the car ride and might also need a diaper change but will want to play with Grandma, who is, after all, much nicer than Mommy, once he arrives.
- Little Creature has misplaced his favorite Little Tykes truck in the backyard. He is not pleased. He expresses this by:
- Kicking other trucks you present and sulking.
- By briefly whining about it, but then being distracted by a really cool bug.
- Searching for the truck, but quickly moving on to sister's doll.
- You have taken Baby to a local gym geared for kids. She reacts to the bright lights and loud music how?
- Running toward the mats and the instructor. Only 30 days to firmer baby thighs!
- A little hesitant. I can barely walk and you want me to tumble?
- Cringing in horror. Too many primary colors, too many televisions featuring the Doodlebops. [Bonus points if that's your response, not the baby's.]
- You give Baby a 4-piece puzzle.
- Baby plays with it, first figuring it out and then building a lean-to house out of the pieces.
- Baby bangs puzzle pieces together and then moves on to tormenting the dog.
- Puzzle board does not taste like Froot Loops. Neither does a Hot Wheels car. Nor Mommy's keys.
- While playing itsy-bitsy spider, your baby:
- Gets frustrated with the hand movements. Frowns and wants to stop.
- Smiles like an angel -- another perfect day with the little dictator.
- Is bemused. She keeps playing it because Mommy seems to like it so much.
The questions were based on a list of key traits outlined by Pediatrician William Carey, MD, author of Understanding Your Child's Temperament. The traits include:
- Activity/energy level
- Approach to newness
- Overall mood
1: Activity/Energy Level
To be in synch with baby, if she's high energy, you need to look for ways to keep her moving but not at a frenetic pace. If she's low energy, you need to make sure you don't take the easy way out and park her in front of the television.
2. Approach to Newness
If your baby loves new things, lucky you! But if you find he's naturally hesitant or shy, he will need extra reassurance and patience.
If everything is unpredictable -- potty, naps, moods -- you're going to have to let go of your control freak ways and loosen up. If your baby likes structure, you might have to give up your let-it-all-hang-out ways and give him the schedule he craves.
If your baby's intense, you're going to have to teach him how to handle the curves of life and how to channel that energy in positive ways. If he's laid back, you've still got some challenges -- he can get lost in the shuffle of family life, and you might become a slacker in terms of providing the same life lessons that a more intense child would demand.
If your baby has high sensitivity to lights, noise, or texture, be patient -- and look for ways to avoid sensory overload. Watch the volume dial; examine the lighting and the type of clothes she's in.
If your baby is intrigued for a long time solving a problem, let him go. If he has the attention span of a gnat, don't lose faith. He's still a baby. And actually puzzles are great tools to lengthen attention span -- along with a daily dose of bedtime reading.
7. Overall Mood
- Glass half-empty
- Glass half-full
- Glass?! Get me my bottle!
Remember, mommies can get moody too. And although everybody wants a happy baby, accept your baby's uniqueness if she's not always full of smiles. That said, if Baby seems too nervous or fretful, make sure you're not harried or overscheduled and you have the time to truly observe her daily patterns -- and what does make her smile. And remember, Happy Mother can make for Happy Baby.