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The 9 Elements of Personality

children laughing in grass

In spite of these widely accepted categories of temperament, your child's behavioral style isn't entirely one-dimensional. At least nine elements make up her personality. Experts use these dimensions in categorizing a child as easy, challenging, or slow to warm up.

It helps to think of these parameters as straight lines with extremes at either end, and with most children falling somewhere in the middle of each. These elements provide your child with a truly unique personality, and when you understand it, you can plan her days in ways that will keep you both content and on an even keel. Here are the factors to consider:

  • Activity level. Is your child always on the go, or does he prefer to stop and smell the roses? A child at the high end of the spectrum races around the park; a child at the low end prefers to be pushed on a swing.
  • Rhythmicity. Does your child like to stick to a routine, or is she a flexible flyer? A child at the high end of the continuum likely naps at the same time every day; a low-end youngster may not nap every day and seldom follows a routine.
  • Approach/withdrawal. How does your child respond to new and unfamiliar situations and people? A high-end child greets new foods with eager curiosity; a child at the low end hesitates even to pat a neighbor's familiar dog.

  • Adaptability. How well does your child adjust to changes in his environment or transitions from one activity to another? A highly adaptable child falls asleep easily at Grandma's; a low-end child may sleep well only in his own bed.
  • Quality of mood. Is your child generally a sad sack or a happy camper? A child at the high end will be delighted to see you after a day of work; a low-end youngster may cry anyway.
  • Persistence. How is your child's attention span? A child with a high level of persistence sticks with a game long after you're ready to quit; a low-level child is more likely to throw a tantrum as a response to frustration.

You may have spent much of your child's first year adjusting to someone who differed from your expectations. Or you may have spent it delighting in the unexpected discoveries this new person brought you every day, or enjoying the infant who seemed to meet and exceed all your expectations. But that baby is now a 1-year-old, and his personality is clearer than ever.

Temperament is stable. Don't try to change her; respect her singular personality. By showing her that she is just the child you wanted, you will help her grow up to be proud of the unique individual she is.