Understanding Your Child's Personality

Gauging Response to Change

4. Response to Change

While young children are generally well known for being inflexible about their routines, some kids seem to be even more dependent on them.

These children tend to react to the smallest of shifts -- a new food on their plate or a slight change in the bedtime routine. They have more tantrums, which can be triggered by anything from the suggestion of a new babysitter to a change of furniture in their house to the idea that they have to stop doing something they are immersed in; and they need lots of time and support to get comfortable in new surroundings, generating lots of "No, No, No!" outbursts before they adjust.

Other children take change in stride. They tend to find new jackets, new friends, and new foods interesting; and they respond comfortably anywhere you take them because they nap in noisy restaurants, nurse wherever you happen to be, and enjoy looking around, drawing on the paper you tucked in your bag, or joining in the conversation.

Characteristics: From "I like the way things are" to "Show me what's new"

For the child who prefers things the way they are:

  • Use familiar objects, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, to ease anxiety during transitions.
  • Ease into new activities. Talk about new activities first, and set aside enough time to allow your child to get comfortable.
  • Offer advance notice when an activity is about to end. For example, you might say, "When the timer rings, it's time for your bath."

For the child who loves to try something new:

  • Be sensitive to your child's signals. When a child is extremely easygoing, we sometimes assume that any change is okay.
  • Be sure to find some one-on-one quiet time to enjoy together. No matter how easily a child can handle being out in the world, there's nothing like taking time to snuggle on the living room couch and look at a favorite book together.

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