Keep in mind that characteristics you find challenging in your child's early years may turn into positive qualities as he grows. Intense, feisty kids are often very passionate and creative, and are good at asserting themselves and making things happen. Slow-to-warm-up kids can be very thoughtful and sensitive, good at listening and empathizing with their peers.
For now, recognizing patterns in your child's behavior that are influenced by temperament can help you anticipate your child's responses to certain situations. For example, if you know your child gets overstimulated by too much noise, you can make shorter trips to the store and hold him in a baby carrier so he feels safe and sheltered.
Remember, too, that no matter how consistent a child's patterns may appear to be, sometimes children can -- and will -- catch you off guard by acting in ways that you don't expect. A child who is usually wary of strangers might fall madly in love with her new teacher. The fact that your child can surprise you is one of the most exciting and even delightful rewards of parenthood.
Adapted from Bringing Up Baby: Three Steps to Making Good Decisions in Your Child's First Years (Zero to Three Press) by Claire Lerner, LCSW, a child development specialist at Zero to Three, and Amy Laura Dombro. To order, go to www.zertothree.org/bookstore or call 800-899-4301.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2004.