Though little is known about how genes affect the personality of your baby, doctors agree that something causes siblings to have completely opposite or decidedly similar personalities. Researchers are currently studying how genes influence Baby's personality, but they do know that Baby's environment and your presence play crucial roles in her personality as an adult. "There is definite nature and nurture influence on personality. There are people who are definitely introverted and people who are extroverted, and that is just the way they are. Introverts are not necessarily bad at social situations; they're just uncomfortable, and that's a definite biological, genetic thing," says Jen Meyers, coauthor of Raising Your Child.
Whether your child is a boy or a girl, an introvert or an extrovert, your parenting can make a difference in his or her development. There is no "right" way to parent; it is a learn-as-you-go process. But one thing is for sure: Your constant love is the most important factor in Baby's development of self and personality. Creating a healthy attachment with Baby, whether it be going for a walk together or simply responding to your baby's cries, will allow a positive relationship to develop. "When your child is ready to do something, she will do it," Meyers says. "Following your child's inner timeline is important for your child's development of self-esteem and self-worth because it is saying that your child's timeline is okay."
You'll be able to tell from about 1 year of age whether your child is introverted or extroverted. An extrovert will be playful and inquisitive without shyness. An introvert will exhibit signs of curiosity but will be more cautious about exploration. A combination of genes and environment affect your baby's tendency toward an introverted or extroverted personality. Recognize your baby's personality type and adjust your parenting style to complement it. For example, your baby might need you to stick around in new situations if he is slow to warm up. "You have to be sensitive to whether a big noisy place is fun for your child or overwhelming for your child," Meyers says. "You're going to understand how your baby reacts and you're going to naturally be able to choose activities that best suit his personality."
From the beginning, your newborn will show a number of personality traits innate to his or her gender. According to Desmond Morris, author of Amazing Baby, this goes back to ancient times when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.
Baby Girls: Since ancient times, females were left to multitask at home; they developed more cautious, patient, and caring personalities. They were the centers of their tribes, so they developed stronger verbal skills and resilience to illness. These traits can be seen in toddlers: Girls are able to communicate at a younger age than boys.
Baby Boys: Ancient males developed a less emotional disposition. They are prone to cry less and take more risks than baby girls. They are often better at spatial awareness than baby girls because their ancestors honed tracking skills necessary for hunting.
Babies are happiest when they are in an atmosphere of gentle stimulation. Too much action can overwhelm them, but too little can cause boredom and restlessness. As a mother, be there for your baby to serve as his main comfort and provider.
What You Can Do: To soothe your baby when he is either overstimulated or understimulated, try holding him so his ear is next to your heartbeat. Your heartbeat is what he has been listening to since conception; he associates it with safety. Your heartbeat will provide just enough stimulation to calm him. Attending to your child when he cries is also an important comfort you can give him.
Your baby's fears often will make sense. Anytime he feels a loss of protection, such as his parents leaving the room, he will begin to panic. Babies prefer a peaceful and quiet world because they are overly sensitive to stimuli. While it is not always possible to provide this for them, your presence has a huge effect on how safe your baby feels. See the next few slides for tips on dealing with specific fears.
Your baby's ears are highly sensitive; thus, he will startle at noises you don't even notice. Loud noises are inevitable. When your baby does get startled, make him feel safe, connected, and supported.
What You Can Do: Cradle him in your arms or sing to him. Your baby associates you with protection and support, so your presence is really all he needs.
Babies have a strong fear of falling. Your baby is highly in tune with your movements, especially when you are holding him. If your movements are agitated and jerky, he will begin to sense danger.
What You Can Do: Try to always hold him gently. When you do have to shift positions make smooth, slow motions.
Starting at about 6 months, your baby will develop a fear of strangers. He is finally able to distinguish between his relatives and someone unfamiliar. Eventually your infant will learn that he can trust strangers, but it will take time and cannot be rushed.
What You Can Do: Support him and help him feel comfortable with people who are unfamiliar by always remaining close by.
It is not until 2 years old that your child will have the imagination to be scared of the monster in his closet. His cries as a baby are from separation anxiety because you, his protector, have left the room.
What You Can Do: This is a natural fear that all babies go through and cannot be completely soothed.