Babies are all born with their unique temperaments, so they respond differently towards the others and the environment. By observing the following characteristics of your baby, you can understand more about his temperament and nurture him accordingly.
Emotional Intensity and Reactivity
Intense and sensitive
Emotionally less intense and reactive , seems calm and not easily excited
Emotional changes are more obvious and reactive; sensitive to external stimuli, e.g. light, sound, smell or other sensory stimuli; may become upset and cry more easily
- Pay attention to the emotions and behaviours of your baby even if they are mild or subtle
- Interact more with your baby, use dramatic expressions, voices and moves to draw his attention, or engage him in more exciting games
- Closely observe his behavioural pattern and how he is affected by the environment; avoid over-stimulating him or getting him too excited
- Try different ways to soothe him when he is upset, such as cuddling him, whispering to him, carrying him on your chest, rocking him gently, or taking him out for a walk, etc.
- Try to accept even if you find his reactions difficult to understand, instead of criticising, punishing or teasing him
Enjoys exploring and learning through watching and using hands, prefers sedentary activities
Enjoys exploring and learning in motion such as through running, jumping, crawling, etc.; more energetic and active
- Let your baby explore at his own pace, e.g. when you take him out, instead of urging him to move around or participate in exciting activities, let him take his time to observe
- Encourage him to move, e.g. when you read with him, encourage him to dance or add movements according to the contents, or place his favourite toy a bit further away for him to reach
- Provide your baby with ample opportunities to explore safely. Baby proof your home. Besides, arrange more outdoor activities – even before your baby can crawl or walk, he would enjoy rolling and playing on a mat on the lawn
- Do not expect your baby to sit still for long, accept his active trait, offer him chances to move and participate in daily activities, e.g. during diaper changes, baths or meals
Friendly and outgoing
Shy and wary of strangers, needs more time to adapt and often seems uneasy or quiet in unfamiliar settings
Tends to approach people eagerly and are pleasant to get along with; may be overly affectionate at times
- In social situations, stay with your baby and gently describe what other children are doing as he observes; encourage him to interact with the others only when he feels ready
- Gradually provide him with social opportunities and introduce him to strangers in a familiar setting (e.g. home) or in the company of his caregiver
- Provide ample opportunities for your child to socialize – he will enjoy meeting different people, whether at gatherings of family and friends, or in the community such as at a park or supermarket.
- Keep an eye on your child’s social interactions, step in when needed to help him resolve conflicts, learn social norms and improve social skills.
Coping with Change
More sensitive and resistant to changes, often not open to participate in novel activities
Readily adapts to and feels curious about novelty and changes, eager to have new experiences
- Give your baby prior notice before introducing changes or new activities; as he grows, you may make use of stories, photographs or drawings to prepare him for changes
- In face of changes or novelties (e.g. new food), keep your baby company, guide and comfort him with patience and foster his sense of security by providing him with something familiar in a strange setting (e.g. his favourite doll); let him adjust at his own pace
- Arrange various activities to satisfy his curiosity and needs of exploration
- While your baby is easy to look after, do not overlook his needs; observe his preferences, emotional changes and communicate often with him
Impatient and easily frustrated, gives up readily and his mood fluctuates more easily
More cheerful, patient and emotionally stable, tends to persist in face of difficulties
- Accept his quick-tempered trait; when he becomes emotional, you can describe his emotions and experiences in simple words to express your understanding and reassurance, e.g. “You’re so tired but it’s so hard for you to fall asleep!” “the lid doesn’t come off no matter how hard you try, it’s so annoying!”
- As your child grows, support him in gradually improving his patience, such as through explaining to him what you are up to and encouraging him when he has to wait, e.g. “I’m preparing your lunch! You must be very hungry, it’s not easy to keep waiting quietly, well done!”
- When you notice that your child is getting frustrated, describe his feelings in simple words as mentioned above; you may also use humour to ease the tension, such as speaking to the puzzle that he struggles to place in a funny voice, “you’re so bad for moving about all the time! Look, we are not giving up!” You may then offer some help, such as offering hints on what to do next, or jointly complete a particularly challenging step; avoid taking over and completing the activity for him.
- Don’t neglect your child’s needs because he could play and solve problems on his own! Spend more time playing with him, praise him for his persistence and patience, while reassuring him that you would readily back him up and encourage him to share with you any difficulties he face
- Engage your child in more challenging activities to “stretch” and enrich his learning
Babies with certain characteristics maybe more challenging to handle, yet no one can determine the inherent traits of a child, and there is no “good” or “bad” temperament. By understanding your baby’s temperament, you will be more able to accept his emotions and behaviours, and avoid unnecessary conflicts and distress. While your baby is born with his temperament, your acceptance and gentle loving care could guide him in learning to regulate his emotions and exploring the world. In the long run, he would develop stronger abilities to cope with changes and frustrations, and establish good interpersonal relationships. Most importantly, both your baby and you feel love and acceptance, and could enjoy an intimate-parent child relationship.
If taking care of your baby makes you feel worn out, you need a rest. You should ask someone to take care of your baby for a while; if you can’t find a baby-sitter, leave your baby alone in a safe place when he is sleeping or quiet, and take a break in another room to recharge. Apart from looking after your baby and family, it is important for you to look after yourself too!