Understanding Your Child’s Personality

Ever wondered how children, born to the same set of parents, just a few years apart, are still so different? Well, the answer lies in understanding children's inherent personality.

By Aparna Samuel Balasundaram

Understanding Your Child’s Personality

Personality has been defined by leading psychologists as the dynamic combination of emotional characteristics, thinking patterns and behavioural patterns that form an individual's distinctive character. Each one of us is born with a genetic predisposition towards a certain personality style. Apart from this natural preloading, as one grows and is exposed to different socialisation, familial and cultural experiences, aspects of the innate personality are either strengthened or subdued.

It is important to understand the factors that shape your child’s personality development. For, then you can adjust your parenting styles accordingly and provide the right support and environment for her. That would help her grow up to be secure and a well-adjusted adult.

Here are the five most critical variables that affect personality development:

Heredity

As propounded by Gregor Mendel, the founder of the modern science of genetics, our natural temperaments are transmitted through our genes. Hence, in all probability, an introverted child would have either an introverted parent or grandparent. This is because our inherited DNA and genetic make-up lay the foundation for our personality style.

Home

There is ample scientific evidence to suggest that the familial and home environment plays a critical role in positively or adversely shaping a child’s personality. Parents’ behaviour and attitude, their disciplining and communication style, their appreciation and expectations from the child is crucial. So is their love, attention to or overprotection of the child and their spiritual and cultural beliefs greatly influence the child's personality. Apart from the role of the parents, the quality of sibling relationships and the influence of grandparents and extended family members also impacts personality development.

School

After the home,the school environment is the next critical socialising agent.After all, a child spends most of her waking hours in the school. At school, a child is exposed to many teachers. Her experiences with these different adult personalities will impact her. We all hear stories of teachers who motivated a child to be their better version - by showing their faith in the potential of the child. Many a movie has showcased this, be it the classical ‘To Sir with Love’ or closer home ‘Taare Zameen Par’. Apart from the teacher, interactions with peers and social positioning within the peer group will also impact the child’s belief systems about herself and, in turn, her behaviour patterns

Societal Environment

Every social group embodies a certain cultural and religious heritage in the form of socially accepted practices. Such practices are transmitted from one generation to another in the form of social heredity. Cross-cultural studies of identical twins [twins who have a similar genetic preloading, but have been separated and brought up in different cultures] show that while heredity has a great impact on their personality styles, so does the society that these separated identical twins are reared in.

Disruptive Childhood Experiences

Traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse, extreme neglect, poverty, being in a dysfunctional family, exposure to constant domestic violence, alcoholism, disruptive mental illness or being in a war zone will also impact the personality of a child, perhaps making him extremely fearful or aggressive.

So, having understood what personality means and the five main factors that impact its development, you now need to know how to determine the personality style of your child.

Here is an assessment tool to help you in this - a word of caution, though. This assessment is not to stereotype children, box them in or label them. For, as children continue to grow and change, so will aspects of their personality. Therefore, the intent of this assessment is to provide you with a broad framework to understand what makes your child tick, how to motivate him, why he might be so different or similar to you and how you can support and nurture him. So, here we go.

Choose only one response to the different statements below:

1) If you were to use just one word to describe your child it would be:

  • A Lively
  • B Orderly
  • C Adaptable
  • D Adventurous

2) Your child’s favourite thing to do on a vacation would be to:

  • A Go out to the park or play with others.
  • B Visit a museum.
  • C Go for peaceful walks and enjoy nature.
  • D Seek out adventure sports or go Go-karting.

3) When you attend the Parent-Teacher meet and meet your child’s teacher, she is most likely to say:

  • A Your child is sociable, curious and has many friends, and he could be the clown of the class!
  • B Your child is responsible, has a neat handwriting, takes efforts to take down notes and has one of the best-kept notebooks.
  • C Your child is one of the calmest students and hardly ever has any outburst of emotions.
  • D Your child likes to try new things, volunteer for tasks and enjoy sports.

4) If you were to take your child out to a park/ picnic spot, your child most probably would:

  • A Go to the swing and try to swing as fast as he can, requesting you to push or stay close by. And, maybe, later would love to chase the butterflies.
  • B Sit under a shady tree and read a book or examine the bugs, fauna and flora around.
  • C Watches the other children play and might gingerly join from a distance.
  • D Want to climb trees or pretend they are on a jungle adventure or treasure hunt

5) Sometimes you feel your child’s greatest challenges are:

  • A Being loud, undisciplined and insecure
  • B Being over-critical of herself, becoming unsociable and rigid
  • C Being unmotivated, overly accommodating of others or stubborn
  • D Being domineering, unsympathetic or angry/sarcastic

6) You feel your child’s greatest strengths are:

  • A Being carefree, enthusiastic and charming
  • B Being sensitive, self-disciplined and analytical
  • C Being likeable, diplomatic and practical
  • D Being determined and independent, and taking risks

7) Family and friends might often say you are blessed to have a child who shows:

  • A Imagination and a sunny disposition
  • B Attention to detail
  • C Thoughtfulness
  • D Innate leadership qualities

8) If you were to look into the future, you think your child might be a good:

  • A Actor, salesperson or speaker
  • B Artist, inventor or doctor
  • C Diplomat, teacher or lawyer
  • D Corporate leader, entrepreneur or sportsperson

What your SCORE MEANS!

If you ticked: MOSTLY A

Your Personality Style is SOCIABLE OR SANGUINE

These children are like sunbeams, bringing joy and light into their surroundings. They are usually likeable, spontaneous, verbal and generous in their love and relationships. They also likely to learn about things and people around them. However, in this quest, they can sometimes become restless, easily distracted, bored and might not have the patience to master a task. Because people are important to them, they easily form attachments and crave human interactions and assurance.

If you ticked: MOSTLY B

Your Personality Style is THINKERS OR MELANCHOLY

These children are innately good thinkers and take their responsibilities seriously. They are usually deep, quiet and introverted, and prefer to observe and be on the outskirts of loud group interactions. They are happy to be in their own company or in the company of a select few. They care deeply for others and are drawn to healing others. Their serious, empathic and detail-oriented nature, makes them reliable leaders. However, while they appear calm on the surface, they can sometimes be prone to negative thinking and do not respond well to sudden changes.

If you ticked: MOSTLY C

Your Personality Style is THOUGHTFUL OR PHLEGMATIC

These children are usually easy-going, down-to-earth, practical and dependable. They can easily accommodate to situations and people around them. They enjoy rich sensory experiences and thrive on a routine and a sense of comfort. Sometimes, because they are so adaptable, they might not be persistent and may take the easy way out when possible. Sometimes they can be more focussed on the tasks of daily living and being in the moment that they miss the bigger picture and goals.

If you ticked: MOSTLY D

Your Personality Style is STRONG-WILLED OR CHOLERIC

These children make their presence felt. They are inherently drawn to take on the world, enjoy an adventure, and are competitive. They are risk-takers, full of humour and enjoy attention. They like to work hard on tasks they believe in and can do a lot, in a short span of time; but, they sometimes find it hard to continue if no clear goals are being achieved. While they are able to motivate others, emotional impulsivity and anger can be an issue at times.


Aparna Samuel Balasundaram is a psychotherapist, parent and child expert and founder of www.lifeskillsexperts.com and www.aflourishing.me