In our video, identical twins Jasmin and Scarlet, who are a few weeks old, are already behaving quite differently.
As a new parent, it’s fascinating to realise that even newborn babies display temperamental differences that go on to form their developing personality. It only really strikes parents when they have more babies, how different the first baby was from the second or third baby but developmental psychologists have known this for a long time.
Embrace your baby’s personality and enjoy her unique traits. You will become the expert in her temperament and you’ll bring out the best in her – understanding and accept that aspect of their little personality are really around from birth.
If your baby or toddler seems boisterous and more accident prone than your friend’s babies it can be exhausting and worrying. Try to embrace their energy and give them lots of opportunities to run and climb and take safe ‘risks.’ When they’ve had plenty of social time and physical play, you can then encourage some quiet time to focus on fun crafting or sharing a book or chatting. If you are worried about your child being very timid it is best not to force them to do things that they find very stressful. Instead, lead by example and gently introduce them to experiences that they can cope with. With lots of practice and reassurance, more timid children can take on new experiences at their own pace. If you realise your baby is an extrovert from birth, get ready for the calming influence you might need to have later on!
Similarly, if you are worried about your child being very timid, it is best not to force them to do things that they find very stressful, lead by example and gently introduce them to fun experiences that they can cope with. With lots of practice and reassurance, more timid children can take on new experiences at their own pace. Each time they try something they are slightly afraid of and enjoy it they will be rewarded with the experience, sharing the moment with you and a release of dopamine. If you take it slowly you will be able to help your timid child enjoy taking safe physical risks, approaching safe animals and taking part in small social activities.
Whilst it can be tempting to label babies as either easy or difficult, it can be counter-productive especially if everyone around a baby begins to believe they are “difficult.”
Try to remember that babies have all had different births, some may have reflux or other medical problem that is making them sad, feeding may be going well or proving difficult to establish.
For example, if a baby has a tongue tie it might be hard for them to breastfeed which could make them frustrated and fractious. Fortunately this can be treated easily nowadays.
As a new parent, you may also have had a traumatic birth, you’re feeling exhausted with low mood in the early days with your new baby.
Try to be kind to yourself and your new baby. Don’t label yourself a ‘failure’ or decide that your baby is just ‘difficult’ or decide that they do not like you (babies are incapable of feeling dislike and blame towards other people).
If your baby does cry a lot and seems difficult to settle it is worth talking to your health visitor or doctor to rule out some of the common problems that can unsettle babies. Ask about signs and symptoms of silent reflux, colic or a feeding-related problem such as tongue tie
Kagan et al (1998) Galen’s prophecy: Temperament in human nature. Personality and Individual Differences 24(3) March