As an adult, you know that judging a peer’s personality is not an easy task. For many quick judgments, you will find it easier to look for certain paradigms in which you can place a person: “Is he extraverted or introverted? Responsible or irresponsible?” You can use the same type of judgments for determining a toddler’s personality, focusing on the aspects important in toddler life.
1. Little Explorer or Mommy’s Boy?
One of the most striking personality changes in the toddler years is how a toddler’s affection toward you changes. For many parents, this change is a negative one because toddlers begin to seem less affectionate as they grow into more independent children. A toddler’s need and excitement to explore will often override his need to hug and cuddle with mom. But according to the article “The Origins of Attachment Theory,” which appeared in the journal Developmental Psychology, not all toddlers are so quick to abandon their parents. Whereas some toddlers are completely happy running around on their own, others still attach themselves to their parents and might even fear exploration without the safety and support of their parents.
2. Taking Turns vs. Parallel Play
Playtime is a time in which a toddler’s personality is really put on display. In the toddler years, your child is becoming interested in other children. Yet her inability to understand the thoughts of others or the concept of possession will ultimately lead to many conflicts. No toddler instinctively understands the concept of sharing, but some toddlers do get along better with their peers. Part of this is parental influence, including the teaching of morals, such as not hitting when your toy is taken, and the teaching of problem-solving methods focused on issues of shared play, such as taking turns. While some toddlers will have the personalities to play with others without much conflict, other toddlers will be better off engaging in parallel play, a type of play in which two toddlers can still be socially close but don’t have to share a play world.
3. Who’s Your Role Model?
Children have a knack for growing up to be images of their parents. Part of this is due to role-modeling, which begins as early as the toddler years and is perceivable in play. Toddlers are always watching adults, especially their parents. And this observation of the adult world drives them to pretend to be the adults they observe, both in play and in general behavior. For example, a young toddler might kiss her toy bunny goodnight, playing the role of the mother, which she learned from her own mother. You might find another toddler infatuated with throwing, hitting or scolding her dolls, which might indicate a poor role model. Overall, part of your toddler’s personality comes from the actions she sees at home, whether those actions are displayed by parental role models or role models on TV.
4. Autonomous vs. Passive: Terrible Twos
Of all children, toddlers are notoriously difficult to control. This mainly has to do with their insistence on “I,” “me” and “mine.” For a toddler, everything is about himself. But some parents will find their toddlers easier to handle than others, partly because of a personality difference that a parent has a significant amount of control over: a love for decision-making. Whereas a more passive toddler is more likely to follow through with his parents’ wishes, a more autonomous toddler will often automatically reject all your decisions with a sharp “no!” These self-ruling toddlers desire a certain amount of control over their lives. As a parent, you can make the terrible twos less difficult for a self-directed toddler by giving your toddler some control over his life: Give him trivial choices such as “Which coat would you like to wear?” instead of ordering him to put on a coat.
- Developmental Psychology: The Origins of Attachment Theory
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; John Gottman
- European Journal of Personality: Parental Personality, Parenting and Toddlers’ Externalising Behaviours
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images