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Temperament in Babies & Toddlers

Dear Debi,
My 10-month-old son has a hard time warming up to new people. He doesn't like meeting people & doesn't show much interest in kids his own age. Is this normal?
Vanessa Villarreal
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Tune into your baby
  • Respect & accept your baby's temperament
  • There are no good or bad temperaments
  • Be aware of your own temperament
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Education Instructor
Temperament is biological or the in-born characteristic of our personality. I think of it as the filter that we use to see the world. There are 9 characteristics that are used to categorize temperament and through these 9 characteristics, 3 types of temperament have been developed. We refer to them as Flexible, Slow to Warm Up and Feisty.

Feisty children are very sensitive to sensory stimulation so they may not like having a wet diaper, or having their faces washed. Redirection is more challenging for them. The flexible children can easily transition from one activity to another, such as nap time to wake time. Slow to warm up children need support and time to transition from one activity to the next.

Temperament is biological and is not something that a parent or child care provider can change or "fix". It is an important factor, but it is not the only thing that influences the development of a baby's personality.

The goal with working with any child is to meet his or her needs. Working with temperaments is no different. If a child needs extra time and reassurance, then give the child extra time and reassurance. If a child gets easily frustrated, create an environment that reduces the situations that frustrate him or her. The flexible children need us all to remember that they need attention too. Sometimes we forget about them because they are so easy to get along with.

As a final thought, remember that temperaments are neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. It is just part of who we are and to not accept this part of our child is just the same as telling the child we do not like the color of his or her hair. As they grow, they will be better able to manage their own reactions and activities. Until then, they need us to help them learn about the world in a safe and trusting way.
Child Care Provider Comments
Aimee Gutierrez
Aimee Gutierrez
Mother of three
My children's temperaments vary. Ava is very sweet and caring. She takes care of her little brothers. Diego is still learning. He is the middle child. He has learned to leave Ava alone and give her space. It isn't easy for Diego to share with the baby. We don't force him to share his toys. We pick our battles when it comes to sharing. Dante has his own toys. Mostly for him, he just wants to be included. He likes to play with his toy cars with the older kids.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
I have had several kids who are slow to warm up. I don't push them. I let them sit back and observe. They want to make sure the child care is safe and fun and that everything will be okay. I let them decide if they want to participate in a new activity. It creates security and bonding between the child, the provider and the environment.
Bernice Gaston
Bernice Gaston
Grandmother of a 14-month-old
I think that we have to look at each individual child and go with what we see that interests them rather than making them interested in things that we are interested in. Observe what the child is curious about and go with that.

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Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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