Each and every child has their own unique personality; however there are three dominant personality types. A child may display some traits from each personality group but they typically exhibit particular traits that allow them to be -boxed’ into one personality grouping. Knowing the personality type of your child is beneficial as it will help you to parent the child more effectively, and it will also help you to have a better relationship with the child.
The three main personality groups that exist are: the highly sensitive child, the self-absorbed child and the defiant child. A child who is usually boisterous or defiant may share some of the same traits of the hyper-sensitive child and the purpose of categorizing kid’s personalities is to give parents a -guide’ on how to interact with the child and how to better understand their child. Armed with the knowledge on how to respond in certain situations or how to cope with an extra-challenging child is helpful for both parents and child. Here is a summary of the three dominant personality types.
As an infant, the extra-sensitive baby does not adapt well to new routines, and in new situations an extra-sensitive toddler becomes exceptionally clingy. Due to the child’s sensitive nature, the child prefers to explore little and is not typically assertive by nature (they will easily give up toys, etc. without too much of a fight). As a preschooler, the child is a worrywart and often has real fears about objects or experiences in life. Extreme shyness (almost introverted) is a common trait. As the child grows, he or she may feel anxious or panicky in some situations and they often suffer from extreme mood swings and become depressed for no particular reason.
Such a child is quickly overloaded with emotions and kids who are super sensitive are also extremely perceptive. The child is sensitive to the feelings of others and this type of personality helps the child to read people’s facial expressions, body language and tone of voice well. They are attuned to the world and will notice the smallest of details in all that they see, hear and experience.
A highly sensitive child may overreact to touch, loud noises and bright lights. Sights, sounds, certain smells and physical experiences which please others can be overwhelming, irritating and even painful to the extra-sensitive child. Kids with an enhanced sensitive nature are quickly over-stimulated and their own feelings and emotions are often experienced at an elevated level. As such, kids often experience pain and happiness to the extreme and can sob with disappointment, jump up and down with sheer joy, or yell and punch walls in a fit of rage. The sensitivity of the child is also felt on a physical level where the child frequently complains of muscle aches, tummy aches, etc.
Problems faced by extra-sensitive children
These children may battle with spatial concepts and can battle to process information in terms of the space around them. They battle to work out distances and directions. The extra-sensitive baby who is left alone for a moment is not equipped with the emotional sense of realizing that their caregiver or parent has simply gone to another room – for the hyper-sensitive child their caregiver could very well have gone to another country. This has an impact on the child’s security and they become anxious when their parents leave (even if it is only for a few minutes).
Parenting extra sensitive kids
Parents with children who are hyper-sensitive may try to compensate by being overprotective or overindulgent. It’s far more effective for parents to build up the child’s confidence, and it will be beneficial to offer supportive encouragement when the child is faced with a new situation or experience. With the child’s nature – harsh discipline such as yelling and smacking is ineffective. Parents find that firm, consistent and supportive parenting is best for their sensitive child.
In infancy, the self-absorbed child often appears quiet (even depressed) and shows little interest in exploring the world, people or objects. The child is slow to respond to touch, sound or other stimuli. Out of all personality types, the self-absorbed toddlers thrive on familiar routines the most and appreciate a very structured day. Later in life (pre-puberty) the self-absorbed child has a diminished interest in the world that surrounds them, but they love the world of fantasy and make-believe and the child strives for independence.
Different to the hyper-sensitive child, a self-absorbed child craves stimuli and sounds, colours, etc. are needed for this child to take notice. Parents notice that their baby who has a self-absorbed personality needs to be spoken to in an energetic or elevated voice before he or she acknowledges their existence. With this personality type, kids are mesmerised by bright lights and they are attracted to loud sounds, motion and speed (think of funfair or theme-park rides). In fact for this child, the louder, the better and the brighter the colours, the better.
Problems faced by self-absorbed children
Children with this nature appear content when they are lost in their own worlds and are at their happiest when they are tuned inward. Low muscle tone, poor balance and concentration requires that the child works harder when learning to crawl, jump and climb. Skills requiring the sequencing of physical movements, like drawing a picture, tying a shoelace, climbing a ladder, etc. are quite challenging for the self-absorbed child. Some kids experience difficulties with auditory-verbal processing and find it hard to express their thoughts and it causes them to talk slower than other kids (or if they do talk quickly, their words become mixed up). The self-absorbed child might find it hard to find the right words to describe their feelings or to get their point across.
Parenting self-absorbed kids
Parenting is challenging and it’s easy to give up on this type of child as they demand intense input. The child’s interest must be captured at all times and the child must be engaged at an emotional level. A toned down or relaxed tone or way of speaking will probably cause the child to zone out and disappear back into their own worlds. Parents and teachers have to be animated and respond energetically, encouraging kids to explore the world and to be present.
The Defiant Child
The child is stubborn, controlling and negative and the defiant child will usually do the opposite of what is asked or expected. A child of this nature does not cope well with drastic changes and they prefer repetition or gradual change. Other traits of this personality include perfectionist and compulsive behaviour. In infancy, the child is hard to please, hard to cope with and inflexible when it comes to changes in their routine. In toddlerhood, when negative behaviours are common, the toddler seems more defiant, stubborn and angry than other toddlers. In childhood, the child is argumentative and is continually involved in power struggles and they are seemingly unable to stay out of difficult or challenging situations. Unlike the hyper-sensitive child and even the self-absorbed child, the defiant child is not afraid and very little overwhelms them. In stressful situations, the child can react quickly making sure that they’re able to keep control of their world. With guidance, this child’s perfectionism and their bold approach to life and in charged situations help them to excel at school and on the sports field.
Problems faced by the defiant child
As with extra-sensitive children, these children are sensitive to touch, sound, sight and motion but they have better visual-spatial abilities and are able to comprehend quickly what they see or hear, far better than most other kids. This ability is what keeps them from becoming overwhelmed by what they experience, and it also causes the child to be extremely controlling about their environment which leads to their demanding and stubborn behaviour.
Parenting defiant children
It’s easy for parents to respond to their defiant child by becoming angry. This is a normal response to the child’s often infuriating behaviour. This reaction will only make matters worse and will intensify the child’s defiant behaviour. Parenting has to be calm and kind and parents must ensure that change in routine is slow and gradual. If bold children are met by bold rules and bold parents, it will cause continual power struggles!