toddler's personality
Understanding your toddler’s personality type can help you be a better parent

Each child has a distinct personality, a mixture of intelligence, humor, attitude, flexibility, and general mood. As a parent, you’ve probably already noticed that your child has a unique temperament as early as ages 1-3. 

Understanding your toddler’s personality type can help you be a better parent and guide your child to realize their full potential.

How can you identify your child’s personality type?

Key traits that determine a child’s personality include:

  • Activity level (how active the child is)
  • Distractibility (degree of concentration)
  • Intensity (how loud the child is)
  • Regularity (predictability of biological functions, such as appetite, sleep)
  • Sensory threshold (sensitivity to physical stimuli)
  • Approach or withdrawal (response to a new situation or strangers)
  • Adaptability (how easily the child adapts to changes)
  • Persistence (stubbornness)
  • Mood (positive or negative)

Toddler personalities are typically divided into three broad categories:

  1. Easygoing or happy
  2. Shy or thoughtful
  3. Spirited or wild

While most toddlers don’t fit into one particular personality type, knowing your toddler’s general type can help you understand how to handle them better.

The easygoing child

Approximately 40% of toddlers have easy personalities. They’re usually quite cheerful, active, and basically like new people and citations. Raising children with this type of personality usually just requires common sense. However, keep in mind that easygoing toddlers may sometimes be overlooked if their other siblings demand more attention. Be careful not to make your child feel neglected.

Traits of a toddler with an easy personality:

  • Active
  • Focused
  • Handles changes easily
  • Has predictable eating and sleeping habits
  • Interested in meeting new people
  • Mild intensity of emotions
  • Not sensitive to noises or smells
  • Fine with not getting their way
  • Mostly happy or easygoing

To bring out the best in this type of toddler, parents should:

  • Reinforce positive behavior
  • Keep expectations realistic
  • Not overlook the needs and feelings of the child
  • Join in play
  • Initiate conversations

The shy child

Approximately 15% of toddlers are shy, slow to warm up, and cautious. A shy child may have a low activity level, low intensity of reaction, and slow adaptability. Toddlers with this personality type need a lot of transition time from one activity to another. They also tend to withdraw or react negatively to new situations or changes in their daily schedule. However, with time they may become more positive and adapt to new situations at their own pace. If pressurized to adapt, these children may become withdrawn.

Shy, cautious children should be protected from excessive pressure, harsh criticism, and ridicule because these can make them fearful and withdrawn for the rest of their life.

Traits of a toddler with a shy personality:

  • Enjoys quiet play
  • Does not handle sudden changes well
  • Happy, but easily thrown off balance
  • Anxious in unfamiliar situations
  • A mild or strong intensity of emotions
  • Predictable eating and sleeping habits
  • Reluctant to meet new people
  • Ultrasensitive to noises or smells
  • Sensitive to rejection, disapproval, criticism, or ridicule
  • Early talkers but late walkers
  • Focused

To bring out the best in this type of toddler, parents should:

  • Take it slow and don’t rush them into new situations
  • Treat them with patience while introducing new people
  • Mix new food tastes with familiar ones
  • Prepare them for changes
  • Give them time to adapt at their own pace

SLIDESHOW

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The spirited child

Approximately 10% of toddlers have spirited personalities and may be highly active and fussy. They get easily upset by noise and stimulation and have intense positive or negative reactions to new situations and people. They are strong-willed, challenging, energetic, entertaining, and experience the high highs and low lows. They may also have irregular eating and sleeping habits. They are more active, impatient, impulsive, defiant, intense, sensitive and rigid.

Raising spirited personality children is difficult. Toddlers tend to cry loudly when they are unhappy and are difficult to pacify. They are also cranky and irritable. It is difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Spirited toddlers are also called wild, colic, stubborn, difficult, or high needs toddlers.

Traits of a toddler with a spirited personality:

  • Highly active
  • Fidget a lot
  • Passionate feelings
  • Their moods have ups and downs
  • May handle changes well or get very upset
  • May be delighted to meet new people or reject them
  • Stubborn
  • Easily distracted
  • Either overly sensitive or not sensitive to noises or smells
  • Unpredictable eating and sleeping patterns

To bring out the best in this type of toddler, parents should:

  • Keep them active
  • Make them play outdoors more
  • Involve them in group activities
  • Anticipate blowups and steer them away from difficult situations
  • Insist on naptime, since an overtired child is harder to manage
  • Provide them with healthy ways to express their feelings

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Medically Reviewed on 6/24/2021
References
Administration for Children & Families. Understanding and Adapting to Individual Temperaments. https://childcareta.acf.hhs.gov/infant-toddler-resource-guide/understanding-and-adapting-individual-temperaments

University of Colorado Boulder. Temperament & Personality. http://psych.colorado.edu/~colunga/P4684/temperament.pdf

Parents.com. What's Your Toddler's Personality Type? https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/social/whats-your-toddlers-personality-type/

Jones L. How to Identify Your Toddler’s Personality Type. Parentology. February 11, 2021. https://parentology.com/toddler-personalty-types/