As I mentioned before, I have really enjoyed the book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. This is my second of three posts I plan on doing that cover my favorite topics in the book. This one is all about temperament!
I found it interesting that Hogg talks about baby’s emotional lives and how our emotional makeup, for the most part, is predetermined through genes and brain chemistry. She defines temperament as: the raw material that babies possess when they come into the world, also referred to as personality, nature or disposition. She says it affects how they eat, sleep, and react to the world around them.
Here are the five different temperaments she discusses:
1. Angel: This is the personality we all hope our babies have! It’s a dream child who easily adapts to their environment and to whatever changes you throw at them. This baby rarely cries and when they do it’s easy to tell why they are crying. They are very easygoing and even-tempered. If you have this “type” of baby you may not even notice the terrible twos! Angels still do get upset, but when they do it’s very easy to distract them. They go with the flow and typically sleep wonderfully, transition great to new things, and are very social.
2. Textbook: This baby reaches every milestone like clockwork. The parents of this baby have no problems reading their cues and know what to expect when since the baby follows all the “norms.” As long as new things are introduced slowly and gradually, like all the books say to do, this baby will adapt easily and will go with the flow. This baby takes the average time to fall asleep at naps and at night and responds well to the shush-pat method. Does well with travel but may take a little time to re-adjust to a schedule.
3. Touchy: Typically this baby is high-strung and easy excitable. They flinch at noises and blink or turn their head away from bright light. They cry often and sometimes for no apparent reason. Can be tricky sleepers often needing swaddling just right, temperature just right, and lighting just right in order to be able to sleep. The slightest noises will disturb them and will make it difficult for them to go back to sleep. New things must be introduced VERY gradually and VERY slowly since this type of baby actually has more stress hormones they experience fear and other feelings more intensely. Typically the touchy babies will be clingy, especially to their mom. They are very good at concentrating on things and will be good at puzzles and such. They typically become good students.
4. Spirited: Known as “wild ones,” they are aggressive and typically very vocal. In social settings they will jump right into the middle of the action and they always want whatever toy any other child is playing with. They love stimulation and are drawn to anything that bangs, pops or flashes. They typically are not very good sleepers and are good eaters but won’t sit still for long. Being very active they love to climb, bite, and will throw fits when not given what they want or not given it quickly enough. 15% of children are this spirited. They may be challenging but if handled correctly they are natural born leaders. The toughest part is getting them to channel all that energy! They often are the captains of sports teams as teens and fearless explorers or entrepreneurs as adults.
5. Grumpy: This baby seems to never be happy. It’s hard to get them to smile. They may tense up and become rigid when doing normal tasks like changing diapers. Routine is VERY important to this baby. They can be slow to adapt to situations and are usually not very good eaters. They are social when they want to be but tend to hold back to assess each new situation. Playing on their own is what the prefer and don’t really like other children in their space. Grumpy children teach their parents patience. They are good at maintaining their own boundaries and simply can’t be pushed into anything which will help them later in life to persevere when faced with difficulties. As children and adults they tend to be very independent and good at taking care and amusing themselves.
Which one is my baby? After reading those you can’t help but see who you know that fits where! I feel that Kye is a mix of an Angel and Textbook for sure! He’s SO easily adaptable and SO happy all the time but he also wakes up at the typical 45 min intruder, he’s fussy with teething, and responds to things like all the books say he will. He hits milestones right on time but doesn’t have any difficulty adjusting to new things. Having such an amazing baby is great! But knowing that I have 3 more to go and the chances are slim that all of them will be Angel/Textbook is scary! I tell people all the time that I’ve been blessed with an easy baby but I kinda wish he would have been my last! Right now I have NOTHING else going on other than taking care of Kye so I could have handled him being awful but if I get a Grumpy or Spirited for the last baby and I have THREE older kids to be caring for…it’ll be a nightmare! Maybe I’ll get lucky and have three more babies as wonderful as the first 😉
What were Zach and I? Reading through those I know that mine and Zach’s parents weren’t as lucky to have the Angel/Textbook baby we have. Zach was Spirited (no doubt!) but his dad was always so strict that I think they really did help him channel all that energy in a positive way. I think I was Touchy/Grumpy. While Kye will always be remembered for being “such a happy boy” I am remembered for being a crying shy cranky thing! I had colic and would cry and cry and cry. I also clung to my mommy and didn’t want to go to anyone else! I was an excellent student and am still very independent so I think it fits! At least I know that Zach and I were difficult temperaments to parent but we turned out okay so hopefully we’ll manage if (when) we get a more difficult temperament child.
Hogg discusses each type in detail and how the nurture side of it can help or hurt the nature part. If you have an Angel baby but don’t parent correctly they may not always be an angel! Also if you have a Grumpy one and you learn to adjust to that babies needs they may seem more like an Angel with time. It’s important to realize that your baby may NOT be what you always dreamed of and thought they would be. She says to look at the child you have, rather than the fantasy one you wanted to have. You can’t take your child’s personality personally and you have to be patient in order to be able to gradually work with them on the little tweaking they may need to their natural disposition.
In relation to the different temperaments of babies Hogg talks about the different types of parents. The different types of emotional styles parents have can affect how they respond to the different personality types of their children. There are four of these and again you can’t help but see who you know and where they fit:
1. Confident: They are easygoing and calm so they fit well with babies of all types. When they first have a child they tend to roll with the changes the baby brings and are carefree about the whole parenting thing. Considered “naturals” they trust their intuition and are very good at reading their babies cues. Since they are typically laid-back they do well with Grumpy babies, will take the extra time Touchy babies need, and have the stamina and creativity to raise Spirited kids. Confident parents tend to think the best of everyone, and they look for the best in their child. Though they have their own opinion about various parenting practices, they are very open to new ideas and quick to recognize when they are attributing their own motives to something the baby is doing.
2. By-the-Book: They do everything literally “by the book.” This sometimes open them up to frustration because they expect their baby not to deviate from the norm. When problems come up they are the ones googling everything looking for their exact situation and the recipe to fix it! They try to get their baby to conform to whats typical, not necessarily b/c it’s good for the baby, but because it’s what’s “normal.” The ideal baby for this type is a Textbook baby because they reach milestones right on time. Angels go well with them too because they are so adaptable. Since by-the-book parents want to desperately keep a schedule they may miss some of the baby’s signs so it’s not the best fit for a Touchy baby who is ultra sensitive, or a Spirited baby who is anything but a conformist. These parents run themselves in circles, trying various schedules and strategies depending on what book they are following today. The worst fit is the Grumpy baby, who will get even more upset by each change. This parent’s strengths lie in the ability to research and deal with problems and that they are extremely open to suggestions.
3. High-Strung: These parents are themselves sensitive. They may be shy so it’s difficult to reach out to other parents for company and support. These mothers often get weepy and feel incompetent in the early days of motherhood. These fathers are afraid to hold their baby. They typically do okay with an Angel or Textbook but if the baby has a bad day this parent will wonder what they did wrong to cause it. They are touchy to noise and have a difficult time with Touchy or Grumpy babies because they will likely feel frustrated most of the time. If they have a Grumpy baby they will take the moods personally but they tend to be overwhelmed most of all by the Spirited baby, who quickly learns that he’s in charge. Their sensitivity does make them very tuned-in to their child and the child’s needs.
4. Headstrong: These parents seem to think they know it all and get upset when their baby doesn’t respond as they think it should. They are very opinionated and often stubborn so it’s hard for them to compromise. Even if they have an Angel or Textbook baby, they tend to find and focus on one things their baby doesn’t do or, in their minds, is doing wrong. Headstrongs find it hard to tolerate a Touchy’s crying and don’t like the pain of having to constantly calm or chase after a Spirited one. They often resent a Grumpy baby because they are so stubborn and don’t smile much. These parents find a way to criticize and complain no matter what kind of baby they have.. The good thing about them is that they have a lot of staying power and once they recognize a problem they are open to suggestion, and are willing to follow through, even when the going gets tough.
5. Go-Getter: These parents are always on the move and can’t sit still. They have a hard time dealing with the fact that a baby will slow you down and may be quick-tempered. They tend to resist advice and since they are always on the go they can wear out even an Angel or Textbook baby. In the process they often miss out on what’s in front of them: they joy have having a baby most parents would be grateful for. They may get angry at a Touchy baby, get annoyed with a Grumpy baby’s bad humor or lack of adaptability, and lock horns with a Spirited baby. They are rigid, driven by their own needs, and tend to see things in black and white. They hate the idea of routine and schedule. These are, however, creative parents who expose their children to a wide variety of experiences and encourage them to try new things and take risks.
Obviously these all sound like extremes. Hogg says that she realizes no one is just ONE type of parent but that we can see bits of each in ourselves. Her purpose of this is to make us realize some of the traits we have that don’t mesh well with the type of child we have may need to change. Our attitudes can hamper our children’s emotional well-being and no one wants that!
Which parent type am I? I think it’s pretty obvious that a majority of my parenting temperament is the by-the-book. While I don’t change to different books all the time and I don’t take advice that well from most people I am a Google Queen when it comes to issues and once I trust someone I will follow their exact advice. I think I’m a little easier going than she describes and I’m good about not putting pressure on Kye when he isn’t “on target” for things. I can see myself having a tough time with a Grumpy baby because they would cry and cry and I would get frustrated since I wouldn’t know why! I also so a bit of a go-getter. Not to an extreme but I do go and do a lot and I feel like that can wear Kye out some. That’s something I need to work on for sure! And it’s funny because as I’m writing this I had just canceled my hair appointment today but I feel like Kye’s been pulled around sooo much lately with all the travel that we just need to relax today and give him a full 24 hours at home.
What about Zach? I think Zach, while not an extreme, does have a bit of the Headstrong personality. He would NEVER put down Kye but he is stubborn and opinionated. He will get frustrated when we don’t know what’s wrong with Kye and a typical question Zach will ask when Kye is crying (pretty much every time Kye is crying outside the crib actually!) is “What’s wrong with him?” I do think that he is mostly a Confident parent because he was so natural from the beginning with Kye, always just knowing what to do. Neither of us really ever think things with Kye are our faults and we tend to handle his occasional bad days pretty well.
Overall I think we are a good fit for our baby but I am glad I read all about the different types as I know someday I may not have an Angel/Textbook like I do now! And having one first will make the Grumpy, or Spirtied, or Touchy one seem like an even bigger challenge but one that I know Zach and I will handle well!