Understanding Your Child’s Personality

A couple of weeks ago, we were at our church for an early rehearsal. Another child, almost the exact age as my son, was performing with the microphone. This is not an atypical scene for a preschooler. Often times, outgoing children like to put on a little ‘show’ for their admirers.

If the scene wasn’t all that unusual, why did it strike me so much? Because I could not imagine my son doing that. In that moment I had yet another glimpse into my son’s personality. For the last year I have been learning more and more about his personality and it has shaped how we parent him. Thankfully, he is so similar to his Daddy, that Brian is usually the most perceptive in helping me know how to parent his more timid, shy, non-outgoing self.

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Not all children are Shirley Temples, or Olivias (from the Cosby Show). Some have dramatically quieter and more reserved personalities. It is okay if not every preschooler wants to perform and show off his latest accomplishments.

When Stefan was very young, he was terrified of climbing playgrounds. Thankfully, Brian who also had similar fears as a child warned me not to push it. We would give him the opportunity to climb, but we never forced him. He really was genuinely scared. Enough times of seeing them, enough times of watching other kids go up, enough times of going up with one of his parents, and eventually he ventured out on his own. You would never know that now, but it took a while. This is just one illustration of his more reserved personality.

These are some of his individual character traits that affect our parenting.

  • In general, he is timid to try new things. We try to expose him to things multiple times until he is comfortable with trying it out.
  • When we walk into a new situation he stands and observes first. Later, after he warms up a bit, he will venture out.
  • While he loves playing with friends, it is better done in small doses.
  • He likes to know what is coming ahead of time.
  • While he will perform and be goofy for us, he rarely does for anyone else.
  • He can sit and work on puzzles forever.
  • He can get lost in his world of cars or Legos.
  • He will talk our ears off about something he is excited about, but as soon as someone else comes in the room he will clam up.
  • He is very sensitive to others, and has a keen awareness if others are sad or happy.

Why do I tell you all this about my son? Because as we navigate the parenting waters, we have come to realize just how much we have to adjust our parenting to individual personality.

Obviously, biblical truths cross all personality types. But when you get down to the details of life with a young child, you realize how unique each child is. God gave children certain temperaments and personalities. We should never try to change them. But we do need to realize that it has to be brought into consideration in how we parent.

As our children’s personalities develop, it is exciting to watch. I love seeing life through his more sensitive and curious personality. But it can be challenging. You realize very quickly that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for parenting. The beauty of it is that as you develop a relationship with your child, your own world expands. You begin to see the world through each of your children’s eyes with their individual personalities. And how vastly more interesting it is than if they all had identical temperaments and personalities.

In conjunction with this, I wanted to share this helpful article. It gives a very concise description of the introvert and extrovert child.

Do you find that you have to adjust your parenting to fit your child’s personality?


  1. Yes! And I’m starting to embrace it and love it! I have 3 very different precious gifts from God who, every day, work their way further into my heart, and God has used them to teach me a whole lot about myself. I smiled so big when I read, “You begin to see the world through each of your children’s eyes with their individual personalities. And how vastly more interesting it is than if they all had identical temperaments and personalities.” YES! I had never put that into words, but I’ve been experiencing it…so, thanks for finding the words for me :-)

  2. Great topic. I think it’s so important to parent our children according to their personalities and to not try to change them. And I agree that it’s fun to watch their personalities emerge. It’s a gift to learn how our kid’s work.

  3. Yes, to answer your question. Our 4 don’t all react the same way to similar situations, consequences, even privileges. It’s a learning process with each child, but I love their unique traits.

    • Yes! I have found that too. Rewards and consequences are different for the kids! Amazing how unique they are!

  4. Great post, Johanna! I only have one child, so I can’t compare different personalities, but I’m having trouble figuring out the one. I enjoyed reading the linked article as well.

    • Oh, I feel like I am constantly learning about their personalities. It does start to become more obvious the older they get, though!

  5. Lindsay Reimer says:

    Just today at the splash park, I witnessed exciting progress in my oldest daughter’s independence,which I think in part is due to being sensitive to her personality. She is usually very timid with big groups of people, especially without me right beside her. (Johanna, a couple months ago we talked about not making a big deal out of these kinds of things (unless they are being rude).) I think by not forcing her to go out on her own (just sometimes going with her and teaching her), we’ve allowed her to work through some fears, etc. in her own time. We’ve noticed over time she has become more confident. Today she had a blast (Mommy sitting a fair distance away) with just with her friends – this was after only a short time of being on my lap watching.
    It has been tough for me to let her make those moves on her own and not try to control her. But, I believe that this is what she needs. She knows what my desires are for her and yet she also knows that I will accept her if she sits on the sidelines for a bit.
    I still have MUCH to learn about my girls’ personality, though!!

    • This is so great, Lindsay! Yay! :-)

      We have definitely found that it is better to not push Stefan. One thing I read recently was really helpful: Don’t make it a battle between you and them, but rather an internal struggle that they have to work through.

      • One more thing that comes in my mind about this demo. Will it be for evenoyre on next month? In evenoyre I mean that people who didnb4t buy the Dragons Dogma. Or only the PS3 Dragons Dogma owners can download it? Also, by surfing in the magical land of internets I have read about rumors that next month the coming demo for PS3 (possibly XBOX 360 also) will be the improved version?! Screen tearing fixed (mostly?), different playable places will be shown (Leons helicopter crash something something, Chris in eastern europe with TANKS!) Just wanted to know that is the gaming industry really going this way? Meaning buy a game that has the demo of a coming game months early and if you donb4t buy it you have to buy the final product without testing it first via the demo?Still donb4t get the hate tho. Been reading peoples blogs etc. who have played the game and they liked it (mostly). So enjoyable game this will be I hope

  6. My middle daughter’s personality is rather similar to your Stefan’s. Our oldest is somewhat reserved, as well, depending on the environment. (Or maybe it’s just when we’re around groups of kids who are going crazy!) Realizing that not every child needs to be the “Shirley Temple” or the performer of the group has been helpful in relating with my own kids, as well as others. It can be easy for me to automatically favor and interact more with “other kids” who are the most outgoing, etc…

    As a child, I was the quiet, reserved one while my younger sister was quite outgoing. This inevitably presented some challenges, and I don’t think my parents realized that this was just part of the difference in my personality. But I remember those challenges very well, and hopefully those will also help me be a better parent in realizing the diversity of personalities we can have. And I’m also now very happy for my very outgoing sister, and realize I will probably never have the same personality as her and don’t need to, either. :)

    • Looking back I see so many things that should have clued me in that I was more reserved by nature. However, because I am not terribly shy I didn’t know it. I remember well, though, some stressful moments when I was called on to “perform.” I am trying, like you said, to remember that now.
      Also, thanks for bringing up the point about interacting with other kids. I need to be more aware of that. I think it is true that we tend to gravitate to the outgoing bubbly children.

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