We’re up to 10 months. I’d like to discuss your baby’s temperament today but first let’s take stock:
Do you know that oldie but goodie by Little Eva, “The Loco-Motion”? I’m guessing that could your little one’s current theme song. Creeping around (moving around while the belly still touches the ground) then to scooting (moving around with one leg moving) to full-blown crawling (on hands and knees). Triumphantly getting from A to B!
Like everything else, for some this is happening now, while others may not locomote much for another few months. (Some normal babies never crawl at all but go from sitting to walking, thereby avoiding the middle man!) A few of yours may even be pulling to stand and taking a few hesitant, independent steps And look at for that “neat pincer” grasp, which will scoop up and put into the mouth the smallest visible objects known to man.
Your Baby’s Language
Your baby’s simple babbling now has probably morphed into complex “jargoning.” It is complicated and sounds like real sentences, except in Martian, not English. (In my paranoid days, I decided all 10-month-olds were speaking their own language which they alone could understand and we adults couldn’t. They are really saying things to each other like “Don’t let the giants know you can talk, so they will think you are more helpless and do more for you then!”)
Likely your baby is in the throes of stranger and separation anxiety (which we discussed in detail at 7 months). What this means is that, as in most developmental stages, human relationships are by far the most important for establishing emotional bonds and for learning about the world.
Your Baby’s Thinking
Your baby’s sense of object permanence is much better and she knows things continue to exist outside of her perception of them. Additionally, your baby is learning about what causes things to happen. Previously, things happened magically, but now she is learning it is pulling a switch that causes the room to be flooded with light or it is the turning of a switch on the wind-up toy that actually causes it to move. This is an exciting time for your baby, who is making great intellectual leaps!
Your Baby’s Temperament
Now, let’s consider your baby’s temperament. By now you, no doubt, know she has one. For example, is your child:
- Intense in all things or mellow and laid back?
- Predictable in daily routines (eating sleeping) or frustratingly irregular (who knows when she is going to be hungry or ready to fall asleep)?
- Active or physically passive?
- Socially outgoing or slow to warm up?
- Easily distracted or has laser-like attention and persistence?
- A sensation-seeking, daredevil risk-taker or cautious?
- Adapts easily to changes in routine or gets totally bent out of shape?
- Overly sensitive to sounds, taste, touch or easily accepting of any environment?
It’s may be a bit too early for you to have recognized all of these temperamental traits, but they will become clearer in the next year. Still, I wanted to discuss temperament sooner rather than later because I think the whole concept is so important to think about, especially since it is often an unnecessary cause of great parent-child strife.
Temperament and Behavior
Temperament is the “how” of your child’s behavior: how she tends to respond to the world. If you have more than one child, you probably already see their inborn differences.
You can see by the list of temperamental traits that some are a lot easier to deal with than others. Most parents would like an easy, mellow, predictable child. Children with easy temperaments are, of course, simply easier to raise, at least when they are little.
But imagine a child who is very intense, always on the go, is sensation-seeking and fearless, hates changes in routines, is completely unpredictable in moods and physical needs. This is the “difficult” or “challenging” or “spirited” child (pick your favorite euphemism – one author simply calls them “mother-killers”). That child, although perfectly normal, is going to be harder to raise, even for the most patient of parents. As a colleague of mine once said, a difficult child is born and looks up at his/her parents and says: “I’m going to make you look bad. However you try to raise me, I’m going to make it hard for you and butt heads every step of the way.” Lots of luck!
Raising a Difficult Child
The good news is that if you happen to have been given a difficult child, it’s clear that, in the long run, they will do as well as the easy child, as long as the “goodness of fit” between you and your child is maintained and bolstered. That means, despite exasperating challenges (especially as a toddler), you:
- Understand that it is no one’s fault (not yours, not his).
- Try, as best you can, to appreciate him for who his, not who you want him to be.
- Be sure he does not feels demeaned, diminished, and inferior because of the behavioral challenges.
- Figure out ways to allow the difficult temperamental traits to slowly become modified, smoothing the rough edges, while not trying to invent a whole new person.
When there is a good fit, parents recognize their child and their temperament, respect it, work with it, and help the child to use those traits in a positive way. When that happens, those kids have shown to do as well as anyone. But if a parent just can’t accept the child they have been given and constantly tries to revolutionize that child’s entire personality, in the process demeaning and diminishing who that child really is, there is major grief in store.
In these articles I’ve tried to help you to understand and to discover your child. Of all the lenses by which you’ll try to figure him out, I’d put temperament right up there at the top.