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How to Decode Your Child's Personality

Behavior researcher Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language System and of Oprah fame, has it all laid out in her new book, Child Sense (Bantam). "All kids have a dominant sense that determines how they experience and relate to the world," she says. Here's a guide to understanding your little alien:

The Tactile Child

Tactile kids express themselves physically. If happy, they skip; if sad, they need a cuddle; if angry or excited, they push or shove. They learn by doing.

What it means for babies

These little ones love to be held all the time, but they're also soothed by movement. If your arms need a break, put him in a swing or carrier.

What it means for toddlers

These are the guys you see throwing themselves on the ground and thrashing about. Try tickling him or doing something else that is physical yet playful to "wake him up" from the tantrum. If that doesn't work, walk away. Tactile kids don't like to be alone, and the act of running after you may help him switch gears.

What it means for preschoolers

He'll respond best to lessons that involve tangible items. Use blocks to teach counting, and find objects that all start with the same letter -- ball, butter, belt; cat, cup, carrot -- to help him learn the alphabet.

The Auditory Child

Auditory kids notice the tone of people's voices and noise levels. They vocalize all of their feelings: laughing uproariously, crying loudly, shouting angrily. They are logical and mathematical, always looking for order and patterns.

What it means for babies

This child startles easily and will listen intently to music, but don't play it at bedtime -- it will distract her so much she won't be able to go to sleep.

What it means for toddlers

High-pitched squeals often punctuate this child's tantrums. Try a quick, focused conversation or her favorite music to alleviate a meltdown. Or take her to a quiet spot to calm down.

What it means for preschoolers

These kids learn best when being read to, matching the sound of a letter with the letter itself, and, of course, by singing the ABC's.

The Visual Child

Visual kids learn by watching and imitating you. They enjoy organizing their toys by shape, color, or size, and tend to learn to read easily. Too much visual input from TVs, crowds, and clutter can be distracting.

What it means for babies

Visual infants often get labeled "good babies" because it's easy to meet their needs. All that these babies need to feel secure and comforted is to be able to see their parent or caregiver nearby.

What it means for toddlers

Tantrums for these kids are very dramatic, with vivid expressions and copious tears. Offer a visual distraction, such as a brightly colored toy. Or just look away -- he hates being deprived of an audience.

What it means for preschoolers

These tots get bored if they can't see what they're learning; think picture books, flash cards, and drawing on a chalkboard. 

The Taste-and-Smell Child

These children are intuitive and more attuned to the emotional world. They're also highly sensitive and averse to loud noises, bright lights, and strong smells and tastes.

What it means for babies

These little ones like to be cuddled, but they're not calmed simply by being held. If you're nervous or fearful, they're likely to be agitated, too.

What it means for toddlers

Taste-and-smell toddlers require lots of reassurance. Let her know that even if you're disappointed in her behavior, you won't stop loving her.

What it means for preschoolers

The relationships this child has with her teachers can make or break school. Help her along by showing how much you like the teacher.

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