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Your Baby's Personality and You

All babies are hardwired with certain personality traits, and the ones your child was born with will help dictate whether he laughs or cries in the face of change, keeps going when frustrated, and maybe even how soon he tries to walk.

But that's only part of it. The other half of the equation is how you respond to his unique propensities. Say you have a shy baby. If you give him a chance to warm up when your Aunt Rita and Uncle Phil come over, he may be blowing raspberries all over them by the time the visit wraps up. But try thrusting him into their arms and he may not go near them again before kindergarten.

Researchers believe that each child starts life with an inherited set of nine personality traits. The specific combo he comes bundled with puts him into one of three categories: easy, slow to warm up, and challenging.

But don't freak out! Even though you can't change your baby's inborn personality any more than you can change your spouse's annoying habits (though that doesn't stop us from trying!), you can help him realize his full potential by providing him with the opportunity to experience and discover what best suits him.

How soon will you know what your baby's like? Some traits are obvious almost from birth; others will become apparent by 3 or 4 months. And some may evolve in intensity. For instance, his low frustration level may improve as he gains confidence in his abilities, or his desire for activity may subside a bit as his attention span grows. Even the most challenging traits can become less problematic as a child learns to cope with life's ups and downs and figures out what makes him happy -- in conjunction with your support and guidance, of course.

In the meantime, here's how to recognize the kid your baby will soon become, and bring out his best.


1) Activity level

What to look for: Does your baby usually seem content to watch the world from her bouncy seat? Or does she turn diaper changes into wrestling matches?

How to deal: If she has a low activity level, you may not want to overwhelm her with too much physical play. Instead, give her plenty of options -- a hanging gym, an activity bar on the stroller -- to keep her motivated.

The highly active baby, on the other hand, has a high tolerance for stimulation. She may reach gross-motor milestones like walking sooner than other babies. The downside: You need to be vigilant about safety because she's more likely than mellower babies to get into trouble. Remove all crib accessories the minute she learns to roll over, always use the safety belt on the changing pad, and never leave her unattended in a bouncy seat or she's liable to flip herself over. Here's the bright side, though: She'll probably be a good sleeper, since all this action is bound to wear her out!