Parents' Corner

Preschooler Personalities: Bringing Out the Best in Your Child

Posted by David Smith on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 @ 08:00 AM

PreS.jpgIn February 2008, a study published in the Journal of Personality suggested that personality traits displayed by preschoolers are a good predictor of their adult personalities. This study found three personality types:

  • Overcontrolled — shy, quiet, self-conscious, uncomfortable around strangers
  • Undercontrolled — not enough impulse control, which can lead to aggressive behavior
  • Resilient — can control their emotions, interact with others and manage adversity

Not surprisingly, the resilient children tended to mature first — but the article also shares that “just because kids start out over- or undercontrolling doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in life.” Parents can help by teaching overcontrolling children social skills and sharing strategies for being more sensitive to others with the undercontrollers. Other studies, this article says, indicate “you can round off the sharp edges of personality.”

A Similar Approach

WebMD categorizes children’s personalities in a similar way, using different but more down-to-earth language; the italicized text is an exact quote:

  • Easy or happy, but not full-tilt constantly
  • Shy or slow to warm — often thoughtful and quiet
  • Spirited (a nice term for "Get down off the refrigerator right now!")

The article offers toddler-appropriate ways to bring out the best of each of the personality types, and the spirit of each piece is also good advice for preschoolers and other young children. It’s worth a read.

Decoding Personality points out another way to look at personality type in your young child: by his or her dominant sense. Children can be:

  • Tactile
  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Taste/smell-oriented

As one example, tactile children “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.” If you have a tactile preschooler, practice counting by using something tangible, such as blocks, and teach letters by finding objects that begin with the same letter: cat, corn, crib and so forth.

We recommend you read the entire article to find out how to help your child if he or she falls into another category — and it also shares how to help your baby and toddler based on personality type.

Better Way to Label

"Some aspects of a child's temperament are essentially hardwired," says Jonathan Pochyly, PhD, pediatric psychologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "Many are predisposed to, say, being shy. But that doesn't mean you can't help guide and influence your child's behavior." (

One simple way to better guide your child is to substitute old, potentially harmful labels for more productive ones. For example, rather than calling a child “shy,” use “careful.” The old label suggests the child hides, while the new one means he or she “just takes smarter steps when he goes out into it [the world].” You can replace “wild” with “energetic”; “fussy” with “selective” and so forth.

Note that none of these personality types is “bad.” What’s most important is helping your child capitalize on learning and living in a way that fits his or her unique personality.

Looking for more ways to enrich your child’s learning and life? Horizon Education Center provides affordable quality care, including educational and enrichment opportunities for children in the following Northeast Ohio locations.

Topics: Preschool

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