Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

Shades of Character

by Michelle Watson

Anyone who has spent time with or around children will notice that each one has a special personality all of their own. Children, like adults, have different traits that make up their personalities. Experts have researched this phenomenon in detail and classified children into different categories. Some experts have named more than three categories, but Peter L. Manigone has chosen three that most experts agree with. These categories have been named “flexible,” “fearful,” and “feisty.” Children generally may have similar interests, but the way they interact and deal with these interests displays their personality type.

The first personality type is called flexible. This is the most common of the three types. About “40 percent of all children fall into the flexible or easy group” (Mangione). These children usually handle feelings of anger and disappointment by reacting mildly upset. This does not mean that they do not feel mad or disappointed, they just choose to react mildly. These actions mean the flexible child is easy to take care of and be around. According to Mangione, they usually “adapt to new situations and activities quickly, are toilet-trained easily, and are generally cheerful.” Flexible children are subtle in their need for attention. Rather than yelling and demanding it, they will slowly and politely let their caregiver know about the need. If they do not get the attention right away, they “seldom make a fuss.” They patiently wait, but they still make it known that they need the attention. These children also are easygoing, so routines like feeding and napping are regular (Mangione).

Flexible children may be referred to as “good as gold” because of their cheerful attitudes. Since these are well-behaved children, the caregiver needs to make sure the child is getting the attention they need. The caregiver should “check in with the flexible child from time to time” (Mangione). By checking in with the child regularly, the caregiver will be more knowledgeable about when the child needs attention and when they do not.

The next temperament is the fearful type. These are the more quiet and shy children. This makes up about 15 percent of children (Mangione). They adapt slowly to new environments and take longer than flexible children when warming up to things. When presented with a new environment, fearful children often cling to something or someone familiar. Whether it be the main caregiver or a material object such as a blanket, the fearful child will cling to it until they feel comfortable with the new situation. This can result in a deep attachment of the child to a particular caregiver or object. Fearful children may also withdraw when pushed into a new situation too quickly (Mangione). They may also withdraw when other children are jumping into a new project or situation they are not comfortable with. These children may tend to play alone rather than with a group.

In dealing with fearful children, caregivers find they need more attention than flexible children. A good technique for helping these children is having “a sequence of being with, talking to, stepping back, remaining available, and moving on” (Mangione). The caregiver can also help the fearful child by giving them “extra soothing combined with an inch-by-inch fostering of independence and assertiveness” (Viorst).  One of the most effective techniques is just taking it slow and helping the child become more comfortable with the surroundings.

The third temperament type is called feisty. About “10 percent” of children fit into this category (Mangione). A feisty child expresses their opinions in a very intense way. Whether they are happy or mad, everyone around them will know how they feel. These children remain active most of the time, and this causes them to be very aggressive. Feisty children often have the tendency to have a “negative persistence” and will go “on and on nagging, whining and negotiating” (“Facts About Temperament”) if there is something they particularly want. Unlike flexible children, feisty children are irregular in their napping and feeding times, but they do not adapt well to changes in their routines. They get “used to things and won’t give them up” ("Facts About Temperament"). Anything out of the ordinary could send them into some type of fit. If these children are not warned of a change, they may react very negatively (Mangione). Feisty children also tend to be very sensitive to their surrounding environment. As a result, they may have strong reactions to their surroundings.

When dealing with feisty children, the caregiver should know strategies that receive positive results when different situations arise. Mangione supports the “redirection technique” to calm feisty children. This method helps when the child is reacting very negatively to a situation. To properly implement the redirection technique

begin by recognizing and empathizing with the feelings of the feisty child and placing firm limits on any unacceptable behavior. This response lets the child know that both his or her desire for the toy and feelings of anger when denied the toy are acceptable to the caregiver. At the same time, the caregiver should clearly communicate to the child that expressing anger through hurtful or disruptive behavior is not acceptable. The child will probably need time to experience his or her emotions and settle down.

Then offer an alternative toy or activity that may interest the child, who is then given time to consider the new choice and to accept or reject it. (Mangione)

Caregivers should consider that these children generally do not have regular feeding and napping times. The caregiver should be flexible when working with these children, and try to conform more to the child (Mangione). If there is going to be a change in a child’s routine, the caregiver has an easier time with the child if the child has been warned of the change.

Generally speaking, children can be divided into three groups, but caregivers must not forget that each child is an individual. Children may have the traits of all three of the personality groups, but they are categorized into the one they are most like. Whatever their temperament, children need to be treated according to their individual needs. When these needs are met appropriately the child will be happier, and those around the child will feel better also. Knowing the general personality types and how to react to them will help to make the caregiver’s job much easier and aid in the relief of unnecessary stress.

Works Cited

“Facts About Temperament.” Temperamentproject n.d. < html/facts.html> 25 Oct 2000.

Mangione, Peter L. The Different Temperaments of Infants and Toddlers. J. Ronald Lally. Dir. Janet Poole. Media Services Unit, California Department of Education. California Department of Education.

Viorst, Judith. “Is Your Child’s Personality Set at Birth?” Tennessee Electronic Library. (Nov. 1995) Online. InfoTrac OneFile, A17618832.