Our son has always been the mouthy type, and he’s been that way for as far back as I can remember. If you have a mouthy kid, you know how annoying that behavior can be. Mouthy kids have a response for – and an opinion about – EVERYTHING. They challenge EVERYTHING. And they drive you crazy.
Discovering about how personality influences children’s behavior helped us understand our son better. It helped us become aware that certain characteristics are part of children’s nature and instead of focusing on “getting rid of them”, we need to parent with those characteristics in mind.
For instance, instead of trying to “change” our son, we focused on teaching him that although he is free to express his opinion, he should do so with respect and accept that there will be many occasions on which others will have a different viewpoint.
When children are still little, some of their behavior traits seem “problematic” and as parents, we may be tempted to change them. But many of the characteristics that are frowned upon in childhood actually become strengths as your child grows older.
- If a “mouthy” child is taught to mind how they express themselves, they become an adult who is not afraid to disagree respectfully
- An “overly emotional” child who is taught to express their feelings instead of repressing them becomes an adult who is sensitive to others’ feelings
- If a child who pays too much attention to what others think of them is taught that they too matter, they become an adult who knows when to let go
Children – like everyone else – have very different personalities. There’s the kid who’ll smile at you when you’re yelling your loudest, and then there’s the other one who will burst into tears if you as much as whisper too loudly.
If you have several kids, you’ve probably already noticed minor or major differences in their personality. One of your kids might be the “attention seeker” who thrives on being watched, and the other one may be a “silent observer” who is attentive to everything and everyone around them.
Different children have different personalities, and these personalities affect their behavior. This may explain why one discipline strategy that has always worked with your first two kids can be a miserable failure with your third one, or even why, despite raising all your kids with a focus on non-materiality, one of them may appear to be interested only in material things.
The challenges of determining personalities in childhood
Children can change at a dizzying speed and it is not uncommon for a child who was described as a “painfully shy” toddler to become a “boisterous” preschooler.
Determining a child’s personality can be a tricky and misleading affair because childhood is a period of development, meaning that your child is still acquiring cognitive, social and emotional skills which will affect their behavior.
Also, your child’s environment and even your parenting style has a large impact on their behavior. For instance, if a child’s natural tendencies are overlooked or stifled in any way, then they can lean on their other functions. In such a case, such children experience great distress, frustration, stress, anxiety or even feelings of shame.
And then, “for every rule, there is an exception”.
That said, children’s personalities tend to remain relatively constant because their dominant function, meaning the most well-developed one, develops in childhood.
This dominant function is usually fully developed by the time your child turns 13 and describes a large part of their personality. For example, if your child’s dominant function is extroverted, they will usually display extrovert behavior. But other factors also intervene, which explains why, for instance, all extroverts do not behave exactly the same.
There is A LOT to be said about children’s personalities and about the different functions that all have an impact on your child’s personality – I couldn’t possibly cover everything here.
This article proposes a brief overview of what to expect of your child depending on their personality type.
Understanding the different types of child personalities
Every child has their own unique personality. This influences their behavior right from the toddler years. A more adventurous or curious child might start crawling or walking earlier, and a shyer one may take a longer time to explore the unknown.
Although identifying personality types in childhood should always be treated as a simple “guide”, being more aware of your child’s dominant function can help you understand them better and allow you to parent with their temperament in mind.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the best known tools for identifying personality type, even though it has several shortcomings. It was developed by a mother and her daughter who felt that the more people were able to understand themselves (strengths, weaknesses, preferences), the easier it would be to make better life choices and to lead happier lives.
The MBTI proposes 16 personality types based on four different scales:
- Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I): Distinguishes between extrovert and introvert behavior.
- Sensing (S) – Intuition (N): Refers to how your child gains information. It distinguishes between people who gather information primarily by sensing the things around them and those who do so based on intuition.
- Thinking (T) – Feeling (F): Refers to whether your child makes decisions based on their feelings or on logic.
- Judging (J) – Perceiving (P): Refers to how your child organizes their environment
Depending on these preferences, a four-letter code is used to determine your child’s personality type.
Understanding your child’s personality
Understanding your child’s personality will make it easier to understand their behavior. It can also help you determine what activities are best suited for your child and which are best avoided.
Knowing that your child is not simply being “unreasonably stubborn” can also change your parent-child relationship and modify how you view and react to their behavior.
As I mentioned earlier, there is so much to be said about the characteristics of different personalities that I couldn’t possibly cover it all here.
If you would like more information about your child’s personality type, download the FREE printout at the end of this article. The printout features some of the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type to help you get a better understanding of your child. It also proposes a few parenting tips based on your child’s temperament.
The ISTJ child – “The Logistician”
Five characteristics of the ISTJ child
- They are perceived as serious – they are the kind of child teachers love because they will do exactly what is expected of them in the classroom
- They like routines – if Friday night is Pizza night, they’d better be Pizza on Friday
- They pay attention to detail – they could spend hours on their drawing because they want it to be just perfect
- They rely on facts and logic – if you have an ISTJ, you won’t easily get away with weak explanations.
- They like working alone – it is not uncommon to find a child with this personality type playing alone or lying on their bed reading
The ISFJ child – “The defender”
Five characteristics of the ISFJ child
- They are reserved – they won’t be the most outspoken child in their class
- They are empathetic – an ISFJ child will go help the kid struggling with a math problem
- They are very sensitive to criticism – If you have an ISFJ child, you’ve probably already noticed that they do not take criticism well and may cry easily
- They are anxious – Your ISFJ child may struggle with anxiety anytime their normal routine changes
- They need external approval – the ISFJ child needs to know that they have their parents’ love and support.
The ESTJ child – “The executive”
Five characteristics of the ESTJ child
- They are outgoing – many kids in your ESTJ child’s class probably want to be their friend
- They do not shy away from leadership roles
- They like structure – your child appreciates knowing exactly how each day is planned
- They speak their minds – your child is the outspoken child in the classroom
- They have a competitive nature
The ESFJ child – “The consul”
Five characteristics of the ESFJ child
- ESFJ children are very empathetic – your child will go see why her classmate is crying and try to calm her down
- They are naturally friendly – they make friends easily
- They may put others before themselves – because of their highly empathetic nature, they may pay more attention to others’ needs instead of their own
- They pay a lot of attention to detail – your ESFJ daughter won’t stop her drawing until it is exactly how she wants it
- They are very reliable – when they say they’ll do something, they often follow through
The ISTP child – “The virtuoso”
Five characteristics of the ISTP child
- The ISTP child is curious. This is the kid who is always asking questions
- They are critical thinkers – they will go over any information they have carefully and challenge it if they have doubts
- They are explorers – your ISTP child loves discovering new things
- Your ISTP child is independent, and this behavior can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness or defiance
- They are creatives – your ISTP child is always creating things and coming up with interesting solutions to problems
The ISFP child – “The adventurer”
Five characteristics of the ISFP child
- ISFP kids are nice to be around because they are very easy going
- These kids will do almost anything to avoid conflict. If you have an ISFP child, they will often be the first ones to give in when in conflict with friends or siblings
- Your ISFP child is a creative – they will love anything that keeps their hands busy
- These kids are often silent and tend to appear cautious on the outside
- ISFP children love adventure – they love discovering new things and new places
The ESTP child – “The entrepreneur”
Five characteristics of ESTP children
- ESTP children thrive on risk. These are the kids who you have to keep an eye on because they are always trying out new things
- They are very observant
- These kids are always on the move and this behavior may be mistaken for hyperactivity or an inability to focus
- They prefer spontaneity to routine
- An ESTP child is an independent problem-solver who prefers finding their own solutions
The ESFP child – “The entertainer”
Five characteristics of ESFP children
- ESFP children love being around other people
- They are very attentive to their environment and tend to notice things that other people do not
- If your child is an ESFP child, they always seem to have the right response that makes others laugh
- People find these children charming and like to be around them
- ESFP children are entertainers and enjoy activities that help them unleash their creative side
The INTJ Child – the “architect”
Five characteristics of INTJ children
- INTJ children often come off as “too serious” and as “older than their real age”
- If your child has an INTJ personality type, they will appreciate their alone time
- These kids think a lot and have thought-provoking questions that could appear surprising for someone their age
- An INTJ child is a “book worm”
- INTJ children prefer finding solutions and doing things by themselves
The INFJ Child – the “advocate”
Five characteristics of INFJ children
- INFJ children are highly empathetic
- They will avoid conflict at all costs
- They love being alone to read or even to simply think about the things in their lives
- An INFJ child does not thrive in situations of overstimulation, so they are likely to have a hard time adjusting to environments in which there is too much clutter, too much noise, or too much action.
- These kids think a lot and ask “difficult” questions for their age
The ENTJ child – the “commander”
Five characteristics of ENTJ children
- ENTJ kids are perfectionists
- They are competitive and may have a hard time accepting failure
- If an ENTJ child sets their mind on doing something, they’ll probably achieve it
- They are very independent, and this behavior can be mistaken for defiance
- They like being allowed to make their own decisions
The ENFJ child – “The protagonist”
Five characteristics of ENFJ children
- The ENFJ child will put others’ needs before their own
- They are great communicators and always seem to know what to say
- These kids need harmonious environments to thrive – they will avoid conflict at all costs and do not thrive if there is a lack of harmony at home or in the classroom
- They are often aware of what is expected of them and will do anything to meet those expectations
- ENFJ children are very energetic and will often want to do many things at the same time
The INTP child – the “logician”
Five characteristics of the INTP child
- INTP kids analyze everything!
- They will challenge anything that doesn’t make sense to them and doesn’t seem logical
- Fairness is important for an INTP kid. When playing a game with friends, they will ensure that everyone has had their turn
- INTP kids are the kids who will start one activity, then quickly leave it to start a second, which they will just as quickly leave to start a third
- These kids appear to be constantly in need of challenges and new activities to explore
The INFP child – The mediator
Five characteristics of the INFP child
- INFP children can appear to be overly sensitive and they may cry easily
- They are very imaginative and enjoy engaging in activities such as storytelling or make-believe play
- They tend to put others’ needs before their own
- An INFP child may appear to absent-minded as they lose themselves in their imagination
- – They like to know that they matter and may become hurt if they feel like no one is listening to them
The ENTP child – the “debater”
Five characteristics of the ENTP child
- The ENTP child is curious and will ask a lot of questions
- They are creative and will try out many different ways of doing things or will enjoy making up and sharing stories
- They are very energetic and appear to thrive when doing many things at the same time
- ENTP children like meeting new people and making friends
- They like exploring new ways of doing things
The ENFP child – “The campaigner”
Five characteristics of the ENFP child
- ENFP children like exploring new things
- They are open to trying out new experiences and are also more accepting of others’ differences
- They are outspoken and do not fear speaking their minds
- They think of many different ways of doing things and like to share their views with family and friends
- They are creative and tend to be attracted to activities that allow them to experiment with creativity – arts and crafts, drama, music, and so on.
As I mentioned earlier, the article above presents a very brief overview of personality types. I have prepared a free guide with additional characteristics to help you get a clearer idea of your child’s personality type and, more importantly, to give you tips on the best way to take their personality into account in your parenting.
Remember that this is just a guide and not a professional assessment of your child’s personality. Only a trained professional can administer the real MBTI and give you an accurate interpretation of the results.
When determining your child’s personality, please remember that children are still developing and changing, meaning that before age seven, you are unlikely to be able to determine their “real personality type”. Even after age seven, many things are likely to change as they grow older.
Also, the environment in which they are raised, and your parenting style, can influence their behavior. And, lastly, children often act in unexpected ways: a child who needs months before they can get accustomed to their new teacher may fall in love with their swimming instructor on sight.
In other words, nothing is set in stone, meaning that it is important to think of this guide as just that: a “guide” usable in the present moment.
Can you change your child’s personality?
It is not uncommon for a parent with a shy child to wish that they were “more outgoing”, or one with a “talkative one” to wish that they could “listen to others a bit more”. That’s something that many parents do, but it is important to understand that your child’s personality is not “right or “wrong” or “better or worse” than any other child.
Remember that certain traits that appear challenging in childhood will actually be a strength as your child grows. Once you accept that your child is unique and perfectly okay just the way they are, it will be easier to understand and accept their behavior.
Having a better understanding of your child’s temperament will make it easier to manage challenging situations. For example, knowing that you have an INFJ child will help you avoid overexposure to over-stimulating environments.
As promised, here is a free downloadable guide with more information about the different strengths and weaknesses of your child’s personality type and simple parenting tips that respect their temperament.