Each person has his own unique personality which actually begins to emerge from an early age. By the age of six months, most parents can identify the nature of the child. These traits become stronger between ages three to ten and then they continue to develop throughout the adolescent years. The older view that every person is born with his personality has now been modified. It is now recognized that personality development depends on both nature and nurture. Parents must help the child to develop good habits and traits and a strong sense of self from an early age. While each child is unique, parental actions can go a long way towards helping in the development of personality.
Personality refers to the group of character traits that make a person unique. According to psychologists, these personality traits actually begin to emerge around the age of six months when the child becomes capable of independent movement. You will often hear parents describing their babies as ‘temperamental’ or ‘sweet’. As the child grows, the development of personality continues rapidly. Most of the major traits are manifested between ages three and five years. Kirby Deater-Deckard, psychology professor at Virginia Institute of Polytechnic explains that these are the preschool years when the child is learning to cope with a number of new experiences and express his own feelings. They are becoming more active. Hence it is during this time that the major personality traits begin to emerge quite clearly.
Factors affecting personality development of kids
What are the factors that affect the development of personality in children? There are several schools of views. Some of the factors which are thought to play an important role are given here:
- Heredity is regarded as an important factor. For example, qualities like athleticism may be an inherited trait.
- Traditions are another factor. The traditional and ethnic values, its symbolism and rites will influence the behavior of individuals.
- Birth order is thought to have significant influence on the personality of a child. A firstborn, a middle child and the youngest child will show distinct and definite differences in personality traits. On the other hand, an only child also has personality characteristics developed because of his/her status as an only child.
- But perhaps the most influential factor affecting personality development is the quality of parenting and childhood training that the kid receives. That is why parents have a crucial role to play in developing the personality of their children.
Parenting and personality development of kids
As parents, there are a number of things that you can do to help proper development of personality of your child. Some important tips are as follows:
- The first task is to make time for your child and this goes for both the other and the father as a family group as well as with each individual parent. Attention and company of a parent is vital to the proper development of the child. No matter how busy you are or what a high powered job you hold, you need to make time for your kid. You need not plan a grand activity all the time, but you need to convey the feeling that you are always ready to spend time with him/her or listen to his/her problems.
- Your child is unique and even if you have twins, each child has his own personality. It is necessary that you treat your child as an individual. You should not try to put him/her in a preconceived category or to build him up to be an image of yourself. Using words like “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister/father/mother?” can actually hamper the natural development of personality in your child.
- Your child will learn how to behave from you. So, parents need to set an example. Children learn by imitation. Younger they are, longer they spend observing you and imitating your behavior. If you are engaged in family quarrels, abusive language or other negative behavior in front of your child, he/she will have a bad example to follow. Such parental behavior often leaves lifelong impact on personality of the child.
- You have to be aware about what your child is being exposed to and how much he/she has been absorbing. The television, the internet and even the magazines can expose your child to inappropriate material. You may think that he/she is too young to understand, but you will be surprised at how much a child can absorb. So, you need to be careful of the influences which pervade the atmosphere around your child.
- Avoid labeling the behavior of your child. This is especially common in large families with a number of siblings. One is tough; the other is quiet and a third is imaginative. While these labels may be partially true, they actually force the child into neat little categories. If he/she has a potential to be anything more, it is strangled at birth. So, avoid putting labels on your child.
- The best way to let the personality of your child emerge naturally is through play. Play is the way that children learn. It helps in physical, social and psychological development of a preschooler. He/she learns the skills of decision making, problem solving, leadership and gives reign to his/her creativity. So, letting your child play is necessary to help his/her personality to develop fully.
- Finally, parents need to use the twin concepts of reward and punishment carefully to help in the development of personality in their children. You praise the behavior that you want to encourage and you ignore or give a token punishment in response to behavior you want to discourage. However, recent research shows that reward punishment does not affect the personality as child grows older. In a study by Birch et al (1984) it was concluded that if you want your child to actually want to do something, it will be counterproductive to reward them for that behavior.