Having worked exclusively with children since 2006 with the focus of child development through the Creative Arts, I have identified 5 stock personality types in kids. I acknowledge that there will be many more and that children’s personality types cannot be limited to these.
These are, of course, drawn from my own observations and I put forth my theory in very general and broad terms, respecting that many children may display characteristics from multiple personality types and every single one will of course be nuanced, complicated and fascinating in their own individual way. Here are the five types I have identified and the ways to hinder and help each unique type.
Wild Child – Brave, bold and loud
You have or know this type of little boy or girl. Up a tree, in the pool, on the bike before you can blink. Doesn’t need as much encouragement as perhaps a watchful eye. Bumps and bruises and perhaps a messy mop of hair comes standard with the wild child. Courageous, bright eyed, daring and delicious. I believe the Wild in the Wild Child should never be squashed, hidden, down played or discouraged.
The Wild child might very well be a thinker or leader of the future. Their courage is their beauty and should be harnessed, given a platform, nurtured and treasured.
Ants in the pants! – Busy body. Easily distracted. Seeks variety in stimulation.
This child just needs to move. Usually great a sports, dancing and so on. Traditional learning environments might be challenging for this little one. Sitting still for long periods of time is hard for them. Place these little guys in an environment where they can shake loose and let it all out and you see a completely different child. Some children learn physically and need to their whole physical bodies involved, not just from the waist up. It is our job to provide for them the environment that they need.
The Ants-in-their-Pants kids often become the sports stars, dancers, gymnasts, artists of the future. I think it is high time that we start educating for the whole child and not merely the cognitive child.
Limelight Lover – Flamboyant and loud. Ready to perform at the drop of a hat
Naturally strong-willed with big personalities. Knows the words to “Let it go” from the Frozen movie backwards. Car journeys are never dull with this one. A natural mover to the beat of any tune. Make-believe, story telling, pretend and dress-up games are their favourite! Some Limelight Lovers are more comfortable in secure and known environments and hold back initially with new people.
Lime light lovers often grown up to contribute to the world as artists, actors, singers, dancers, writers and entrepreneurs.
Sensitive Soul – Doesn’t like excessive attention, prefers observing from the side lines
More on the quiet side. Checks out a situation thoroughly before joining in. Often introverted, especially around new people. Might cling to Mom or Dad. Scared of change, new groups or situations. We are not all extroverts, nor should we strive to be. We come in all shades of intro- and extroversion. It is important to accept these kids’ sensitive and gentle natures as perfectly fine, while giving them the self-confidence to not be afraid.
The world would be so unbalanced without our precious sensitive souls, who may grow up to be fine artists, musicians, academics, mathematicians or scientists. Thank goodness for their keen sense of observation and focus.
Walky Talky – Chatty and charming. Has a question about everything.
Wonderfully inquisitive souls. Hungry for information and eager to share that information with the world! Wants to know the “why” the “how” and the “how come” about everything. Doesn’t need to be prompted to get his or her rundown about the school day. Creative ideas and stories bubble out of them.
These kids often grow up to be the innovators, the scientists, the thinkers, the story, the writers, the journalists and the engineers. Inquisitive and bold, they will help shape the future world.
These are a few of the types of children I frequently encounter. And I truly enjoy them all! There is a fascinating beauty to every type of child.
My do’s and don’ts:
Don’t make the mistake of labeling their energetic and enthusiastic nature as disobedient. “Children are likely to live up to what we believe of them.” – Lady Bird Johnson. Their energies simply need to be directed through guidance and structure. Without a platform to express their energy, they may become habitually naughty or misbehaved in order to get the attention that they crave.
Do keep your eyes open and your wits about you and run free with the Wild Child, providing the net of safety and structure for them. Set them clear boundaries so that they can be free between these. Make sure you offer them as many platforms to express their enthusiasm and energy.
Ants in the pants!
Don’t diagnose or medicate high energy and restlessness too soon. Contemporary society is medicating children more than ever before, when all they may be really “suffering” from is being a child. (Not to dismiss real medical conditions.) Struggling to concentrate is not out-of-the order or strange for a young child.
Do offer them long periods of fun physical activities. It truly is an outlet for their energy. Also offer them activities to help them stretch their concentration for longer periods. If you make these concentration-building activities fun, you will have excellent luck. Involve left and right brain, fine and gross motor, activities that use the entire body.
Don’t tease or make a mockery of the Limelight Lover. Like the Wild Child, their natural enthusiasm and zest for life can be easily squashed or silenced. I was (am) a limelight lover and I was often a source of amusement for adults or encouraging me to “tone it down.” This adult reasoning with young children baffles me. Kids are simply expressing their personalities, unable to edit themselves the way adults do. (Adults do this way too much in any case. We should learn from children.) Remember that not all Limelight Lovers are immediately comfortable in front of crowds and might display more extroversion at home than in public. They may grow into their confidence and it is our role as parents to give them this platform.
Do give them a platform! Dress up and play with them. Switch off the TV! Limelight Lovers, like all children, like nothing better than for their parents to bear witness to the things they do, however small. Be involved, every step of the way. Don’t deny them attention.
Don’t call them shy. Especially not in front of others. I hate the word “shy” and have absolutely banned its use in my organization. I believe shy is a behavioural habit that is formed as a result of fear. The fear of getting “it” wrong. Be careful what you say of children. They can hear you and as said before, they will live up to your expectation of them. Here is an interesting article expanding on this.
Do encourage them to join in with activities with gentle reassurance. Go right up to the group of kids at the party or the classroom and try to “pull the plaster off quickly” and get them involved. Excessive negotiating and explaining often makes it less likely that they will be swayed to join in. This is an opportunity to develop trust with the child, which is what they so need and crave. Explain where you will be waiting or when you will be back while the child does the activity and deliver on your promise. This is how trust is built. Withholding your child from that which they fear (irrational fear) does not help them.
Don’t silence and shhhhh the Walky Talky too often. They are not talking to infuriate you. They are talking to make sense of the world. Many of us are verbal thinkers. Don’t assume they are naughty when chatty at an inappropriate time.
Do give them patience and time. Give them pockets of time to tell their stories, encourage and celebrate it! Make up stories with them. Show them the world and stimulate them with museum visits and excursions.
I would love to hear your feedback on this!