In college, I remember taking a course required for my psychology degree about the theories of personality. I found it so interesting because while people are so similar in a lot of ways, personalities can be so drastically different, opposite even, and yet still have things in common. And kids are so great at exemplifying that. Despite their differences, kids can easily make friends with all kinds of different people. So if you're wondering what you're child will be like as an adult, there are some personality traits that your 5-year-old will probably have forever. I checked in with expert Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of the book, The Self-Aware Parent, to see what personality traits are likely to stay.
Personality is fascinating and there are many different theories out there, but one of the most popular models is the The Big Five personality traits, known as OCEAN. "OCEAN is an acronym that stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism," Walfish says.
Openness refers to openness to experience. For example, is your child intellectually curious, imaginative and independent or creative? Or are they more consistently closed-minded and cautious? Conscientiousness refers to a child being more organized and efficient or more laid-back and careless. Level of extraversion tells us whether a person is more outgoing and energetic, or solitary and reserved. Agreeableness represents a person's level of compassion and friendliness versus someone with low agreeableness, which would be more detached and have a more challenging personality. And finally neuroticism refers to how sensitive and nervous someone may be, or confident and secure. So these are the traits that your child are likely born with and will carry with them throughout their life. Dr. Walfish says, "Children come into the world immediately showing the personality traits," making our kids completely unique right from the beginning.
As parents, we all know that boundaries and consistency are important for kids. But Dr. Walfish really hones in on it. "Without boundaries, consequences, realistic expectations, [or] any structure or protocol for appropriate behavior, kids grow up and emerge with poor emotion regulation, rebellious and defiant when desires are challenged, low persistence to challenging tasks, and engage in antisocial behaviors."
But if your child shows personality traits that bring them (or you) challenges, is change possible? "Change is possible," according to Walfish. "Much has been speculated and written about what is required in order to make change. One thing I know for sure: motivation and determination are prerequisites, and pain is usually the greatest motivator for change." But parenting has a lot to do with it, too.
No matter what though, here are five personality traits your 5-year-old exhibits that are here to stay.
1. Outgoingness Or Shyness
Is your child always making new friends and wanting to be the star of the show? Or are they more reserved and like to be left alone? Dr. Walfish says, "Temperament is intrinsic, innate, and we are born with it. Shyness or outgoingness does not go away. Your 5 year-old will always have the same temperament in his or her personality organization." It's important to remember that whether your child is more outgoing or tends to be more on the shy side, both are perfectly normal and should be treated and nurtured as part of your child's unique personality.
2. Hyperactive Or Laid Back
This is a big one for a lot of parents, as it can become problematic for your child if they tend to be too much on either side of the spectrum. But Dr. Walfish says this personality trait will likely be here to stay. "Activity level, or how active (tempo of speed) the child is seems to be a personality trait we are born with."
3. Bad Temper
This is one that you may need some assistance helping your child with, because anger can be a difficult emotion for your child to handle. But Dr. Walfish says, "Intensity and energy level of a reactive response, whether positive or negative, is another trait we are innately born with." Remember, there's always time for change to help our kids process their emotions in a more productive way.
4. Good Sleeper Or Eater
This is the first personality trait that we see in our kids because it presents itself as soon as they're born. "Regularity, meaning the predictability of biological functions like appetite and sleep, are traits we are born with," says Dr. Walfish and I think any sleep deprived parent would agree with that.
5. Strong Will
While this trait may drive us parents nuts sometimes, having a strong willed child isn't a bad thing. Strong will is another personality trait that parents can see right away. "Willfulness is an innate aspect of temperament with which we are born. Strength of will is present from the onset of birth in the style, tempo, and volume that the infant demands his needs be met. The length in which a newborn infant will cry, the volume and relentless determination of the cries, also indicated strength of willfulness," says Dr. Walfish.