My best friend is the most extroverted person I've ever met, which is funny, since I'm the most introverted person on the planet. When her daughter was born, she was really “chatty” and constantly smiling. And now as a toddler, she's just like my friend — the center of attention and talkative. Could we have known her daughter was an extrovert like her mother based on these traits? My friend was wondering even early on, "Is my baby an extrovert if they smile all the time?" Her daughter's traits certainly seemed that way. But can babies exhibit strong personality traits at such a young age? Is smiling a sign of being an extrovert, being happy, or just gas?
According to Dr. Mayra Mendez, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, smiling is “a universal communication tool,” that isn’t necessarily defined by temperament style, and is definitely not exclusive to outgoing or extroverted people, babies included. “A smile can have many meanings such as greeting, acknowledging, sharing joy or happiness, satisfaction, acceptance, agreement, and contentment to name a few,” Mendez explains to Romper in an email interview. “Smiling may be exhibited by babies who tend towards outgoing engagement, but smiles are also exhibited by babies who tends towards calm, quiet and cautious engagement.”
So what are some signs that your baby is an extrovert? Mendez says to look for your baby "reaching for people and using touch to engage; exhibiting high levels of vocalizations, talking, sound making; and exhibiting higher levels of activity and active exploring utilizing multi-sensory skills (talking, looking, touching, listening, high level motor movements, and use of space widely)." Your baby may also exhibit increased emotionality or may be easily emotionally charged, have a high level of reactivity, or be loud and excitable, according to Mendez.
If you think your baby may be an introvert, Mendez says that those traits can include your baby being cautious, thoughtful, calm and quiet, and they may seem to be observational, have slow movements, and have a preference for solitude and "low-stimulation environments." Kind of like a sloth, and like myself. Other signs include being quiet and not making as much noise as other babies, being really good at entertaining themselves, learning best by watching the world around them and doing things themselves, and "having a low level of reactivity.”
As far as how soon you’ll be able to tell if your baby is an introvert or extrovert, Mendez says you will be able to tell as early as infancy. “Personality type may be better understood through the definition of temperament that simply means a child’s pattern or preferred manner of engaging, regulating emotions, processing information, and expressing emotions." Mendez says your newborn baby will show their temperament immediately, whether they're fussy, active and energetic (extroverted), or if they're calm, cautious, and quiet (introverted). A personality type or temperament style is composed of numerous aspects, Mendez says, including “genetics, cultural influences, modeling of the behaviors demonstrated by caregivers, and the overall nature of your baby’s disposition."
Since my husband and I are most definitely introverts to the T, I asked Mendez if this meant our son will be introverted as well, and whether it was a nature versus nurture issue. Are there parenting techniques that lend to your baby being more extroverted or introverted? Do they inherit this from the parents? Mendez says it’s a little of both nature and nurture, modeling, genetics, and environmental influences. “Parents who are well attuned to their child’s temperament style can better understand their baby’s individual differences. By understanding temperament, parents can support their child to express preferences, desires, and feelings appropriately. Parents with solid understanding of development and the impact of temperament upon the child’s behavior can also use their understanding of temperament to avoid blaming themselves or a child for reactions that are typical and unique to the child,” she says.
Even if your baby is smiley, it may not necessarily mean they are extroverted unless there are other traits your baby exhibits along with it, including being chatty, active, and emotionally charged. Enjoy that smiley happy baby, whether they’re extroverted or not. It’s much better than them being fussy, am I right?
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