Your child’s personality: What makes it and how to shape it? Whether you’re interacting with a toddler or an adult, it quickly becomes clear that every person has a distinct personality. In fact, one of the qualities that distinguish us as individuals is our behavioural style, often referred to as temperament.

Most researchers agree that temperament is characterized by an individual’s emotional and irritability levels, activity and energy levels, sociability, and attention and persistence levels. As your toddler’s emotional development progresses, and they express  themselves  more and more, you’ll see clues emerge as to what their temperament will be like when they are older.

Researchers have found that it’s during the toddler years when at least some features of our inherited (or heritable) temperament begin to appear, and they’ll have an influence on our temperament throughout our lives. The behavioural characteristics that appear to be most heritable are activity level, irritability level, and negative emotionality. On the other hand, rest assured that even though elements of temperament are inherited, there’s no guarantee that a temperament style (especially a difficult or negative one) will appear in all children in a family or even in a succeeding generation. Experiences matter a lot!

In general, toddlers and children who show very high levels of ongoing irritability are most likely to display that trait over the long term. If your toddler shows such signs of a challenging temperament, take heart. Truly sensitive and flexible parenting goes a long way in helping an irritable toddler become better at controlling their emotions. Also, keep in mind that your supportive influence can make a big difference in your child’s future temperament, even though heredity contributes to their behaviour.


  1. Data on file