The Cautious Temperament

In preparation for “the terrible two’s”, I’ve been reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block.  One chapter I found interesting was the temperament chapter.  The author carves out nine main traits of temperament, and lumps these nine into three major categories.  What I also found intriguing was the percentages associated with each type.

1)  Easy kids (40%) – these kids are flexible, active, not too intense, and open to new situations.  They wake up on the right side of the bed in the morning, cheerful and ready for a new day.

2)  Cautious kids (15%) – are also called “slow to warm up”.  Hesitant, sensitive, even fearful, they don’t like changes and surprises.  They tend to be peaceful but are easily frustrated.  These are the kids who insiste on watching other kids go down the slide for twenty minutes before they get up the confidence to carefully try it themselves.

3)  Spirited kids (10%) – are also called “challenging”.  These are the “more” kids: more active, more intense, more sensitive, more passionate, more inflexible, more moody, more impatient, impulsive, and strong-willed.

Now I don’t know how the author derived at these percentages other than his own experiences as a pediatrician, but it is largely on par with my own observations.  I haven’t met a lot of cautious or spirited kids, but I have met a lot of what I see as “easier” babies.  Though I personally don’t like the label – Easy – because parenthood is anything but!

Noelle definitely falls into the 2nd category, and when I see other kids I often think, “every baby seems easier and more independent than Noelle”.  I’ve frequently wondered if I did something wrong, or why she isn’t as sociable as other kids.  As a parent, it’s hard not to take credit for the things your kid does – both the good and the bad.  They really do feel like an extension of us.  But I can tell you now that Noelle has been this way since birth.  She was cautious very early on, and when people say babies don’t hit stranger anxiety til they’re 9-months, I’d have to kindly disagree because Noelle’s been in her “stranger danger” phase since she was about 3-months!  She is a mama’s girl through and through and often clings to me as if her life depended on it.

The upside is I rarely have to worry about her “getting into trouble”.  She’s super careful when she does anything.  Babyproofing has never been much of an issue for us.  She’s never played with cords or tried to stick her finger in outlets.  As soon as I tell her, “it’s dangerous”, she’ll shy away from that previous object of interest.  I can leave her on the couch/bed unattended and trust her to climb down safely.  She is so delicate and tender in her movements, and rarely ever aggressive in her actions.

Here’s a recent picture of Noelle at her friend’s 1st birthday party.  These other kids are happily playing with ice, and although Noelle LOVES playing with ice (when she’s in safe, familiar surroundings)… in this scene she is a mere observer.  She did not once try to reach in and touch that ice.


Other quotes I was able to really relate to when it comes to my cautious toddler:

  • “By four months, when many babies hand out smiles like free samples, cautious infants frown with worry at the sight of a stranger and retreat to their moms for rescue”.
  • “They usually offer generous waves of bye-byes — only after the guests have walked out the front door.”
  • “Your child’s cautious temperament was not caused by you being overly protective or ‘giving in’.  Your child has been this way from birth.”

I really think her temperament will be a huge relief in her teenage years.  My husband was a straight and narrow type of guy who always stayed out of trouble, so the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.  Even now, he is cautious and deliberate with everything he does.  These are the things I appreciate about him because I can be impulsive and really quick to act.  It’s funny how I see so much of me, but also so much of him in our little girl.  It’s easy to understand and love your kid when they feel like a mirror image of you.  So narcissistic huh??  Lol.  I’m always noticing things she does that’s “just like me!” or “just like Sam!”…

I can’t wait to read the rest of this book.  Just this chapter alone was so interesting.  Even though these were traits I already recognized in my daughter, it helps to see it on paper.

12 thoughts on “The Cautious Temperament

  1. Wow so interesting. I’m still not sure what Sofia will be… she can be either 1 or 2, depending on the person or situation…. but reading over the descriptions again I’m leaning toward 2. She’s only 6 months now, so we’ll see!

    Haha I was wondering the same as the PP, what are the other 35% of the kids?

  2. Omg the Cautious Temperament is sooo Claire. (We should get our daughters together one day — they seem to have so many similarities!) Thanks for the book rec…I had heard about this book, and followed the “Happiest Baby on the Block” DVD, but hadn’t had a chance to check it out.

  3. Pingback: Deciding on a Preschool « BabyChin

  4. Pingback: 2012 – An Ordinary Year | Jaren and Noelle

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