One of my favorite experiences as a mom of twins is witnessing their personalities develop. When they were newborns, Baby A would scream out when he needed something. Baby B tended to cry only when he heard his brother crying. Both boys hated tummy time. Passionately. But while Baby A battled the ground with fists and battle cries, Baby B tried to cuddle the ground into submission. A liked constant movement and visual input; B was happy just cuddling and looking around. It was clear from the get-go: my two boys have two temperaments.
What is Temperament?
Briefly, a person’s temperament is the way they will naturally respond to various stimuli in their life. It is something we are born with, and can be noticeable within a newborn’s first few weeks of life.
I’ve heard it said that parents don’t believe in temperaments until after they’ve had a second child. We just think our parenting skills are responsible for our child’s behavior, negative or positive, and I remember thinking that I had excellent discipline skills when my daughter was a toddler. Then my boys came along and made me question myself at every turn.
By the time they were fifteen months old, I learned that Baby A needed a stern “No!” to get him to stop (figuratively) juggling knives. That same “No!” would send Baby B into hiding, as if I had hurt his heart.
Temperament and Personality
The way a child’s temperament interacts with their surroundings helps define their personality. It does not define their character. My Baby B doesn’t like loud sounds. That is part of his temperament. This may make him a quiet person; perhaps he will be more thoughtful to his neighbors some day. But the fact that he screams and runs out of the room when I turn on the blender doesn’t make him a bad person. Similarly, Baby A’s temperament drives his stubborn refusal to participate in anything that wasn’t HIS idea. This may make him a strong leader some day, but doesn’t mean he will become an evil dictator.
If we understand our children’s basic temperament, we can help them interact more comfortably with the world around them. Don’t play loud games with your noise sensitive child. Take extra time to explain what is going to happen to your child who doesn’t like transitions. Twins generally go through the same developmental stages at the same time. Their distinct reactions to the same challenges has really highlighted the differences in their temperaments.
The boys are nearly three and a half now. Baby A is all action and physicality. Baby B is emotion and sociability. A needs time outs and loss of toys to get him to cooperate, but B can usually be brought into line with the “mom look.” I’m not going to lie: it is hard. When both boys are being naughty together, it is hard to shift mid-stride from Stern Mom to Quiet but Firm Mom. And I don’t always do a great job. But I can anticipate which situations are going to be harder for each child. That helps me know which child I need to be holding close, and which child will be fine on his own.
I am thankful that my boys have each other. Their different temperaments blend well together. Without A to seek adventure, B might not be as willing to try new things. And likewise, without B to engage with the people around us, A might become too competitive and bossy. I will continue to do my best to guide them through life. To hopefully nurture the strong parts of their temperaments, and to quell the more challenging parts. And they will probably continue to keep me on my toes, as I learn more about them at every stage.
For more information on components of temperament, I found good information here.