My kids are different. Surprise, surprise! One is easy going, has a good sense of humor, is quiet and somewhat shy. The other is hard work, thinks a joke or bout of sarcasm is a personal attack, is the first to be noticed and if not noticed will make sure that is corrected.
So where do they come from? Me and my husband, and not much had changed in our lives when either was conceived or born. It’s just their make-up, it’s just nature, or is it? Are happy kids just born that way? Many scientists and parents would say yes. But no matter where your child lands on the spectrum, being aware of their natural temperament helps you figure out how best to support them in becoming a content, fulfilled adult.
Lise Eliot, author of What's Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, stresses that while happiness is a mood rather than an inborn trait, certain aspects of your baby's natural temperament - whether she's optimistic or pessimistic, shy or bold - may play a part in determining how happy she becomes. And while scientists can't point to a "happiness" gene or isolate a "moody" nodule in the brain, an abundance of research shows that your baby's temperament - their basic emotional and social style - is hardwired in their brain.
So if your grade-schooler is genetically wired to be anxious or easily upset, does that mean they will become an unhappy teen and a depressed adult? Not at all, it's essential to remember that childhood development is a potent cocktail of nature and nurture.
The idea is to take what nature has given your baby and nurture them for a lifetime of happiness. Although temperament is determined by nature, that doesn't mean it's permanent. Temperament is modified by experience, and you end up with what we call personality.
Your child's personality is governed by the frontal lobes of the brain. This is where scientists can actually pinpoint the source of positive and negative emotions. We experience "good" feelings in the left frontal cortex and "bad" feelings in the right. It appears that people with happier dispositions have more activity in their left frontal lobes.
The good news about your child's happiness is that the balance between the two is not fixed - the frontal lobes shape themselves based on your child's experiences. Central to those experiences, of course, is your child's relationship with you. In fact, the frontal lobes continue developing through at least the late teens, so you have plenty of time to help shape your child's personality and attitudes.
If you are in tune with your child’s emotions, moods, personality, call them what you want, and deal with them as they arise then you will raise a well-balanced individual. It’s that simple.
See more articles by Kim, child development specialist at www.WeCouldJustChat.com