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What’s Your Child’s Unique Nature?

Take the quiz to figure out what parenting styles will work best for your child.

Key points

  • Where your child falls across the Three E’s has a big impact on their behavior—and how they respond to your parenting! 
  • Extraversion in children is related to their natural tendencies toward positive affect, activity level, and exploratory behavior.
  • Emotionality refers to children’s natural tendencies toward distress, fear, and frustration.
  • Effortful control refers to how well children can regulate their emotions and behavior.

Have you ever wondered why what works for one of your children doesn’t work for the other? Or why a strategy that worked for your best friend’s child totally backfires when you try it with your own? The reality is that all children are different—and those differences start with differences in their genetic makeup.

Genes don’t just code for brown eyes or blue; they influence the way our children’s brains are wired, which influences their natural tendencies and, accordingly, their behavior. Because all kids are wired differently, there is no one right way to parent. By understanding your child’s unique nature, you can adapt your parenting strategies to be most effective for your particular unique child. This can help you help your child to reach their potential and to avoid possible pitfalls!

There are three big, genetically-influenced temperamental dimensions on which children differ. I call them The Big Three or The Three E’s: Extraversion (Ex), Emotionality (Em), and Effortful Control (Ef).

Extraversion

Extraversion in children is related to their natural tendencies toward positive affect, activity level, and exploratory behavior. Children who are high in extraversion naturally enjoy meeting new people, going new places, and trying new things. They are energized by being around others.

Children who are low in extraversion are more involved in their own internal worlds of ideas, emotions, and play. Low Ex children enjoy quiet time alone. They don’t need a constant flurry of activities, adventures, or other people.

Emotionality

This refers to children’s natural tendencies toward distress, fear, and frustration. Children who are high in emotionality can get extremely upset over seemingly minor things. The degree to which they get upset often feels like they are “overreacting.” Children who are low in emotionality are more “go with the flow” and easier to redirect when they get upset.

Effortful Control

This refers to how well children can regulate their emotions and behavior. Children who are high in effortful control are better at waiting patiently and following directions. They are not as easily distractible. Children who are low in effortful control are more impulsive and less controlled. It’s much harder for them to wait their turn or to stay focused.

Where your child falls across the Three E’s has a big impact on their behavior—and how they respond to your parenting!

Here are some questions to help you assess where your child falls across The Big Three.

Extraversion: The “Ex” Factor

Does your child like adventuresome games or activities (High Ex), or does your child prefer quieter activities, like reading, over more high-energy ones (Low Ex)?

Does your child enjoy meeting new people (High Ex), or does your child take a long time to warm up to new people or situations (Low Ex)?

Emotionality: The “Em” Factor

Does your child get very frustrated when things don’t go their way (High Em), or do they bounce back when things don’t go as planned (Low Em)?

Is your child very difficult to soothe or calm down when they get upset (High Em), or do they redirect to a new activity fairly easily (Low Em)?

Effortful Control: The “Ef” Factor

Is your child good at following directions (High Ef), or does your child have trouble waiting their turn or sitting still (Low Ef)?

Can your child stop a behavior when told no (High Ef), or does your child rush into situations without thinking them through (Low Ef)?

To help you remember your child’s disposition, acronyms are provided for each dimension: Ex, Em, Ef. For example, you can think about your child as High Ex, High Em, Low Ef (modified to their particular profile). This short-hand (Ex, Em, Ef) provides a quick reference for you to remember your child’s temperament. If you’re not sure where your child falls for any of the above dimensions, your child probably has medium levels of that trait, meaning they aren’t strong at one end of the dimension or the other.

Now that you have a sense of how your child is wired, you are ready to start focusing on the parenting strategies that work best for your child! You can learn more about how to tailor your parenting to your unique child in my book, The Child Code.

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