Confident Kate or Shy Sam?

What’s your toddler’s personality type and what can you do to help her grow?


Wanted: One well-behaved angel child. Must be cute, confident and potty trained – if only it was that easy.


Whether personality is about nature or nurture is a matter of debate. There’s no doubt genetics plays a part but psychologist Cary Cooper says it’s family that makes all the difference. ‘A lot of a child’s personality comes from the way they’re brought up. In the early years, parents are the biggest and sometimes sole influence on how a child turns out.’ But whatever’s made your toddler the way he is, you need to work out how to get along with him. Here’s a rundown of the most common ‘toddler types’ and how to get the best out of your little one.


A girl who needs no introduction – before anyone gets a chance to ask her who she is, she’ll have already strolled over, announced her name, what she’s done that morning and offered them a performance of a song, dance or indeed an entire show. And that’s before she’s taken off her coat.

Confident Kate is keen to let you know what she wants to do, and more often than not, what she wants most of all is to be centre stage. She doesn’t just thrive on lots of attention – she’d simply wither away without it.

She has no sense of fear, but as a parent you may well be afraid that no one else is going to get a look in and that she’s railroading everyone into doing exactly what she wants.

But leave her on the sidelines at your peril – is she doesn’t get it, she’ll shout for attention from you and anyone else unfortunate enough to be standing still long enough to listen.

What you can do

While it may seem like an absolute dream to be the parent of a Confident Kate, it’s important to encourage her to stop and listen to other children’s opinions every once in a while. Try to make her realise that while it’s ok to be able to say what she wants, it’s also important to occasionally let other people take the lead. Try to persuade your super-confident toddler to let someone else share in the limelight every so often. She’d be most happy at a school of performing arts, and least contented when asked to sit down and read quietly on her own.


Easy to spot – when he emerges from behind his mum’s legs, that is! At home he’ll happily play all day, but take him somewhere strange and he’ll throw a wobbly. He’s a sensitive soul who prefers your company above all others. But it can be a worry to watch other children trip off to play, leaving Shy Sam at your side.

He takes a long time to warm to new people and unless you see someone regularly be prepared for your toddler to burst into tears when he meets someone new.

Shy Sam says little but takes in a lot. He likes routine and hates surprises. But while he takes some winning over, once you do you’re rewarded with a delightful toddler who loves to please.

What you can do

It’s important to build up Shy Sam’s self-esteem, so try to avoid letting other children label him as a shy child. Never force him to do things he doesn’t want to or tease him about his shyness. Instead encourage him to say hello, but don’t tell him off if he decides he doesn’t want to.

Also, avoid chucking him in at the deep end – he’ll hate it. Instead, aim to find small groups where he can feel comfortable, perhaps doing an activity to take his mind off the fact that he’s there to meet other children.


Everyone has a great picture of their baby pulling a funny face, but the thing with Freddie is he never stops pulling them. Life with Freddie is fun, fun, fun – you know that you shouldn’t laugh, but you just can’t help yourself. You try telling him off, but when you turn round he’s sticking his tongue out. Woe betide any well-behaved toddlers who come too close to this little monkey…he’ll soon have them up to mischief. Freddie is happiest when he’s centre stage and making everyone, especially you, laugh.

What you can do

Funny Freddie is a real gem, so make the most of your cute little comic. You can try to get him to see the serious side of a situation, but he won’t keep a straight face for long. As long as his cheekiness doesn’t turn into serious naughtiness then don’t worry. Freddie will love most activities as long as he has an audience – just don’t expect him too keep himself entertained for long.


You’ll probably hear Whingeing Will before he even enters the room. His wailing seems incessant because whatever the activity/toy/playmate, it simply isn’t up to scratch. It’s not so much that Will is fussy – more that he just likes to make a fuss as he knows it’s a great way of getting everyone’s attention. It can be hard to be the parent of this type of toddler, as it takes a will of iron not to succumb to his constant requests just to get a bit of piece and quiet. But you’ll need a bottomless bank account if you start giving in. So either develop bags of patience or invest in a good set of earplugs… 

What you can do

Whingeing Will keeps up his complaints because he knows it’s a good way to guarantee your undivided attention. It’s hard but try not to allow him to dictate what you do. It’s okay to find something that makes him happy, but he needs to realise what you want is important too and has to learn to give and take.

Whingeing Will is happiest getting plenty of one-to-one attention from you, but take him somewhere where he’ll get lost in the crowd and his complaining will reach fever pitch.

  • You can probably spot something of your little tyke among this lot. But if personality isn’t quite what you’d expected, don’t despair. According to Cary Cooper: ‘Although babies are essentially the essence of you, when they get to school their influences change. Their personalities aren’t set in stone.’  

What real mums say:

‘I honestly think children are born with a particular personality. My girls have been brought up the same way but they are so different. Sophie is a born comic and makes everyone laugh. She started pulling faces as a baby, got lots of attention for it and it went on from there. Jolie, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. I’m not sure whether it’s the terrible twos or just her, but she’s a bit of a whiner just at the moment. She really knows what she wants and screams the house down if she doesn’t get it.’

Julia Walters, 28, is mum to Jolie, 2, and Sophie, 4.

‘In general Theodore’s really happy and contented, but he does seem to be particularly shy around other children. He’s very observant of them, but at a distance.


‘You can tell when he’s feeling shy. He buries his head in my shoulder or runs up to me or his dad and rams his head between our legs – thankfully my partner is tall! Something he’s always done when shy or unsure of a person or situation is yank my ear or cheeks to make sure I give him my full attention, and he sucks his top lip furiously. Ooh, sooo cute!’ Lukwesa Barnes, 31, mum to Theodore, 18 months.

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