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By Sue Cowleyexperienced classroom teacher and behaviour expert

Each child is unique, with their own individual and complex personality. Sue Cowley looks at how to manage the different personality types in your setting

There are numerous factors that contribute to the formation of a child’s personality. These include genetic predispositions, influences from parents, home and local environment, peer group interactions and so on.

While we might all have a generalised personality ‘type’, personality is not a static state – it can vary from hour to hour and from day to day. As practitioners, we can help children to develop their personalities, whether it is boosting a shy child’s confidence levels, or showing an angry, aggressive child how to stay calm.

It is useful to have an understanding of some of the basic personality ‘types’ that you might meet in your setting. Of course, these are generalised statements, and each case will have its own subtle variations. Exploring the types of behaviours you might encounter will help you to identify the appropriate behaviour management strategies to use with different individuals.

The ‘leader’ or dominant child

Some children have a dominant personality, which shows up particularly during group activities. These children are typically confident and outgoing, with good verbal skills. Often, they are physically mature in relation to their chronological age and heavily built in comparison to other children in the setting. The ‘leader’ will normally have a high status within the peer group. Sometimes there are two ‘leaders’ in a setting – one male and one female.

Kind of behaviours that you may see from a ‘leader’

  • Giving instructions to other children about what they should do.
  • Taking charge of group activities – acting as group ‘director’.
  • Using assertive body language, for example, standing over peers.

Various problem behaviours that may arise

  • The child taking over during group activities.
  • Aggressive body language or behaviour, with the child getting uncomfortably close to peers, pushing, shoving and so on.
  • Bossing other children around – saying ‘you must do this’.
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