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Use Your Child's Personality

Work with your child's food and exercise personality to help make healthy habits easy.
By Wendy Fries
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Andrew Muir, MD

father and child on swingActive, persistent, intense, sensitive. Whether we’re adults, teens, or even toddlers, we’re each born with our own emotional style, or temperament. Our temperament affects our behavior, personality, and even our health.

If you want to encourage your kids to eat better and exercise more, it’s a good idea to understand their temperaments. Once you do, you can work with who they are, rather than struggling to change their inborn traits, says Nicole Welsch, LRD, a pediatric nutritionist with Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D. Understand temperament and you'll also understand more about your child’s food and exercise "personality."

There are 9 temperament traits recognized by psychologists; a child’s overall temperament is a combination of these traits. Read on to see which of these traits seem to fit your child and how you can work with him to boost his nutrition and physical activity.

Temperament Trait: Activity

This refers to how physical your child is. Does she tend to sit quietly or is she a blur of motion?

  • Less active: A more sedentary child may be a breeze at the dinner table (no muss, no fuss) but it may take a bit of effort to get her moving and actively playing. So start with what you know she likes. Ronda Rose-Kayser, a certified family life educator with Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., suggests, "If they love to draw, see if you can't get them drawing with chalk on the sidewalk." Does your child like reading? Ask her to act out a story.
  • Always moving: To get an active child to sit still long enough to eat nutritious foods, have her burn off some of her energy with a game of tag or a bike ride before mealtime. Fidgeting at the table is still bound to happen, however. Try giving her a swivel chair or something to play with on the table, Rose-Kayser says. Exercise is less of a challenge: Active kids are usually already inclined toward physical activity.
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