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Early Personality Signs

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Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work is pure and whether it is right.
Proverbs 20:11

Some personality traits are just phases. Others come and go, and some stick with you for your whole life. This is when a character has a personality trait that is hinted at in their infancy or early childhood (let's make eleven the age limit), normally Played for Laughs.

This could take the form of wanting to have the job that they now have when they grow up, or it could be something they actually do or say. This might be pretty straightforward (e.g. a character who's now an activist is seen holding a sign as a kid) but it might also be something that many babies or small children do, but in this case, it's a sign— for instance, a pessimist who cried a lot as a baby, or an energetic person who gave up naps early.

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In these cases, the parents and/or other older characters will often dismiss it as "just a phase", which is either played as a gag to begin with since we know that it's not, or a Time Skip cuts to them much older and still doing it.

May overlap with Baby's First Words, Minor Kidroduction, Child Prodigy, Adorably Precocious Child, Spinoff Babies, Flashback to Catchphrase, Time-Travel Episode (if they see what a child is like in the future or see what someone was like as a child) or Brainy Baby. Compare with Establishing Character Moment, when their early scene in a story establishes their character; that trope can overlap with this if they're first shown as a kid. Compare and contrast Childhood Brain Damage where an older character's personality is implied to be because of an injury when they were little, rather than something they naturally had since they were little. Also compare Weapon Jr. for when the gear someone uses is reflected in their younger self. Contrast Used to Be a Sweet Kid. Compare and contrast Kid Hero All Grown-Up.

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, wizard Ponder Stibbons is older and has married a woman who appreciates his gentle nerdiness. She is a career Assassin. They sort of settle down (while still following their respective careers) and find time to become parents of three daughters. At age three, the oldest daughter somehow imbues an imp from a pop-up book for children with full sentient life. She follows this up, in short order, by activating a Dreidel, given by a Cenotian family friend, as a magical device, with unpredictable results. The parents wince as their eldest begins a path that leads her to Witchcraft. Meanwhile, at age not-even-three, the next daughter down becomes obsessed with weaponry and its many uses. She frequently has to be dissuaded from playing with Mummy's working tools. Daughter Two is very clearly an Assassin from the cradle. And the third daughter is fascinated with the play of light and reflections on a sword blade. She is also engrossed in Daddy's magical books, Because "the calligraphy and the illustration is so beautiful." She isn't interested in swinging a sword or doing magic. But given crayons and poster paints and lots of paper... her own artistic gift begins to emerge.
  • Played half-seriously, but in A Man of Iron, Tyrion Lannister muses to himself that Joffrey showed signs of being an nasty little shit as a baby because he would crap himself so hard the smell would get everywhere. Which pretty much sums up his kingship.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brave: Younger Merida is shown begging for a bow and being happy to receive one for her birthday. Now, she's an Archer Archetype.
  • In Despicable Me, Gru is seen as a kid drawing himself on the moon and planning to build, then later actually building, a rocket. As an adult, he wants to steal the moon.
  • Inside Out: Whenever Riley does something as a younger child that ties into her established personality, it creates an "island" in her mind-dimension. Hockey Island was created when she played hockey as a preschooler, Goofball Island when she danced with underwear on her head and nothing else on as a toddler, and Honesty Island when she told the truth about breaking something as a preschooler. In addition, Joy was the first of her emotions to come into existence, hinting at her optimistic personality.
  • Moana shows the titular character being attracted to the ocean as a toddler and also being the only one not scared of the legend the kids were being read. Her current self is very brave and likes to go sailing.
  • The Princess and the Frog: When Charlotte was a little girl, she appeared to be in a Princess Phase... only, it was never a phase and as an adult, she still wants to marry a prince. Tiana has also wanted to own a restaurant since she was a little girl.
  • In Puss in Boots, Puss is shown as a kitten fighting off some schoolyard bullies and meowing with a war cry inflection. As a full-grown cat, he's a martial artist.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future, Marty's Uncle Joey is in prison in the present day, i.e. 1985. When he goes back to 1955, Marty sees Uncle Joey as a baby. Turns out the infant Uncle Joey loves being in his barred playpen and cries whenever he's taken out.
  • Subverted in Dora and the Lost City of Gold where it seems as though Dora has not outgrown her childhood habit of randomly asking, "Can you say—?", but it turns out she's helping viewers of her vlog with the pronunciation.
  • Star Wars: There are some eerie hints of what's to come for young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, like his near-total inability to accept being permanently separated from his mother, or impulsively refusing to heed Qui-Gon's commands to stay out of danger.

    Literature 
  • In Alice, Girl from the Future, the very first short story of the series features Alice as a three-year-old. She refuses to go to sleep in time, her father says he'll phone Baba Yaga if Alice continues to be naughty, and the girl is extremely interested and begs him to do so as she would love to meet the hag. That foreshadows Alice's plucky, adventurous and rebellious character that would develop by her preteens and early teens (her age throughout most of the series).
  • In Alvie Eats Soup, Alvie's first word was "mulligatawny" and he would only go to sleep as a toddler listening to recipes. Now, he only eats soup (until the end of the book, where he decides to only eat peas).
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg has been a Lazy Bum for a long time, as shown when he was four and would sing the clean-up song with his classmates but never do any actual cleaning.
  • Drake & Josh: One episode has the titular stepbrothers realize that when they were younger, the two had gotten in a fight over a foam finger at a baseball game. Both of them believe the other started the fight. Eventually, the vendor who sold them the finger is brought in to resolve the dispute. The vendor reveals that it was actually Megan, who was a toddler at this point, who instigated the fight by throwing a cookie at Josh, who naturally assumed Drake had done it. This foreshadows Megan's later role as a troublemaker who likes to antagonize her two brothers.
  • In Harry Potter, Dudley Dursley learns the word, "Shan't!" as a baby. Flash-forward nine years and he's very stubborn.
  • Several examples in A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • When Renly Baratheon played as a child, he ran around the keep and shouted, "Look at me!" Maester Cressen sadly thinks that Renly does basically the same in the war - "Look at me, I'm the king!"
    • When Lysa Tully was a child, she used to hide whenever she did anything wrong, hoping her father's anger would just pass somehow. In her thirties, Lysa Arryn does the same, refusing to leave her lands while there is a war going on in the rest of the kingdom, a war started not without her assistance.
  • Temeraire: Dragons are sapient, fully intelligent at hatching, and capable of learning while still in the egg. The Hot-Blooded fire-breather Iskierka hatches in the middle of an attack and has to be restrained from immediately trying to fly off and fight their assailants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Everything's Gonna Be Okay, Nicholas tells a story about how Genevieve once threw a tantrum and tried to kill herself when she was little. Fast forward to the present where Genevieve is still an angry and self-destructive girl, albeit less prone to suicide.
    "I don't remember this tantrum, but I stand by it."
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • When he was five, Dr. Bashir fixed a teddy bear of his and it proved difficult, but he didn't give up. As an adult, he's a Determined Doctor.
    • Despite never really having a childhood, when Odo was first learning to shapeshift, he grew a tentacle and "hit" a scientist who was accidentally hurting him, hinting at his no-nonsense personality.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine is revealed to have been very stubborn at age six, refusing to (literally) come out of a closet. As an adult, she's still rather stubborn.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible gives us some examples of very early personality signs:
    • Rebecca felt Jacob and Esau fighting for dominance while they were still in her womb. They did so well into adulthood.
    • St. John the Baptist, at six months gestation, leaped with joy in his mother's womb when the Mother of God (also already pregnant at the time) came to see her.
    • A common interpretation of Proverbs 20:11 holds that a child's personality may indicate what they'll be like as a grown-up.
  • Greek Mythology: Heracles' very first act of fearless heroism as an infant was to strangle a pair of snakes that had been sent into his crib, foreshadowing the feats he would accomplish as an adult.

    Video Games 
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: Kiana has always been dorky since she's in her child age, but she also has shown the motivation of protecting people, a trait apparently inherent to the Kaslana bloodline, which makes her father proud. As of the present, she's working hard to protect the people of Arc City from the Honkai hordes and any other threats.
  • Moshi Monsters: When he was a baby, Zack Binspin would rub things in his hair a lot and sing into a fake microphone. Now, he's a singer who enjoys styling his hair.

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck: A Flashback shows that the Sibling Yin-Yang between the Cute Monster Girl Calliope and the Psychopathic Manchild Caliborn (aka the Omnicidal Manic Big Bad Lord English) began as soon as they were hatched; the former was affectionate towards their caregiver, while the latter tried to maul him.
  • In Misfile, baby Emily managed to track down toy cars no matter where her mother put them away. This parallels their current dynamic pretty well, actually, with her mother not understanding what she sees in being a mechanic or racing and Emily loving both (despite only recently having been introduced, and so not very good at either yet).

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
  • Inverted in The Legend of Korra: While we first see Toph as Da Chief of Republic City's police some 30 years earlier (a far cry from the 12-year-old Boisterous Bruiser she was in Avatar: The Last Airbender), we meet her again when she's past 80, where she's now much closer to her childhood personality.
  • The Loud House: All of the Loud children have hinted at their personality as babies and young children.
    • Lori has always been interested in phones ("Not a Loud"), and has been gassy and blamed her farts on others since she was one (The comic "It's Just a Phase").
    • Leni has been experimenting with fashion since she was one ("It's Just a Phase").
    • Luna had a loud cry as a baby ("It's Just a Phase") and now sings loudly. Also, as seen in "Not a Loud", she was always interested in music in general despite not becoming a rocker until later.
    • Luan gave people a Pie in the Face since she was one ("It's Just a Phase") and has been experimenting with stand-up comedy since she was eight ("Head Poet's Anxiety").
    • Lynn was "too competitive" at age one ("It's Just a Phase") and tried to lift weights as a baby ("Not a Loud"). Now, she's a super-competitive athlete.
    • Lincoln used to take off his pants a lot at age one ("It's Just a Phase"). Now, he reads comics in his undies.
    • Lucy used to stare at people in a creepy way and didn't cry much as a baby ("The Crying Dame") and buried the family's dead hamster at age one ("It's Just a Phase"). Now, she's a Goth who barely expresses emotion.
    • Lana has been shown to love mud as a toddler ("It's Just a Phase" and "Deal Me Out") and when she was a baby, she cried until they got to keep their cat, dog, and canary (the vlog and "Head Poet's Anxiety"), hinting at her Animal Lover personality.
    • Lola has loved to give things makeovers since she was one ("It's Just a Phase").
    • Lisa started doing experiments when she was one ("It's Just a Phase").
  • Martha Speaks:
    • Carolina went through a Princess Phase when she was little and acted like a stereotypical Spoiled Brat princess. Nowadays, she's still bossy.
    • When Martha's brother Sarge was a puppy, he'd often snarl at her. Now, he's an Angry Guard Dog.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Applejack is seen once as a baby asking for apple fritters, showing that she's always loved apples.
    • Thorax was born smiling and scared of his mother Chrysalis, showing that he was the first nice Changeling.
  • In the Peg + Cat episode "Peg Meets Cat", Peg is seen as a very young child of about one or two already knowing how to add one plus one, which shows that she's always been Good with Numbers for her age.
  • In Peppa Pig, George's first word was "dinosaur", showing that he's loved dinosaurs since day one.
  • An episode of Rocket Monkeys shows that the brothers have always been competitive idiots ever since they were babies.
  • Rugrats:
    • Angelica loves cookies and flashbacks reveal that she learnt to walk because she saw a cookie and (if she is to be believed) her first word was "cookie".
    • Chas is seen as a boy being scared of a rug, showing that he's always been nervy. Similarly, Chuckie, who's also nervy, walked for the first time while trying to run away from an ice cream van.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa is seen changing her own diapers at Maggie's age, demonstrating that she was always smart, talented, and resourceful.
    • Bart is seen lighting Homer's clothes on fire at only ten minutes old, showing that he has always been a naughty kid.
  • In The Smurfs, all Smurf infants' first words are said to hint at their adult personalities to come. For instance, Brainy's was "Gobbledygook", which hints at his saying big words, Farmer's was "fertiliser", and Jokey's was "surprise" (hinting at his love to surprise people with exploding gifts). Baby's first word turns out to be "Gargamel", which Papa Smurf takes as a sign that he recognises his enemy and will therefore grow to be a great leader.

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