There are many types of personality inventories out there today from the Meyers/Briggs to the DISC. Dr. Trent and Dr. Smalley came up with an approach that is just as insightful but easier to explain to children. There is also a book written by their wives, Norma and Cindy, called The Treasure Tree., which is a fun book to read to children about the personality types.
They break down the personalities into four animals, a lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver. The lion (choleric) is visionary, productive, strong willed, and a leader. The otter (sanguine) is outgoing, friendly, enthusiastic and compassionate. The golden retriever (phlegmatic) is calm, dependable, quiet and humorous. Finally the beaver (melancholy) is analytical, self-disciplined, organized and sacrificing.
The book does a great job giving examples of these personalities in action. Once we can pinpoint our children’s personalities it is easier to understand them and know their possible strengths and weaknesses. Take the time to be a student of your child to learn their temperament which will help you learn what makes them tick.
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Different Behavioral Responses
Some parents just want a behavioral approach that fits everyone in the family. It would definitely be easier if this could be the case. A parent wouldn’t be forced to think or plan, they could just manage and respond to their children as if they were all the same. The problem with a one size fits all parenting style is children are not all the same, we are each uniquely designed by God. Most kids can fit into two types as far as training goes. Some are “pleasers” while others are “barbarians”. Pleasers may appear to be easier to work with because the barbarian is more out front in their push back. However, pleasers may ultimately be harder to train because they may have a harder time making their own decisions and may be more influenced by others. The barbarian will push back and test the rules and the plan, ultimately to see if your “no means no”. We need to make sure that we have a parenting plan that is consistent but know that every child will react differently to that plan. Rewards and consequences will work best if they are tailored to each child individually. For more on creating a parenting plan check out this series.
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How Did This Happen?
One thing that can help us as we process the fact that we have children that are completely different, is the fact that they are different by design. God tells us in Psalm 139, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed (not uniformed) body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Each child is different and they are supposed to be different. If a parent is looking to manage the behavior of the child rather than train up a child the differences will be annoying. We need to take the approach that not only is it ok that our children act and react differently but we need to embrace and encourage their personalities. We cannot take a “one size fits all” approach to parenting. Take the time to become a student of each of your children. Learn what makes them tick not only will you have a deeper appreciation of who God has made them to be but it will help you along the parenting journey of molding them into the men and women that God destined them to be.
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