Monday, February 25, 2008

Get to Know Your Child's Personality

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I hope that at this point in your life, you realize that all people have their own personalities. We are not all "one" person. We don't view things in the same way. Your children fall into this "we."

There are certain things about your child's personality that you will have an obvious vested interest in discovering. When you are teaching him to self-soothe, can you interfere? If so, at what point? And to what degree? Personality traits such as this are usually discovered early in life.

This is a lot more to personalities than simple things like that, and those details can help you measurably in parenting your child.

There is something called Schema Theory. This theory states, essentially, that we all have our own version of what is truth and how the world works. Our schemas are affected by our life experiences. Each person has his or her own experiences in life. This explains the reason two people can be present at the same event and have two different descriptions of what happened. I have heard it said there are 3 sides to every story, your side, their side, and then the truth.

I have a friend who is really good at assessing the personalities of the people she meets. She quickly recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of those she associates with. The great thing is that she is very accepting of those things, also.

Not all of us are naturally inclined to recognize such things. Even if we are, it is wise to improve your inclination with some knowledge. There are several books out there that help you understand the personalities of others.

In learning to understand our children, it is so helpful to first learn about our selves and our spouses. My husband and I are about as opposite as can be. I like to plan, he is spontaneous. I focus on macro-cleaning first, he prefers micro-cleaning. He solves problems "out of the box," while I solve them "in the box." You can see how we are extreme, but accepting these differences makes us more complete when we work together.

Your children will likely pick up on tendencies from you or your spouse. And, of course, they can do things their own, new way.

Good Things to Figure Out
There are several things that are good to discover about the members of your family. Here are just a few examples:
  • Birth order. Be aware that birth order really does have an effect on your personality. Not everyone displays every trait, but there are certainly tendencies. I, for one, fit into the oldest child mold quite well. There are strengths and weaknesses from each place in the family. It is helpful to take note of those. There are also special dynamics in the parent/child relationship based on birth order. For example, an oldest-child parent will often clash with the oldest-child child.
  • Love Language. We all recognize love differently. We also all show love differently. My Mom shows love through gifts. My Dad shows love through actions. My husband shows love through actions, also. But my husband receives love through words of affirmation. I receive love through quality time. Become aware of how you and your family members best receive and show their love. This knowledge helps you know when they are showing love and know how to show love to them.
  • Introvert/Extrovert: There seems to be a lot of negative connotation applied to the term introvert. To be Introverted is not a negative quality. It doesn't mean you are anti-social or that you don't like people. It simply means you are energized by alone time. Large group settings can be draining to your energy. You prefer small, intimate group settings when you are in a group.

    An extrovert, however, is energized by large groups and can become drained by too much alone time. Now, extroverts do need to be alone on occasion and introverts do need to be around groups of people on occasion . I am an extrovert. I get very "pumped up" after spending time with people. If I am alone too long, I start to become depressed. My husband is an introvert. He enjoys going out and doing stuff with people, but when he gets home he isn't ready to go for several more hours like I am. He also needs his time to be alone and "mull things over." This trait can be kind of tricky to pick out in your kids. Brayden (2.5) is an extrovert. I believe Kaitlyn (10 months) is also, though sometimes I think she might be an introvert. It is good to be aware of this in your children so you can help them when they are in a situation that is "uncomfortable" for them.
  • Personality profiles. Many of us have heard of the color code (red, blue, yellow, white). There are books out there that go even deeper than this.
Books That Help
Listed below are some books I like to help you understand people and yourself. I am sure there are many out there:
My minor in college was in Communication. I studied a lot of theory on how to communicate, and those studies included learning about different types of people. If you find yourself really interested in the topic, here are three books we studied from that I liked--they can be expensive because they are college text books:
Applying It to Your Children
This topic is a lot of information, and a lot to digest. And even more, it is hard to apply these things to your children. You can't have your young child answer the questions to a personality profile. However, you can read through and get some ideas. Knowing yourself also helps you identify things in your children.

For example, I am a rule follower. I find it so important to follow the rules of society and also moral rules. My son is the same way. He is eager to obey the rules. This does make discipline quite easy with him. Along with that trait is a trait both my husband and I have, but is more prevalent in my husband. That is to please people, especially authority figures. We have to be very careful about what we expect from our son. Because he tries so hard to both follow rules and to please, it is easy for us to start things and demand things from him that he simply isn't ready for (for example, our potty training experience--see the index to read more on that).

Brayden also has that oldest child trait of never wanting to miss a thing. He hates to not be part of the action, and has been that way since birth. That is why he had a hard time with independent play at first. Brayden also has the idea in his head, as most oldest children do, that he is the "third parent." He thinks it is both his right and his duty to parent, correct, and instruct Kaitlyn.

Kaitlyn's love language seems to be physical affection. She loves to cuddle, kiss, and hug. If she is upset, me simply holding her is enough. My way of showing love is not physical affection. I am mindful of making sure I fulfill her physical affection needs so that she has no doubt how much she is loved.

As you get to know the personality of your children, you can better asses the actions needed to help them reach those goals. Independent play, sleeping, discipline, etc. You don't want personality tendencies to become an excuse for bad behavior. "He's just bossy because he is the oldest." True, but that doesn't mean being bossy is a good way to be. You can't tell that to his little toddler friends and expect them to say, "Okay, boss me more please." You can help your child overcome those weaknesses that come with our personalities.

Remember the platinum rule in dealing with other people. The golden rule is to treat others how you want to be treated, but the platinum rule is to treat others how they want to be treated.


kelly clements said...

your blog is awesome! thanks so much for doing this!! my husband and i have twin girls that are almost 7 months old!! we have done babywise and LOVED it!!! what a blessing it has been and the girls love to sleep at night and are so happy!! one of our daughters though, loves to blow raspberries. at first, it seemed cute, but now she does it when tired, or during eating her solids, or sometimes when eating a bottle. babywise 2 says not to let them do it and we are tyring to teach her not to, but are at a loss of what to do. babywise said not to do it, but didnt address any ways to stop it. tonight, we did..."no, no ma'am...we do not do that when we eat" and would gently put our finger on her lip. any ideas or help would be great!!

Plowmanators said...

The first step would be to make every effort to show no pleasure when she does it. No smiling, no giggles, etc. Babies love to please, so if you smile at her raspberries, she will continue the act. The good thing is that because she will want to please, she shouldn't be too hard to teach to not do raspberries. I think you are on the right track. Get your "mommy look" down (you know the look moms give when you do something wrong) and be consistent. She will get it.

Rob & LeAnna said...

Fabulous, simply fabulous! Such great reminders and sound, logical advice. Thank you!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks! All of this communication and personality stuff is so interesting to me!

kelly clements said...

thank you so much!!!

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome! And I know it can be really hard to not laugh when your child does something she shouldn't but is really cute. That continues on into toddlerhood. What I do when I feel I can't control it is just turn my head or leave the room and get my giggles out. Kids are just too cute!

Kristin said...

I know this comes over a year later than when you wrote this post, but I just wanted to thank you again. This post is fabulous (as is your entire blog). You have helped me in so many ways, and thus you have helped my family too. I love your platinum rule... I have always thought of the Golden Rule that way when I apply it, but never had a simple way of putting it into words. Thanks again!

P.S. A great book on communication is called "Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most" by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Kristin! Thanks for the book suggestion, too.


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