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.
Listed below are some books I like to help you understand people and yourself. I am sure there are many out there:
- Birth Order Book, The: Why You Are the Way You Are: For Birth Order, I have enjoyed the author Kevin Leman. He has written several books.
- The 5 Love Languages of Children: For Love Language, Gary Chapman has several books to help you determine your love language. This includes showing and receiving love. Also, he covers your apology language.
- Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence: For extrovert/introvert and personality profile, Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. This has been the most eye-opening book for my husband and me. It has really helped us to understand each other better. I love this book.
- On Becoming Preschool Wise: Optimizing Educational Outcomes What Preschoolers Need to Learn: On Becoming Preschoolwise has an interesting quiz about a prohibitive conscience. This quiz taught my husband and me a lot about ourselves and each other and our discipline styles.
- Communicating With Strangers: An Approach to Intercultural Communication: Communicating with Strangers by Gudykunst and Kim (this book is about intercultural communication)
- Looking Out, Looking In: Looking Out Looking In by Adler and Towne (this book covers interpersonal communication)
- Building Communication Theory: Building Communication Theory by Infante, Rancer, and Womack (this book kind of covers it all)
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.