• Dr. Cindy Walker

Not connecting? How to react appropriately to your child's personality.

This past week I entered a class of expectant freshmen who were trembling in a bit of fear and trepidation because few had ever had much success writing. Most were athletes. Many were worried about meeting eligibility requirements next fall, knowing that failing one class could mean sitting on the sidelines when play resumed or spending all summer taking classes in order to meet the sophomore eligibility requirements. So, there were concerns that went further than just "I've never been a good writer."

I'm really not that intimidating, but for some crazy reason I'm perceived to have the reputation as one of the hardest Comp 1 teachers at the university. That being said, I never apologize for the standards that I set; however, it is imperative that I convince students that while I am very "hard," this class is a team project. We band together as a group and reach the finish line together. Not all of them will make it, but it will be their decision to quit.

On the second class day I always administer a Myers Briggs personality test and a learning styles test. I take the test as well and then post "scores" for the students to see. We discuss how they need to go forward in order to succeed in my class.

Those scoring high on the "judging" portion are told that they will become very frustrated in class because I'm not always extremely organized. If we get off the posted schedule I don't think about going back and changing the due dates, the schedule of readings, etc. (That's a lot of work.) So, my global minded thoughts are just that they can figure out that we are two days (or two weeks) off so adjust the schedule mentally.

I'm also notorious for leaving class and saying, "No problem, I will post that Powerpoint when I get to the office." By the time I get to the office I've spoken to five people, dealt with at least one problem, and probably have someone waiting at my door who needs to talk (even if it's just to visit). Do you think that Powerpoint posting crosses my mind? If you answered no, then you are correct.

As part of our partnership in my class we acknowledge our areas of strengths and weaknesses and then work together to make the situation good for everyone. My strong "judgers" know to keep texting me, calling me, emailing me, or coming by my office and looking over my shoulder while I post that presentation or update the schedule and the syllabus. My extroverts know that when someone says, "You guys are over the top today and need to chill" that the introverted students need some space. None of us take offense when these events happen. Students should not apologize for nagging me or letting us know that someone needs to "chill."


While at home ...

I find it fascinating that we can apply principles such as this to classroom situations; however, when it comes to our home life we find it more difficult. Yes, my "judger" child can be a bit over the top at times (anyone who keeps a spreadsheet with what she plans to wear for the next two months makes no sense to me--I look in my closet to see what looks comfortable for the day). But, I remember that God made her this way for a reason.

And when I've explained how to do something to my husband for the fifth time I have to fight the urge to make a snide comment (doesn't everyone just push buttons until they figure out how to make something work?). My knowledge of his personality has (most of the time) kept the snide remark inside my mouth. And, as I've aged I remember to give him time to write down instructions as I show him how to work through a process. You see God made him with a linear brain while I am global.

The Bible is very clear on raising children. Solomon’s advice to parents is to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Paul tells the Ephesians (and us), “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (6:4).

We often equate this scripture to their spiritual upbringing, which is a valid reading. But, this training and "exasperation" go beyond learning Bible but includes every aspect of life. As parents it’s our job to prepare our offspring for a challenging and sometimes frustrating world.


What Do I DO?

Acknowledge your child's personality and teach him/her to handle normal life situations, people and struggles. We should do all in our power to make sure that our relationship leads them toward the safety and security we have found in the Lord.

But, we must embrace who God made our children personality wise. Just because their personality is the polar opposite of mine, I am the adult and need to make adjustments. I am the adult who needs to guide them through the development of their personalities instead of trying to make them look like me.

The next time you feel aggravated by your child's personality, embrace it. Talk to your children about how different personalities are needed in God's kingdom, and teach them to work through differences in a meaningful and healthyway.

Teach them to use their personalities and skill sets in a way that will be of benefit to the family. I now use my daughter's great organization skills to plan trips, organize cabinets and bookshelves, or clean out the garage. I use Bill's need for step by step instructions to help me see that same needs in students who are staring at me with a confused look.

God created each of us for a purpose. Help your child find that purpose through their preferred personality traits.

Your Turn

How do you help your child develop into the person God made him/her to be, especially when their personality does not align with your own? Share a success story. You never know the support you may give another parent who is struggling in this area! Comment below!