Saturday, April 2, 2011

Considering Personalities

Years ago I gained some insight into personality differences between me and my children that helped me in my homeschooling efforts. My resource for this discovery was a book called Different Children, Different Needs, by Dr. Charles F. Boyd. The subtitle is Understanding the Unique Personality of Your Child. Published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc, it originally came out in 1994, but a revised edition was produced in 2004 that includes a study guide. While it isn’t a homeschooling manual, it can help you understand why your children behave the way they do during school time, and why you react the way you do! Dr. Boyd uses personal experiences to demonstrate many of the concepts in the book. It was informative, illuminating, and entertaining.

Perhaps you have heard of the DISC model of behavioral styles. Apparently, the idea of four basic personalities can be traced back to ancient Greece. The thing is, whatever type you are, you don’t understand others who behave differently! It seems natural that the things that matter to you would also matter to your children. However, they may not have been built that way. If God designed them differently, then your best interests will be served by understanding and accept those differences.

The letters in DISC stand for Dominant/Directive/Determined, Interactive/Influencing, Supportive/Soft-hearted, and Corrective/Conscientious. Most people are a combination of these types. One or two will be more prominent than the others. Your understanding of these will enable you to encourage your children in their unique strengths.

Those with a dominant personality are the take-charge people. They are goal-oriented. When under pressure, they become angry. They are self-confident, independent risk-takers. A biblical example of this personality is Paul.

Highly interactive children are most concerned with having fun. They fear not being liked, and they are normally cheerful and outgoing. They enjoy being in the spotlight, and they thrive in groups! They are impulsive, disorganized, unable to see clutter (a pet peeve of mine), and hate being ignored or ridiculed. A biblical example would be Peter.

The soft-hearted children tend to be peacekeepers. They like people but may be shy. They are loyal, good team players, but are sensitive and need lots of appreciation. They are motivated by helping others. Abraham exhibited high supportive/soft-hearted tendencies.

Those with corrective/conscientious tendencies have a strong desire to be right--according to their definition. They fear making mistakes, and their big emotion is worry. They don’t like being criticized, and they can’t stand broken promises. They tend to be talented, meticulous, and imaginative. Moses is our biblical example of a highly corrective/conscientious person.

What I learned is that while I’m intensely conscientious, both my children are highly interactive! While I try to do everything “the right way,” they try to do things the fun way! When I tell them to clean their rooms, they don’t see clutter the way I do; that’s why the job doesn’t seem done to me when they say they finished! It’s a relief to know that they aren’t really trying to tap dance on my last nerve. The things that have been important to me are not the things that are important to them, and vice versa. Just as I haven’t been able to understand them, they also have been unable to understand me. Why doesn’t Mom have time to play? Why is she so upset about my room when it’s obvious that I cleared a big area in the middle of the floor? I realize my conscientious tendencies have led me to pursue perfection as a parent, homemaker, breadwinner, friend, and Christian, but I’m bound to fail. Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk this earth.  When I demand “perfection” from my children, we’re all frustrated.

My discovery of personality differences led me to realize that I needed to lighten up. Do my children need to do their chores? Yes, they do. Do they need to learn responsibility? Of course. Can I take time to work with them and meet their needs for fun and fellowship? I’d better if I want to nurture our relationship.

How does this relate to homeschooling? For me, it means planning fun activities that include other families. Our studies can be loud and entertaining; we can discuss, act out, and give speeches. I now know why these children stop doing worksheets and start to giggle, run, and play any time I leave the room. Instead of berating them for their lack of conscientiousness (because of course as a student I was always teacher’s pet and did the “right” thing, but my fun-loving kids aren’t like that), I can cut them some slack; we’ll soon be back on task.

If you become a student of your children’s personalities, you may learn that you have a task-oriented child rather than a people-oriented child. You may have been anxiously trying to get your child involved in sports or other outside activities only to have him or her resist and withdraw. Once you’ve pinpointed that child’s personality, you’ll be able to release your anxieties and honor your child’s God-given behavioral style. The world needs all kinds of people, and we can embrace our children’s strengths and encourage them. We don’t need to try to change them into something they’re not; that will only lead to frustration. God doesn’t make mistakes, and we can take comfort in knowing that God has a plan for our children, whether they are determined, interactive, soft-hearted, conscientious, or some combination of those.

Some questions to ask yourself are as follows:

1. What is my personality?
2. How are my children’s personalities similar to mine?
3. How are my children’s personalities different?
4. How can I teach to their personalities?

Happy homeschooling!

~as published in Christian Online Magazine~

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