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Friday, March 16, 2012

When Your Child Isn't Like You

For me, it all began at the Mentoring Mansion, which was in Youngstown, Ohio then. I was pregnant with my second child, and my firstborn was three years old - the age when lots of unique personality begins to shine. During the intensive I attended there, I was introduced to the DISC Personality Profile. Although I knew my firstborn was a lot like me in many ways, I also knew there were parts of her forming personality that were not like me. This profile test, which I have gone on to teach many times in the years since the intensive, revealed to me very clearly what I had already begun to notice about the similarities and differences between me and my firstborn. Now, I could see it on paper for the first time, and things began to make sense.

It also gave me many insights into how to interact with her. For instance, my personality, as I shared in last week's post, is very task-driven. I love to get things done. My firstborn is very social, and loves to be with people. Many times, as a stay-at-home mom, I was looking for activities to keep her busy by herself so I could go about doing my housework or whatever I had to do, free from interruption. I learned that my daughter isn't really wired to spend lots of time alone. She would be far more happy working right alongside me on whatever I was working on. And so I needed to make adjustments for her sake.

I also learned that she is driven by fun, while I'm driven by tasks. Therefore, her natural tendency is to do fun activities first, and procrastinate on work. Knowing this, as a mom, I am able to guide her and teach her tools to overcome a tendency that could become a problem for her. I teach her to do work first, then fun, or on days when her work list is super long, to do one work task, then 20 minutes of something fun, then the next work task, then another 20 minutes of something fun, and so on.

I have many similarities in personality with my first two children. They aren't entirely like me, but I do understand a lot about how they think and process life. I can relate to them in many ways. However, my third child is my complete opposite.

The DISC profile is explained like a circle or square broken into four quadrants. Your strongest personality traits appear in one quadrant, and most people have a secondary trait that appears in a quadrant "next door" to your primary trait. For me, I am a "DC," meaning I'm primarily in the D quadrant, with C being my secondary. DC's are task-driven. D's are natural leaders and very direct. C's are very logical in thinking, and careful and methodical.

My third child is on the other side of the circle from me. He is an "IS." The IS side of the circle is people-driven. I's are driven by fun, are quite spontaneous, and love to be around people, and S's like to take life slow, stop and smell the roses, and are very sensitive. He and I are exact opposites. I don't exactly relate to him with personal experience. I cannot get inside his head and think like him. I'm wired differently.

My third child, who is now almost 7 years old, has created a great challenge for me as his mother and teacher. Because our lives are very busy and often hurried, I have to relax a bit for his sake, realizing that he doesn't respond well to hurrying. I am learning to appreciate his love for life, his joy over small things, and his huge heart of compassion, all of which, many times, get in the way of getting things done. Schooling my first two children has, so far, been problem-free, because their learning style is similar to mine. My third born isn't responding very well to the same schooling tactics. It has become obvious to me that I need to change something. I'm not speaking his language. He's wired differently. He processes life from his heart - I process life from my head. I can learn from a book, he learns by using his body.

The important thing for me to remember is this: One personality is not better than another - they're just different. EVERY personality type has strengths and weaknesses. I shared some of the weaknesses of mine in last week's post. As a mother, my job is to encourage my children in their individual personality strengths, while guiding them to overcome their weaknesses. And I must not forget to work on my OWN weaknesses, also. That's the best gift I can give to my children.

How about in your home?

Do you have family members who are very different from you? Do you try to make them more like you, subconsciously believing your personality style is the RIGHT personality style? Or do you appreciate the different personalities in your home?

Is there something you are doing as a parent that is suppressing your child's true personality? Or are you encouraging your children to capitalize on their personality strengths, and improve on their personality weaknesses?

May I encourage you to make this a matter of prayer - asking the Lord to show you how to appreciate the uniqueness of each of your children. They need that from us, so they don't grow up frustrated and exasperated, trying to be something they are not just to please us. May God richly bless you on your journey to discovering and appreciating the uniqueness of those you live with!

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