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Parenting the personalities – Parenting (Part 1)

Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting’ Brene Brown 

At One:Retreat we’re great fans of Brene Brown. Her ability to verbalise, with humour, the fears and concerns we all have, helps to make us feel a little more normal, whatever that is! Her self depreciating willingness to be vulnerable is so refreshing and we can relate well to her common sense take on life.

The millions of parenting books purchased every year, are a clear indicator of the need we have as parents, to find the ultimate ‘how to guide’ to help us navigate answers to the daily questions we have about raising our children.

Brene Brown once again seems to have nailed it in the quote above. There isn’t a magic formula. No one size fits all. It’s not about following a set of rules or embracing the latest trends, it’s all about who we are and how we engage with the world.

So when you think about the question, ‘Who am I?’, what immediately comes to mind? For me, it’s always, I’m a high Wind personality who leaves everything until the last minute, loves change and a challenge; I have some great ideas, thrive when problem solving, get bored easily and need lots of variety in every day.

With this personality type I engage with the world in a particular way and that’s certainly very different from my partner who is a high Earth personality – organised, detailed and precise who at times finds my rather chaotic way of doing life quite stressful. This impacts on the way we parent too.

Family life for us with our five children would have been much smoother had we understood our distinct personalities better when the children were younger.

I believe if we can understand not only our own, but our child’s personality too and appreciate the impact this will have on their learning and behaviour, then we will have a much better chance of a happier and more harmonious home life.

So, we start with ourselves.

Albert Einstein once said, ‘Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better’ and so taking his wise advice, the first part of each One:Retreat looks at ‘Personality’ using the elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water as a way to help couples understand themselves and each other. There’s more about this in a previous blog. A link to take your own Path Elements Profile is available by emailing ruth@in-your-element.org. These cost £25.

Once we have an accurate appreciation of our own strengths and challenges it’s quite easy then to transfer this understanding of personality types to our children.

Imagine a child, Emma, happily sitting on the sand building a sand castle. Totally engrossed, she’s unaware of other people on the beach; she could happily sit there for hours in her own little world – she doesn’t need anyone else. We’d say she’s an Earth personality – Solid, Predictable, Foundational, Stable, Ordered, Measured and Supportive.

Before long a little boy, William comes along and stands beside her, watching her intricate designs. After a while he quietly asks, ‘what are you doing?’. ‘Building a sandcastle’, Emma replies, not even glancing up from her work and eventually William plucks up the courage to ask, ‘Can I help you?’. She nods and they continue in companionable silence, working together. William is likely to be a Water type personality – Easy-Going, Flexible, Calm, Team player, Harmonious, Supportive and thrives in a peaceful atmosphere.

They suddenly become aware of a whirlwind, Wasid, hurtling along the beach and coming to a standstill next to them. ‘What are you doing, what are you doing, can I do it too, please let me’. A look passes between Emma and William before somewhat reluctantly, Emma says ‘OK, you can take the bucket and get the water for the moat from the sea’. Wasid spends the next half an hour happily running back and forth to the sea, chatting non stop to his two new almost silent friends as he pours each bucket water into the hole. He sounds like a Wind – Constantly Moving, High Energy, Unpredictable, Fun, Spontaneous, Inspiring and Confident

Before long Freya marches up to the sandcastle and standing, hands on hips, surveys the masterpiece. ‘Its OK’, she says. ‘If you listen to me, we can make this the best sandcastle this beach has ever seen. Higher, wider, more decorations but you have to do exactly what I tell you’ and without waiting for a reply she begins giving out instructions. A classic Fire she’s going to be Controlling, Focused, Daring, Powerful, a Strong Leader, Fast paced and Results Oriented.

The introverts, Emma and William look slightly in awe of Freya who clearly believes her dominant attitude will be accepted by the other children, while Wasid continues talking to them all, almost ignoring Freya.

Can you guess even from this simple example, which might be your child’s dominant personality type?

Appreciating difference within our families and allowing our children to thrive, takes a conscious effort to be able to understand the often opposing needs we and our children have. A FIRE for example, will find joy in having control, risk, challenge and big goals whereas for a WATER these things would make them feel fearful.

An EARTH will enjoy having time to do things alone, making sure everything is ‘right’ and sorting out the detail of a project or situation while for a WIND these things would all be very stressful as their need for movement and variety illustrates.

Once we have a clear idea of who we are and appreciate how important it is to live as much in the strengths of our personality type as we can, rather than displaying lots of the challenges, then we are more able to relate in positive ways to our children.

Questions:

  • Are you the adult you want your child to become?
  • How self aware are you?
  • What is the ‘Elemental make-up’ of your family?
  • What strengths and challenges does this bring?
  • Do we model the sort of lifestyle and behaviours we want our children to learn?
  • Do we help our children appreciate many of the choices we have aren’t ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but just different; often linked to our personality

This blog is the first of a series of two on parenting. You can read the second one here.

Ruth Adams

Ruth has worked as a trainer and a communications coach for 20 years and loves to inspire people - from a boardroom to a classroom - to find freedom and 'unlock possibilities'. She is an associate of Family Futures, an area coordinator for Adoption UK and a director of Achkiy, a charity working with women in shantytowns in Peru. Ruth is married to Alan, has 3 birth children in New York, Berlin and Barcelona, 2 forever daughters and 6 grandchildren.