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How to plug into your child's personality

Posted October 11

With individual personalities as well as changing stages of life, a parent can struggle to know how to create connection or fill needs. The good news is that we don’t have to know everything, just the key things. (Deseret Photo)

With individual personalities as well as changing stages of life, a parent can struggle to know how to create connection or fill needs. The good news is that we don’t have to know everything, just the key things, and how to look for them.

1. Look for clues. Once we understand the baseline makeup of our child — i.e., generally wake up moody, sensitive to certain situations, etc. — we can look for changes or subtle nuances that tell us something is up. I voraciously read the detective writer Agatha Christie, and I believe it’s made me a better mother. As we connect “clues” we can understand a bigger picture or situation that’s taking place.

One of my friends has a daughter who has and loves her beautiful long hair. Out of the blue, her daughter came home one day and asked for a short haircut. What could have seemed like a young tweener trend request didn’t sit right with this mother. Adding that to a few other very subtle personality shifts, this mom was on the lookout for more information. She found out her daughter was being bossy-bullied by a girl at school who had told her she had to cut her hair or no more being in the group. Knowing the baseline and looking for clues was key. Using both the mom was able to step into a pivotal situation in a positive way.

2. Respond calmly. When your child is transitioning between ages and stages, his or her personality is going to shift with them. Be a sounding board as well as a parent — as in, listen first, ask questions second, weigh and decide third (unfortunately, overreact with intense emotion isn’t on the list — yet).

I remember when one of my daughters came home from school and announced that she had a boyfriend. She was in seventh grade. Thankfully, instead of overreacting with intense emotion I went into British mode, kept calm, and talked on. The thought came to ask, “What does that look like to you?” Thankfully, it meant they hugged before a class sometimes and sat together at lunch. As we talked about what relationships look like at different ages — and the commitment and affection that appropriately match them — we came to a mutual agreement. She would talk to him and suggest that instead of girlfriend-boyfriend, they would remain “super close friends” (no hug, sit together). That’s what happened, and then organically within days they were back to regular friends and all was well.

3. Help them embrace their core self. Often kids are shamed because they make playful comments, won’t sit still at the right times, or don’t fit the “normal” mold. Having raised a son with Asperger’s, I know how this can go, enhanced many, many times over. What is more helpful is to educate our children about their personality, that every type has strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s up to us to manage our personality and behaviors, which can include develop, temper, and share appropriately.

When one of my children stated that doing those things made her feel not herself, we talked about “place and energy.” Meaning, it’s important to adjust your behavior to the situation, not necessarily change your personality. For example, just like we don’t wear a swimsuit to a traditional wedding, we don’t act hyper in a library. We can adjust to what’s appropriate and still be our core self.

4. Play to the positive. We can take this acceptance one step farther and help them develop their personality traits in a positive way. One of my kids loves to talk about YouTube clips, vines, and what I call “soundbite” conversation. Over time I noticed my response to her becoming negative — as in, wanting a real conversation without a third-party quip.

Finally, it hit me — play to her strengths. So I talked to her about enrolling in a Kids Film Camp to develop her video and media awareness, and to teach her skills such as directing, sound, editing and acting. She loved it so much that not only did she want to sign up for next year, but happy surprise, now she’s helping me create video messages for women and families.

With a few tips we can enhance our parenting to understand, be aware of, and better develop our ability to plug-in to our wonderful children’s personalities.

Connie Sokol is an author, presenter, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at connie@8basics.com.

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