I have 5 different personalities that I have to work with daily:
- The compliant child
- The strong willed child
- The sneaky child
- The analytical child
- The silly child
I have one child who is mostly compliant. He's a people pleaser and thrives on praise and encouragement. He tries to do good most of the time, tho he does tend to be bossy towards his siblings from time to time and a little grumbly when things don't go the way he wants them to be.
Next I have what would be dubbed as "the strong willed child". He can definitely hold his own in arguments and absolutely must get the last word in. He cannot stand it when things don't go the way he expects them to go and can have a bit of a rebellious side. But he's also very determined and focused. He knows the rules and tries to follow them better than any of the other children. He zones in on a projects and follows it to completion. He knows when he hasn't done his best and usually tries to perfect it. I guess he's a bit of a perfectionist as well.
Thirdly, I have the sneaky child. She tends to always be afraid of getting in trouble (so I guess a people pleaser as well) It astounds me that she's afraid of this because she rarely 'gets' in trouble and the consequences when she does get in trouble are really minor compared to what some parents would do, but I guess to her it's not minor. She tends to tell tall tales and live in a 'fantasy' type world from time to time. She's fun loving and joyful. Almost always smiling and happy. She can be a bit 'snotty', but I think that's being a 7 year old girl! The amazing thing is her joy. She's just a happy child. And thoughtful. She made her sick brother a card just because she loves him.
Fourth is my analytical child. He thinks about EVERYTHING. He thinks through everything. He asks a bazillion questions. He loves documentaries and learning new things. He also thinks through everything he is asked to do. "Why do I need to clean up the playroom? It'll just get messy again." He tends to be a bit defiant and is actually very similar to my 'strong willed child' in many, many ways. He's a joy to be around and is usually cheerful. The things he thinks about and the subjects he brings up are pretty amazing and really thought provoking (and he's only 4!)
Last, but certainly not least is my silly child. She loves to be the center of attention. She's always laughing and dancing. She moves to music in her head. She's often persistent in her wants, but so much of her personality is just silly. Laughing, making others laugh, being cute and silly. She's two… so it'll be interesting to see what happens as she grows older.
I've found that parenting each one of them takes thought and changes per child and per season of life. There are times when I need to 'crack down' and times I need to extend more grace. There are things I would be strict w/ one about, but not strict w/ another about. Parenting is the most difficult job because of this. To parent each child to your best ability (and to their needs) you can't use a 'one style fits all' technique. Sure, it'd be easier! Yes, I'll admit… if I just used one form of discipline for each infarction of the 'rule' it would make my life easier. It doesn't work well that way. The moments I do use a form of punitive parenting I realize the reason I do not want to use it. My first retreats into himself, my second becomes angry and sullen, my third is heartbroken/sad as well as withdrawn, my fourth becomes angry and lashes out and my fifth is so hurt you can see it in her eyes. While I think that a sadness at doing wrong is right and the only way we can change, I don't think it needs to be enforced or made worse by my punitive parenting methods.
I've found that if I'm parenting at my best, using the grace that God extends to us my kids thrive. (Tho honestly we use grace on a very tiny, minuscule basis than what God has shown to us. None of us has chosen to give up the life of our child to save people who don't even care that we exist.) Through my extension of grace, the children can see heart issues come to light and when it comes from them it hits them harder. An example: My sneaky child has a tendency to lie to prevent getting into trouble . We've been reading a lot of Aesop's fables and she came to me the other day and said 'Huh. I think I needed to hear that. I'm like the boy who cried wolf. I'm going to try not to do that so people will believe me." My mama heart soared! I have told her that very thing time and time again "If you continue to lie, people won't believe you even if you tell the truth." She would agree, but didn't take it to heart until it came to her on her own. A simple verse, a simple story, a simple heart to heart talk can bring things to their minds that they hadn't thought of, hadn't taken to heart or hadn't realized were an issue. I've found that seizing these moments when not in the heat of a negative moment is the best. Seize a quiet moment alone and talk with them about the heart issue they are struggling with. Really listen and don't offer a lot of advice unless they seem open to it. Grab a hold of moments when you can encourage them.
When I'm parenting at my best and we hit the heat of the moment I usually try to walk away and say "You need to cool down" or "I need to cool down" and then address the situation later. I try to teach them it's best to walk away if you feel too heated. How many marriages and relationships could have been saved if only hurtful things hadn't been said in the heat of the moment, you know? But I also try to teach them to come back and talk when things have cooled off because you can't just ignore problems.
I wish I could always parent at my best… it's not easy and some days I want to throw in the towel on parenting completely. Walk away and just let them raise themselves! I guess that would be permissive parenting. But then how will they learn? They won't learn heart issues by beating it out of them. They won't learn by letting them do whatever they want… there has to be a balance and I guess that balance is grace. That balance is found when we pray and follow God's lead on how to parent each child as they need as the individuals God created them to be. Who are we to try to change what God created? Why not just help Him to shape them to become who He created them to be?