In my previous blog post, I talked about how understanding your child’s personality type is an essential part of establishing positive family communication. Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies is an excellent read to understand the four childhood personality types and will definitely help to improve your relationship.
If your child is an Upholder, he/she will generally be pretty easy to raise. Teachers love upholders too. They love rules, are responsible about homework and chores around the house. However, they can be inflexible. Changes in plans, transitions, and unclear rules can trigger opposition or tantrums.
Rubin’s advises parents of Upholders, when up against their child’s iron clad following of rules, to explain, “Your teacher expects you to read for thirty minutes a night, but because we went to visit Grandma, it will be bedtime by the time we get home. A good night’s sleep will make you alert for school tomorrow, and that’s more important than reading tonight.” Or “The teacher understands that sometimes children can’t complete an assignment for reasons that aren’t their fault, and that’s okay.”
She asserts that with Upholders “Those arguments will work better than…’You deserve it’, ‘The teacher won’t know you skipped one day.’
To make things more complicated, Rebel parents have a hard time understanding their Upholder children. Upholder parents have difficulties understanding their Rebel and Questioner children, often butting heads with them, and telling them to “Follow the rules, or else!” Upholder children will become frustrated with their Rebel parents, because they might not give the child clear limits.
Questioners are the children who are constantly asking for explanations of why they have to do what they are doing. It can get frustrating and exhausting for parents (as well as teachers.) Their behavior can also be construed as disrespectful. However, they are just intensely curious. They need need logical reasons to comply to demands made of them, “Folding the laundry now, will make sure that everyone has the clothing they need for school for the whole week. It will make our mornings calmer.”
Most kids do not respond well to the typical parenting answers of “Because I say so, “We’ve always done it this way,” “This what you have to do” or “These are the rules.” However, Questioners (and Rebels) have a particularly difficult time with these phrases.
Questioner parents can get frustrated with the Upholder children, who just do things because it’s the right thing to do, without thinking carefully about it. They can get upset with children who exhibit other tendencies for not thinking through their plans or not acting logically. Children with other tendencies can get annoyed with their Questioner parents for taking a long time to make a decision or for all the questions they do ask of them.
Obliger children are generally easy because they like to please the adults in their lives. However, they do need external measures of accountability. Rubin, gives the example of her friend who ran on the track team in high school and loved it. She was complaining that as an adult she could not keep a consistent running schedule. She felt she was just being lazy.
In order for her to follow through, even on the things she loved, she need to be accountable to someone, like her high school coach. As an Obliger, she also, would never want to disappoint her let her teammates. down. That is why she was so successful in high school. As an adult, she just needed to create that same type of structure and build in accountability, (get a running partner that she couldn’t let down, or be part of a running group) and she would be able to maintain a running schedule.
Parents of Obligers need to help them find systems outside of themselves that will help them enforce expectations. Incentive charts and gentle reminders can work. Positive reinforcement is a must: “Cleaning the dinner table was a huge help to me!” Although, I generally recommend that parents do not help with their children’s homework, Obliger children might need that extra attention and outside enforcement.
Upholder Parents may have a hard time understanding why Obliger children can’t just do what they are told to do. They may think they are being irresponsible. Rebel and Questioner parents may think that their children are being pushovers. Obliger children can get very confused, wanting to please their parents and not understanding why they are upset.
Rebel children are often challenging because they refuse to do what they are told to do. They like to make their own choices and they resist any expectations. They need to feel as is they are doing what they want, not what others want them to do.
Rebel children need love and understanding. They are often knocking up against people and limits. It can be exhausting to have an internal dialogue that does not allow you to follow the rules of society, to always feel the need to push back.
To maintain a loving relationship with these children it is important to avoid direct commands. When parents say to a rebel child, “Eat your vegetables” the child will most likely dig in their heels and refuse to comply. This will be the case, even if he had planned on eating the vegetables in the first place.
Rubin, suggests the following procedure when speaking to Rebels (FYI, this should be used with all children, whatever tendency they are, however, with Rebels it is essential):
- Provide information: “I made green beans today. It is a bit of a different recipe today and might not be what you are used to.”
- Tell them the positive consequences of their behavior: “If we try lots of different foods we open ourselves up to lots of great experiences. It also can be healthier.”
- Give them choices: “You can just put a little on your plate, or you could just take one and taste it.”
- Let them decide: “You can decide if you want to taste it or not.”
There is one more way this information helps me as a Parent Educator. All four of my children are Upholders (my husband and I are Upholders as well), so they are generally well behaved. People assume my kid’s good behavior comes about because I teach parenting classes! It’s simply not true; it has been easier to develop, and maintain good positive relationships with them because of their Upholder tendency.
Want to learn more great parenting skills? Do join our upcoming Parenting Simply Foundations Workshop