Learning to Find Us

Healing the Family through Understanding Personality Differences and Learning Styles

When I was a little girl of 5 years, I remember finding the most joy in wearing my mother’s high heels. I loved the clickety-clack sound those pointy heels made on our wood floors all over the house. Then the day came when I was allowed to wear a little color on my lips, mom’s white gloves and her gold necklace-my heart skipped a beat. I wanted to be just like my mom when I grew up and wearing her beautiful things somehow made me feel just a little bit more like her. I grew up with hearing in those early years that I was just like her in so many ways, her dark hair, her white skin and blue eyes. I was told often from relatives and friends that I looked just like my mother. There was rarely a moment that I considered that I was someone entirely different, a girl like her in some ways, but vastly different in many ways. I am not sure my mother ever saw me for me, but just a mini version of herself, the one she saw through other peoples eyes. I can say to this day there are similarities still, but we are not the same person by any means.

When my first born daughter came into the world, the first thing we did was to compare all of their features, expressions and movements to our own. There is something amazingly beautiful to see one’s characteristics in your child, from their looks to their moods and the similarities between other family members. “Oh she has grandmas overbite” or “He has grandpa’s sparkly blue eyes!” It’s a fun adventure trying to figure out their characteristics and who they mostly resemble. We may be tempted to think that because we see our characteristics, talents and strengths in our children so clearly, that somehow we understand them in a unique way, even before they are fully grown.

We may grapple and spend a lifetime trying to understand our children. We read books, seek doctors, teachers, family and specialists often gleaning little insights here and there, but not really solving the big mystery of who this child is. Take the new baby who seems to cry for no apparent reason, mother has tried everything and made sure she has all of her needs met. Then walks in Aunt Carol who takes the unconsolable child into her arms and everything is instantly calm again. How can a mother not know her own daughter’s needs? Is there a possible correlation between what we “think” we should know about our children and what we actually know?

Take for example a family that I coached with where a father and his 12 year old daughter were always at odds. There didn’t appear to be any apparent reason for the separation but there was a clear disconnect in their personalities soon after birth. This was not a question of fatherly love or daughterly devotion, just something that the father considered an act of insubordination at times which he had difficulty understanding since from her birth, this father has been told his daughter was, “just like him.” Are they just like us because of the recognized dimples and mischievous way they say no and run from us? I am not sure we will ever know to what extent, but I can say emphatically that yes our children are like us and they are not like us. This is the part we need to openly explore and grapple with as I will try to shed light on this very topic here.

What is a disposition?

By the age of three one can identify and see the traits of a disposition or personality clearly defined. A disposition is the personality traits that one is born with. However the child is nurtured, the personality will either organically surface or be hidden until a further time. As for myself, I was considered an oddly, shy child. I was four of five and never felt for a second I had a chance to be heard, so I stayed quiet. I was the first born girl amidst, three loud, rambunctious boys..and once grown, rarely did one even know I was there. Inside however, I felt differently, there was a storm brewing and one day, like a fever it just came out. I was 14 years old and without a second thought I felt I was all grown up and ready to take on the world, all shyness put aside.

When a parent comes to me and tells me that they “know” their child inside and out yet cannot figure out how to engage them in learning, I become curious. Curious about who the child really is. It is not that the parent is wrong and doesn’t know who their child is, of course they do, however it can be a mystery at times to find what motivates the child, especially when you want them to do something important. But that struggle in itself may be the key to unlocking something mysterious and wonderful about you and your child.

As parents we believe there shouldn’t be much fuss when something needs to be done. The child is told to do something and therefore they should do it, all feelings aside. This is true for many families and many children do exactly that very thing and seem to turn out fine. But are they fine? In my work, I have seen the child with a disposition that is naturally caring and conscious of the relationships she holds dear. We may call this child compliant, they do what they are told and there is no struggle. What motivates them to comply is the value they place on the relationships and how deeply they are connected to those relationships for their own sense of worth. If we could know what truly motivates the child to comply, would it change the way we interact with them? How can we know what intrinsically motivates any of us? What part of their disposition is necessary in knowing this.

What I value in my work is the opportunity to share with others what unlocks the mystery of intrinsic motivation in each of us. If I can help parents tap into what naturally is there in the mind and soul of their child, it helps families to come together and equips the child for a path of learning, self motivation and understanding the burning desires within their heart.