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What's Her Type? Keys To Understanding Your Child

May 26, 2008
"Let us beware and beware and beware...of having an ideal for our children. So doing, we damn them." D.H. Lawrence

So begins the parenting chapter of David Keirsey's Please Understand Me, II. Although "typing" personalities began in the days of Plato, nearly 2400 years ago, most of us have not been given the tools to understand one another.

When I was a child and was hurt or confused by a friend's behavior, my mother and grandmother would say "Everyone's crazy but me and thee. And sometime I wonder about thee." We'd shrug and laugh and that would be that. Knowing I wasn't the only one to be confused by people's behavior always made me feel better.

Realizing we are different, however, I wondered why are we expected to act the same? Why are introverts encouraged to relax and enjoy the party? Why are energetic children told to sit still and behave? Why are dreamers often pulled back to earth?

Would we be better off if we celebrated each other's differences instead of trying to change them?

In Please Understand Me, II, David Keirsey argues yes. As he writes on page one, "...people are different from each other, and [that] no amount of getting after them is going to change them. Nor is there any reason to change them, because the differences are probably good."

So instead of worrying that your child doesn't sit still or sits still too much, that she dreams too much or dreams too little, that she's too outgoing or not outgoing enough, relax. Instead, try to understand her true nature and parent accordingly.

Kiersey writes, "...overseeing Mother Nature's project, maturation, requires parents to become child watchers, not child shapers, acting only when they detect a teachable moment or opportunity to encourage the growth of some attitude or action that is consistent with the child's temperament...Parents must be able to answer the question, 'What kind of person is my child, and what can I do to help him or her grow in that direction?'"

So take a moment and think about your child. Does she thrive on physical action? Does she jump on her bike and race around the neighborhood? Dive elbow deep into finger paints? Play her guitar day after day after day, just to get it right? If so, according to Keirsey, she's probably an "Artisan" like Amelia Earhart or Barbra Streisand.

"These children shine in action...The entire range of fine and practical arts, and of competitive games and sports, will grab budding Artisans - they need physical movement and novelty, and they love contests," Keirsey writes.

If your child loves stories, prefers make-believe over physical play, is sensitive and concerned about others, Keirsey calls her an "Idealist" like Eleanor Roosevelt or Margaret Mead.

Idealists "seem to have a natural talent for relating intimately with others, or for what I have called "diplomatic empathy," he writes.

Is your child helpful, eager to understand and follow rules, unsettled by change? Is she the traditional "good little girl?" Perhaps she's a "Guardian" like Elizabeth II or Mother Teresa.

Keirsey writes "Guardian self respect seems to be enhanced when they are serving others. Even as young as five, Guardians can be seem doing good deeds, not only for their parents and teachers, but also for their siblings and friends."

Finally, is your child a collector of shells, rocks, butterflies, stamps? Does she love to push buttons, take things apart and reassemble them, master a computer game? Does she ask endless "why" questions, seeking to understand the way things work? If so, Keirsey calls her a "Rational" like Margaret Thatcher or Marie Curie.

"More than anything else, Rational children wish to learn how things work. They start their logistical investigations early and continue them throughout life," he writes.

After you consider your child's temperament, ask yourself, is she an introvert or an extrovert? Is she a "fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants" type kid or one who prefers knowing what her day will bring?

Finally, which of the four temperaments best describes you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you prefer an orderly, well-planned day or an open and flexible day? Understanding your own personality may illuminate how you perceive your child's strengths and weaknesses and how they affect you.

In short, understanding personality and temperament can make you a better parent.

To read more about personality and temperament and/or take his online personality sorter, check out Keirsey's web site at http:keirsey.com. Chances are, you'll be glad you did.
About the Author
Dede Perkins writes on a number of subjects for a number of industries. She also runs a copywriting business, http://afewgoodwords.com and helps her clients increase sales by clarifying and communicating their marketing messages.
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