If you have more than one child, you may have realised that even if they have the same parents, share the same home, and have the same upbringing, your children may be nothing alike.
In fact, they could be polar opposites, which can make parenting these unique individuals all the more challenging.
When I had my son, I noticed early on that he was a quieter, calmer soul who was sometimes shy in new environments. This calmer, more reserved nature was often labelled as being a “good” baby and as he grew older, a “well behaved” child. And in retrospect he may have lulled me into a false sense of security when it came to parenting.
My second child is still a baby, but already I can see she has her own little sense of self, often waving and blowing kisses at strangers, trying to leap across counters at the shops to hug an unsuspecting salesperson and squawking enthusiastically at other babies and animals alike. It’s too early to say for sure, but I suspect that despite her small size, she may have a “bigger” personality than her big brother.
So how do we know what type of child we have and how best to tailor our parenting to their needs?
Identifying Your Child’s Personality Type
Well-known and much-loved author, educator and parenting specialist Maggie Dent believes there are two types of temperaments in children: the rooster and the lamb.
She describes rooster children as loud, feisty and full of energy. They are the ‘spirited’ ones. The ones that ruffle your feathers and want to rule the roost. These are the young kids who are bouncing off the walls, they let their emotions be known to all and are often quite stubborn. As they grow up, these are the kids who yearn for independence, want to be the life of the party and can be quite argumentative. Maggie says they can make you feel like the worst parent ever!
Conversely, she believes that lamb children are quieter, more empathetic and compassionate little beings. They are the little ones who prefer routines and structure. They like to know what to expect. As they grow up, they are the kids who may take longer to warm up in social situations and can lack assertiveness.
Maggie believes these two temperaments are a continuum, and as our children grow older, we can encourage them to exist somewhere in the middle of the continuum. So our roosters can become more empathetic, and our lambs can gain more confidence and assertiveness.
This is of course, just one way to identify our children’s personality traits. Other options include exploring introverted personality types versus extraverted personality types, or born leaders versus followers. Other characteristics we can look for include emotional intensity, activity level, frustration tolerance, reactions to new people and reactions to change. Exploring these areas can give us greater insights into our child’s behaviour.
You may have identified your outgoing offspring as having a ‘big personality’ or being a ‘rooster’. They may have strong emotional intensity, high activity needs and a low frustration tolerance, but how do you tailor your parenting to accommodate this passionate persona?
Each child is unique, so it’s worthwhile making a note of parenting styles that trigger or exacerbate behaviours, and conversely, techniques that can create calm or reign in an emotional child.
You may find if you raise your voice, they raise theirs to match you, which can escalate the moment. Or maybe if you spend too much time at home without enough stimulation, they act out in response. Their behaviour is a way of communicating, so it pays to listen to what they are trying to say to you. Perhaps you notice that when your child is tired they are much more emotional and you feel as though you are walking on eggshells around them. Take note and tailor your parenting to bring out the best in them.
When raising a rooster, Maggie advises holding firm boundaries while avoiding shouting, shaming or criticising. You may feel like you are always telling them no or that they are often in trouble, so she advises you to reassure them often that they are still loved.
Older roosters may benefit from team sports where they can exert some of that energy and build healthy levels of competitiveness. They may also benefit from more calming practices such as yoga and meditation. You may also like to give your rooster safe levels of independence to spread their wings, while younger kids could be given special jobs to do around the house.
Take note, if you are raising kids with different personality types, be aware of each child’s needs and cater to them. Your bigger personality child may really benefit from taking on extra-curricular activities, while your more reserved child may desperately need to spend more solo time at home.
Teaching Kids About Their Personality Types
Being self-aware can allow for self-acceptance and growth. It’s worthwhile having a constructive conversation with older kids about their personality traits, their strengths and even their weaknesses. This conversation can allow them to understand themselves better and find their own balanced place on that continuum.
How Schools Can Assist
Teachers love to know more about their students, and how parents and teachers can work in partnership for student success. Your child’s teacher may have asked for information about your child at the start of the school year, but if they haven’t you can always volunteer this information and strategies you’ve found that work well for your child and their personality.
If at any time you feel like you need more support for your child, contact your child’s teacher or arrange a time to meet with them if possible. Your child’s teacher is only a phone call, email or in-app message away!
Where to Go for Further Support
If you’re really struggling with your child’s behaviour and need further support, book an appointment with your child’s GP or speak to your child’s school about what in-school support options are available.
With the right tools and support in place, you can raise a spirited child… without them breaking yours!