When your kids drive you crazy.

Sarah was exhausted. No matter how many activities she scheduled for her son, he always wanted more. She worried about overbooking him (and herself) but every time they had a day at home, he ended up climbing the walls and driving her crazy.

Julie was frustrated. At home, her daughter was exuberant and talkative, but out in public, she shut down. She scowled and clung when people tried to talk to her and refused to participate in activities. Julie couldn’t understand how her daughter could act so rude to people who are just being nice.

When parents feel calm and at peace, it brings out their best parenting skills. But when we argue with the reality of who our kids are, we drive ourselves crazy. “Why can’t he just come home, sit down, and get his homework DONE instead of dragging it on for hours.” “What’s so hard about making friends? Just go up and ask them if they want to play.” “Why can’t she be more like the other kids?”

When we argue with our child’s TEMPERAMENT, we lose. All kids were made with built in personality traits that we can certainly squelch but the effort will exhaust and frustrate us and cause our children to be unhappy, believing they are innately flawed. A better way is to understand how your kids are wired and parent, based on who they are. But how do we know what is temperament, something we cannot and should not try to change, vs. something they just haven’t learned yet and it’s up to us to teach them? This is the classic nurture vs. nature debate and the best resource I have found is the book Nurture by Nature by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. This book uses the classic Myers-Briggs Personality Type assessment many people discover from human resource departments, but is geared towards raising children.

My clients want to respect the essence of their kids and support who they are, but they want to stay sane while doing it. Accepting your child’s personality, as it is, and parenting them accordingly, is so worth the effort. Here are a few questions to consider…..
Does your child like to play with toys or board games as they are intended “S” or will he create his own version, changing rules as he goes, for something totally different ”N”?

Does your child need time at home to fill up their energy tank “I” or does staying home drain them and make them antsy “E”?

Does your child refuse to accept responsibility when they cause pain or sadness in someone else? They may be a deep feeler “F” and the thought they caused someone harm might be too much for them to take. Or are they perplexed by the emotional reaction they caused, “T” and need an explanation as to why the child is crying.

When it comes to making decisions like childcare, school choice, summer camps, understanding your child’s personality type is SO helpful. Instead of comparing your kid to others, look at who they are as a unique individual and ask yourself, how can I help them to be their best?

Being a former reading specialist, it drove me crazy that my daughter didn’t like books or reading. Once I realized she was an INFJ and was more interested in her OWN ideas than someone else’s, I could help her learn to like reading. By changing the endings, letting her lead, and using the pictures to tell alternative stories, I helped her discover the joy of storytelling. I also need to make sure she has plenty of unstructured time after school where she can invent and be the boss.

My ESFJ is way harder on himself than I could ever be. So instead of reminding him to “be good” or suggesting he pay attention in school, I have learned to celebrate mistakes. “Oh well, no big deal” is a mantra I try to use a lot of in my home as well as, “guess what awesome mistake I made today?”  Unlike INTP’s, whose mission is to question authority, ESFJ’s cannot function with conflict so maintaining harmony at all times is of primary concern.

The Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous is a perfect mantra for parents. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You can gain wisdom by assessing your personality profile, online for free. It’s geared towards adults but if your kids are older you can use it for them. Also check out Nurture by Nature. It’s super fun (unless you are an ISTJ or INTJ, then it’s torture☺) but it works best if your child is age 4 or older to get a clear picture of their type.

My much-loved, dog-eared, duct-taped copy.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Campbell

It’s not the job; it’s who you get to be.

It’s not the job; it’s who you get to be.

This line really stuck out to me years ago when I was reading Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Own North Star.  I could see the truth in it and how it applied to people around me, but it wasn’t until this summer that I was able to really experience it for myself.

I saw it with Maggie, a general practitioner, who chose her field because it was the trend of the time.   It was a practical, intelligent decision to make while in medical school, but it wasn’t HER.  Every interesting case that came through her door, she had to refer out.  She was a natural born specialist.  She loved to know everything there was to know about one subject.  She had a passion for expertise.  And yet, she found herself in a career for a generalist, someone who likes to know a little bit about everything.  There was nothing wrong with the job; it just wasn’t a match for her personality.  She went back to school and is now highly specialized; enjoying complex cases she can really sink her teeth into.

I saw it with Evan, an easygoing, effective employee who makes friends wherever he goes.  Managers and co-workers appreciate the peaceful work environment he creates.  Evan, on the other hand, is not feeling so peaceful.  He bites his tongue, stifles his true self, and tries to make peace for everyone but himself.  What Evan needs most is to express his creativity.  He needs autonomy and trust from his supervisors, but he’s too much of a pleaser to ask for it.  He has an amazing vision for how to optimize his role in the company, increase productivity and create an even better work environment.  He isn’t enjoying his job because he hasn’t figured out how to bring his true self, innovative and in charge, into his current role.

In my life I get to wear many hats:  Life Coach, Mommy, Teacher, etc. but this summer I spent a lot of time wearing my “Landlord” hat.  We have a rental property that became vacant and I spent a lot of time cleaning, repairing, advertising, interviewing, filling out paperwork, doing background checks, etc.  None of these activities I particularly enjoy, but through this process I thought a lot about, “It’s not the job, it’s who you get to be” and I looked for opportunities to be myself.  It was not always smooth.  I had tenants ruin property, lie to me, break agreements, and refuse to pay money they owed me.  I had to remind myself that I can still do the right thing, even when others’ aren’t.   I had to remind myself that I can still trust people, just not all people.  If I had to spend every day filling out paperwork, showing houses, and making repairs, it wouldn’t nourish my soul.  But if I could fill out paperwork, show houses, and make repairs while believing that I am helping people, then I get to be me.  I tell myself that I am helping people by being a good landlord and providing a nice, safe, clean home during a time when many people are looking to rent.   My favorite part of the job is when I get to connect with people who are going through difficult times.   During an open house, I got to listen to people grieve over their beautiful, big home they lost is the mortgage crisis.  I listened to their anger and resentment over their poor credit score.  I witnessed sadness about an upcoming divorce and hopefulness with starting a new life.  I know that I was not born to be a landlord. I was born to connect with people in important areas of their life and do what I can to help them feel better.  As long as I can find ways to do this, I can be happy ANYWHERE.

It’s easy to drown in a job that doesn’t nourish your soul.  What’s hard (but SO worthwhile) is finding ways to still be you, while living amongst crazy people in a crazy land.  Start with where you are.  How can you bring more of YOU into your job and your life?  If you aren’t sure what’s right for you, try reading Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck or give life coaching a try.  If your job is a match that was never meant to be and you feel clear about what your heart really longs for, perhaps now is the time to make that change.  It’s not the job, it’s who you get to be.

 

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