Your child’s personality

A few days ago I wrote tongue-in-cheek on Facebook that if strong-willed and defiant children are more likely to grow up to be CEOs, then I’d better be raising the next Steve Jobs. I was having a tougher-than-usual week with my 7 year-old, and instead of pulling out the last strand of hair still standing on my head, I made myself look on the possible bright side to get me through this rough patch called motherhood.

Then yesterday I read the ever wise Delia Lloyd in her post Five Ways to Think about Personality Types, and I heard about the DISC Personality Assessment, which focuses on the behavioral characteristics that make up an individual’s personality. The descriptions on their site include General Characteristics, Value to Team, Possible Weaknesses, Motivated By, DO and DON’T.

These categories translate very well into work personas, a very comfortable territory for me. After all, I’ve spent a significant chunk of my life in offices or cubicles, dealing with bosses, colleagues and subordinates. It’s in the work place that I spend the most time analyzing both the angels and doozies that surround me: the manager who doesn’t like people, the support staff person who tears up at the slightest criticism, the client who questions every piece of advice that I give.

To be honest, I analyze everyone, not just co-workers: family, friends, neighbors. Okay, that sounds bad. What I mean is that I like people watching and people understanding. Why, for example, can my husband Max not hear me when he is playing with Fred or typing on the computer? Turns out he is very focused on the task at hand and prefers to concentrate on one thing at a time; next time I need him I will ask him before or after he is engaged in something. I understand to learn, and to be a better relative/friend/neighbor.

Yes, I analyze everyone – everyone except children.

When it comes to children, they come in these one-size-fits-all labels: easy, difficult, picky, shy, hyper, sensitive, rambunctious, stubborn. Am I missing any?

I was so floored by DISC. Because it led me to look at my little boy as a future adult, in terms that I can relate to. My boy was no longer a developmentally immature child but a real person in the making, complete with motivations, temperament and a work style. Reading DISC reminded me that my child is not out to make my life hell nor does he have any kind of childhood behavioral disorder.

To be honest, if I looked more closely and understood my child better, I would see that he

likes having autonomy and appreciates the freedom to make his own decisions.

places more priority on big picture issues than on routine details.

likes to think outside the box and come up with his own solutions.

If I’d understood Fred better, I may not greet him at school pick-up with the friendly “Where is your jacket? Don’t tell me you’ve lost another jacket!” Instead of fretting if he has an attention deficit disorder I would more calmly help him find a way to remember those mundane details.

When he rejects my instructions because he’s thought of a better solution, I may be less likely to respond with, “I’m the mother; why don’t you ever listen!”

I might hover less and allow him to do more.

I would lecture less. Nag less.

In the DISC “DO” section, when dealing with “D” (Drive) personalities, I am to “[b]e brief, direct and to the point . . . Suggest ways for him/her to achieve results, be in charge, and solve problems. Highlight logical benefits of featured ideas and approaches.”

It also says DON’T “[r]amble. Repeat yourself . . . Make statements without support.”

No wonder I’d been having a tough week.

Our little future CEOs. Teammates. Teachers and crusaders. Or the next big thinkers. They all started somewhere, and I’m guessing it wasn’t from easy/difficult/picky/shy/stubborn.