Kids, Temperament, Motivation and The Pattern

Misha is all for fun.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
Proverbs 20:11

A few days ago, I could almost smell summer in the air: bright sunshine, sweat, bicycle oil. Then two nights ago a snowstorm came bringing with it loads and loads of snow... and beautiful snowflakes spiraling in the air in the morning. And no electricity.

As school was cancelled, I was left with four kids without the help of modern devices. What to do?
I watched.

I watched the snowflakes. Beautiful, intricate in all it's design, then read about it. Fascinating.

I watched the kids in each of their own beautiful personalities trying to combat boredom in their own special way (as God has made them). Then blog about it. Extremely fascinating.

I looked like I was reading, but with all the activity going on, how can one even concentrate? This momma is on to another study, one that has begun since I had child #1. My lab goes like this...

The eldest started to spread a blanket in the middle of the living room the moment he woke up, even before breakfast, intent on taking in all the fun and connection he could get from everyone present. I told him that if he wants to sleep he should do it in his bedroom. I got a "it's-boring-in-there-mom" response. He had no intention to sleep, just to camp out where everyone was and where everything was happening.

The second pored over a round toy with a complicated maze inside, picking her brain out, trying to "win". It didn't even matter that she was standing the whole time. I could almost hear her brain whirring while she worked... or maybe, it was the toy. A little later, after a triumphant win, I saw her on the couch, flat on her stomach with a book. Before long she was asking me to buy her a particular book that she saw on the cover of the book she was holding.

The third, right after breakfast and after a lot of patient promptings from me to finish it, announced that she was going to draw, then proceeded quietly in setting up station on the computer desk, with crayons and papers, with the intention of spending time at her own pretty pace.

As for the littlest one, she was like a ball bouncing around asking the second one to give her the round toy and when she saw that she couldn't have it, decided to wrest it out of the other's hands. She thought that she could control the events by using a demanding tone and a loud voice. It made the third, use her pencil to make a tinkle sound out of a jar with the purpose of silencing the bossy baby. But instead of making the baby calm down it just made her turn to the third with a command to stop what she was doing. Now, the first saw an opportunity for fun. He started teasing the grumpy dominant one with a pillow, which made her command him right away to stop what he was doing. She didn't like that she couldn't control him so it went on and on, with the demand going more desperate, louder and insistent. The power struggle was real. The patient third tried to appease the dominant, while the analytic second assessed what was happening, finally gave the round toy, ending all that pandemonium.

It didn't last long. The small boss started commanding the toy in her most powerful voice when she saw that the small ball inside it didn't go as she wanted it to. This made Clown the First laugh at her, having all his fun, while the third looked on pityingly. As for the second, she was too engrossed in what she was reading, just glancing absent-mindedly at everybody.

And that, is the classic example of having all four kinds of personalities right under the same roof. It was as fascinating to watch as a snowflake show. Now as their mother, what is the best way to love them? How can I motivate them to do what is best without squashing out their colorful personalities?

Oftentimes, our mistake as parents is to treat kids like they came out of the same mold as cookies do. We use the same words, same instruction, same motivation, same love language, and expect the same response from different people--- each and everyone--- and then wonder what went wrong when we didn't get the response we've been expecting. (My husband's perpetual helpless expression when dealing with our kids is a classic example.)

Even our Ultimate Parent, our heavenly Father, knows that we are different from each other, because He Himself has made each of us individually unique. Not only that, He treats us according to our individual circumstances and reactions. The Bible is clear:

He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. 
Psalm 33:15

What a comfort!

Although each of us are unique we do share some of the same traits with others. The concept of the four temperaments--- Sanguine, Melancholic, Phlegmatic and Choleric--- was developed since the time of Hippocrates and up until now is still being used. However, even if it's still recognized, it has gone through some alliteration. Florence Littauer calls them Popular, Perfect, Peaceful and Powerful. Dr. Garry Smalley characterized them with animals: Otter, Beaver, Golden Retriever and Lion. Jennifer Nacif in her TED Talk described children with their most notable trait: Social, Analytical, Patient and Demanding. (Oh, my children comes in this order! No pun intended.)

The electrical brownout was a blessing for me. As I watched my kids, I got to know them better and gained understanding. Jennifer Nacif suggested words that could motivate children based on their temperaments. Also, being a fan of Dr. Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages, I have included some of the possible love language of each temperament.

  • Children who have SOCIAL as their most notable trait are also talkative, trustful and distracted. They want to be popular, have fun and, almost ALL of the time, be with people and make connections. Obviously, the Social temperament loves being with people. And time is their primary love language.
My Misha just loves to be with people and wilts when he has to spend time alone doing his homework. He often makes excuses for trips to the kitchen to get water to drink or something to eat every five minutes. Then he listens and joins in on the conversation or stays to to be part of all that is happening at the moment. Slumber parties are his favorite with a tent in the living room or movie nights where everyone is lying down on the floor in front of the computer. He is always asking if he can have his friends over or if he can visit his friends. It seems like the only thing he has on his mind is to talk fun and have fun. And my, it's hard work for him not to get distracted! Every time I see him off to school, I usually call out--- after the goodbye kiss and the I-love-you's--- Focus!

Understanding his temperament has made me a better negotiator when it comes to more important things like his responsibilities and schoolwork. I have also tried to make it easier for him to obey me--- like study with him or reward him with time spent with me.

I've made it clear to my son that he can have joy if he puts Jesus first and never lose sight of Him. For SOCIAL children, I suggest the following verses for them to know by heart.

Delight yourself in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth.
Isaiah 58:14

  • Children with ANALYTICAL trait are perfectionists, often opinionated, seems mature, independent and persistent. They thrive on order and clarity, mental challenges and love being acknowledged. Most of these children have words as their primary love language, specifically, words of affirmation--- and the more specific it is, the better.

Angelika is one analytical child. We call her smartypants at home. When asked to do an errand, she wants the instruction to be as clear as crystal so there won't be any confusion. After the task is accomplished, she wants to be acknowledged and even has the exact words that she expects me to say. It's amusing. But that's who she is. She loves school and learning and even told me that she'd be the smartest girl in school in the soonest time possible, so there's really no cause for me to worry if she is not the smartest girl now. (She has started in this new school just this school year and is still trying the ropes on the Russian language.)

She is quite a perfectionist, too! We saw this afternoon a 5-ruble coin and she wouldn't pick it up because it's not hers. Her mantra for honesty: Don't take anything that's not yours. When I insisted that she pick it up, she looked at me in the eye and said: "You, more than anybody, should know it's wrong to take something that's not yours. Whatever you say, I won't do it." And I smiled. She's going to be okay against the rotting moral fabric of our society. I pray God keeps her.

Knowing her temperament has made me more intentional to acknowledge her efforts and give better instructions. I can be incoherent at times... and there's inconsistent, too. Being a perfectionist, she worries too much. I have taught her how to do things one step at a time so she doesn't get overwhelmed, especially with doing HUGE homework, which she sometimes sees as an impossible task.

Angelika brings books to camping trips. Ella chills out,
relaxed and in her element among nature.
ANALYTICAL children are often seen as the "perfect" child. And they do strive to be perfect. But being human, they, too, will experience failure. I've had many conversations with Angelika over this, as she laments on how she wants to be good but sometimes do bad things instead. I remind her that it's only through God's grace and power that we overcome. Her prayers are so sincere and meaningful, asking God for His mercy and help, that just by listening to her, I am moved to repentance. These verses will point out to them where all righteousness comes from and will lead them to God and His Word.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, 
always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 19:7

  • Children with PATIENT nature are relaxed, understanding, kindhearted, and affectionate. They flourish in a calm and safe environment and expect kindness because they are kind. They are easily bruised by harshness and are confused with conflict. When they feel safe, they can achieve so much. Threats and pressure don't bring out the best in them. Their primary love language is physical touch, words of assurance, and service. They love kind deeds as much as they love giving them.

Ella is my patient child. She blooms with hugs, cuddles and affection. She has a name for me---"Softie". Yes, she calls me her "Softie" mom. She loves everything soft and gives so much care to her stuffed toys and little sister. She's a very thoughtful helper, too. Pressure breaks her. Mealtimes and times before bed or preparing for preschool stresses her when she's being hurried. So she is given enough time to do her thing. Still, she can try anybody's patience. She has all the time for many things except for what she is pressured to do.

So, knowing her, I try to avoid pressuring her by giving her some leeway--- more time than the others to do her things like dress up or eat. She has to feel safe in order to accomplish her tasks. Reminders, though, now and then, won't harm. When she was younger and she goes on a panic, I just pat her softly or stroke her head and she easily calms down. She's not the most adventurous and rarely takes risks, but she does things even when she's scared, especially when she feels that she's going to be okay. As her mom, I go out of my way to make her feel safe at night or any time she is scared or nervous. Hugs are what she loves most.

Combat fears and threats with the following verses for a PATIENT child. Suffuse her with assurances of security found only in God and His unconditional love, made visible in you as a parent.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness... 
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. 
We love Him because He first loved us.
1 John 4:17,18,19

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

  • Children who have DOMINANT as their most notable trait are daring, have strong willpower, fast, demanding and results-oriented. They love challenges, winning and being right. They are great with responsibilities and are capable of doing them. Their primary love language? Service and giving presents.

Trying so hard to shovel snow with her argamak, 
Roxy is all concentration and grit.
Roxy may be young but she is already displaying traits of a dominant temperament. She gets what she wants and is highly motivated to achieve what she sets out to do. She learns fast and moves fast. Working outside of the home while taking her with me to work was not much of a problem because of her personality. She adapts fast and doesn't need a lot of time to warm up to a new schedule or idea. She takes a challenge very well and without much fuss. Normally, she doesn't fuss, except when she sees a power struggle over a toy or a territory or momma's love. Then she takes it as a challenge. In the coming years, I plan to know her more. Time will tell if she is who she really is.

As of now, understanding her temperament, I have learned to give her "responsibilities" according to her capability. When I do that, she is the happiest kid around. She loves clean-up time and even does it without anybody asking. The moment she sees the vacuum cleaner in my hands, she starts picking up the things strewed around on the floor. She wants her own way, from putting on her socks to brushing her teeth to learning her languages. She freaks out when she feels out of control like all the older ones are taking up all her space and toys. She wants to be visible and present--- a major player. So I try to include her in the things I do and the family's activities.

For DOMINANT children, let them reflect on God as their Creator and King, and what He has done in the cross for them. Let their hearts be softened by His grace and their spirits be subdued by the Holy Spirit. And let them remember that whatever control God has given us is for us to do and anything out of our control is His. We are His stewards. Let them learn this psalm of David by heart...

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet.
Psalm 8:3-6

More than ten years of motherhood and four kids later, I still don't have all the answers. Only God has. He knows each of my children, and what I do know, He has given me in order to bring them up for His glory and purpose, and the wonderful plans He has for them. For certain, He wants them to be a blessing, in our home, in the church, in the society. Again...

He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. 
Psalm 33:15

If God hasn't revealed to me the knowledge of what I have written above, then, I still have His reminders of the most important task I have--- to conscientiously form their characters after the divine Pattern--- Jesus. Both fathers and mothers should unite to do this task. And the only way they can achieve this is when they themselves are connected with God--- having His fear and seeking the knowledge of His will. Then the work comes, not easy, but possible. God's blessing will be on us as we do His will prayerfully and intentionally. God promised:

...meditate in it (God's Law) day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:8

As an inspired author wrote, "The great truths necessary for salvation are made clear as the noonday, and none will mistake and lose their way except those who follow their own judgment instead of the plainly revealed will of God" (E. White, Testimonies, 331). Are you bringing up your children for Christ? 

Whatever shape or form a snowflake is (though scientists have spent a long time trying to figure them out), we know the pattern comes from Above. And whatever personality traits our children may have, may they all form characters molded after the divine Pattern.


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