Parenting and Personalities

*Input request*

People frequently make the observation of the diversity of personalities represented in my kids. They ask how we have nurtured their uniqueness. My answer usually points to a teaching I heard that kids are not blank canvases. That as parents we have the responsibility to identify and then encourage the individual leans of our children.

Up until recently this has been a supreme joy for me as a mama, the light in a myriad of drudgery. We celebrate our strengths and it’s all hunky-dory.  But…

What happens now that I am identifying in one of my children a personality and (dare I say it) gifting that rubs me the wrong way?

The problem might be that I have branded in my own mind the philosophy of the ‘not blank canvas’. I imagine myself ‘helping’ this child move in the direction of a honed gift and cringing the whole time.

I hate cilantro. It’s the one food I abhor. I don’t keep it in my home, I don’t cook with it and I don’t order food with cilantro. This personality trait feels like cilantro in my mouth.

So what do I do? (*this is where you start to come up with brilliant, change-your-life advice and share it with me, okay?*)

The way I see it I have two choices:

1. I can put on a happy face and fake like I like cilantro so this child will have a shot at developing this gift.  The downfall to this approach would be a secret resentment (that I already can feel growing inside me, thus this cry-for-help post) and a distanced relationship. Not good.

2. I can scrap my ‘not a blank canvas’ philosophy and try to find some creative techniques for encouraging alternative personality traits. The struggle I have here (besides the probable resentment that will spring forth from my child costing the steep price of authenticity in our relationship) is the fear of abandoning a philosophy that has defined me as a mother for these 13 years.

With the hope of having an authentic relationship with my child in which both of us can be true to the unique lean God has placed in us I am begging for your advice and observations of this personality issue. Oh, and this personality that rubs me the wrong way is not anything sinful or hurtful. Actually, in the minds of many the traits are revered and honored. Which leads me to believe that I am so messed up! I think I need to call my mommy…

Thanks for your thoughts!

7 thoughts on “Parenting and Personalities

  1. I would say to pray for understanding and an ability to “like” the personality trait. Before my daughter was born God gave me a word about her that caused me to stereotype her as a boy…He said this child would lead the next generation. That this child would astound even adults with their understanding and the generations would would to them for leadership. When I found out she was a girl, I had to change my thinking about the word the Lord had spoken over her and realize my assumption was wrong. I retrained my brain to think about her personality differently, since in my mind a girl wasn’t a “leader” unless she was manipulative, bossy, and just plain mean. Instead, I began thought about all the positives it could mean for a “girl” and how it would position her in life to highly succeed rather than to be viewed as the bossy, manipulative one. She is only 2 2/1 and already I can see how she leads in a non=threatening way. Her energy and love for herself and others draws people to her, even adults. It is amazing that even at her young age she is fulfilling the plan God has for her! At times, when she “bosses” others, I remind her that they have feelings to and she needs to take that into consideration (yes, I tell my 2 yr old that! I believe our kids understand way beyond what we give them credit for.) She will then try a new tactic….she amazes me every time! Anyhow, hope this might help.

  2. Angie, la verdad no entendi todo lo que escribiste, pero muchas veces yo me he preguntado, como hermanos/as, que han sido educados y amados de manera semejante, pueden ser tan diferentes. Si te pones a pensar, nosotros solo “hacemos” el cuerpo de nuestros hijos, pero que pasa con la personalidad y el caracter? No olvidemos que cada hijo recibe un espiritu, un espiritu del cual no sabemos nada. Quien fue este espiritu antes? Que tuvo que experimentar en vidas pasadas y por que volvio? Tu y yo tambien somos espiritus que volvieron a reencarnar por x o z razon …. Yo creo qye lo unico que podemos hacer, es educarlos lo mejor posible, guiarlos por el buen camino, transmitir los valores que creemos correctos y amarlos incondicionalmente.

  3. Well, honestly, I am no parenting expert. But in truth, I would say that if this personality trait is “just” a personality trait (and not anything that has any negative moral/ethical leanings, what I am trying to say is that it is not something inherently sinful – oh, and re-reading your post I see that you already addressed this issue :-)), then I think you would have a hard time justifying trying to lead your child away from it in a godly manner. I don’t know what it is, and what your aversion to it is, but I think the answer is to pray that God will give you understanding and acceptance and be able to guide your child in HIS strength. And who knows, maybe He will end up diminishing that particular personality trait in your child! But first, pray for understanding.

    I don’t think you should falsely put on a happy face, but honestly go to God and ask him to GIVE you that happy face. He can take away your dislike and “natural” disinclination – after all, HE is the one who created BOTH of your natures!

    I pray that God will give you guidance and peace! Blessings.

  4. Angie, I am not sure what this talent/trait is or if it is equal to what I am about to say but I think at some level I can relate. When Brooke realized that she loved decorating cakes & that she is good at it I was happy for her. Until I realized this would require me helping her learn how to bake. I always hated baking!!! This was never a secret to anyone. I don’t know why but it would stress me out & make me nervous. I decided I was going to do this though. I must admit I grumbled a bit while doing it but pressed on. I am so glad I did & that I didn’t send her to someone else to teach her or try to get her to take interest in something else. I have learned not to dislike baking so much & love being my daughter’s assitant. This has given us time together we may not have had otherwise. It has given us a whole new level to our relationship. Also by encouraging her to do this she is now starting her own little business to pursue another love of hers, missions. This is something I can completely relate with, a love for missions. All of the tense stessed moments for me have been well worth it to see where she is headed now. Sometimes there is something beyond what we can see. Pray for parental guidance & peace. If you do not feel you are being lead otherwise, if this is not a horrible thing & only a thing you dislike maybe it would be best to help her flourish. It may lead to things you could never imagine, things God has planned.

  5. Angie – Again it is hard not knowing what it is, yet I understand and honor not saying what it is. Hmmm… I can tell you what not to do! :) I am unerringly like one of my parents in a trait or two that irritated the other parent to the ninth degree. I grew up being told in exasperation and anger that “You are just like your _____!” I always questioned why if I was, the other parent did not love me well since they ought to if I am like the one they married. The next logical step was to wonder if my parents really loved each other. It brought shame and insecurity into my life.

    I have one that is so much like me that we could be twins. He’s a handful, but I know where he’s coming from, at least. Another of mine is much like his dad – which is a mystery. I struggle to understand where he is coming from, what is going on in his head, and how best to reach him. Then I have another, who all people adore, but grates on me – part of that is his ADHD tendencies, though! He is incredibly social – caring, too – and will talk to everyone about everything. Nothing has ever stopped this child. He walks right up to people, old, young, healthy, deformed, grouchy, cheerful, whatever, and starts a conversation with a question. We went to a viewing a a funeral home, and by the end of the two hours there, when we left, this child of mine greeted ALL the workers there by name, and they rubbed his head and he jumped up to hug them and rub an old man’s bald head. (I can only imagine him asking earlier what a bald head feels like – he’s like that!)

    I am a private person. I actually like, at times, to go about my business without greeting and chatting with everyone around me. My husband is the exact opposite… he’s so friendly that we can not stay at bed and breakfasts if we go away together – he’s sat at the breakfast table talking to the hosts until noon and gotten an invitation to come back as a guest! My husband and I have come to me compromises since then…. But now I have a son who runs up to a man without legs in wheel chair and just begins talking – and not with “what is wrong with you?” He actually started with, “That is the coolest wheelchair I’ve seen. Why are the wheels at an angle? Does it work better that way? Can you do tricks?”

    I’m occasionally sociable, but this son of mine never knows a stranger or a secret!

    What I try to do is remind myself that God made this child in this way for a reason. He undoubtedly has a reason and purpose in what He did. I do try to direct some of his tendencies and give guidance as to when and how to use that personality trait and when perhaps not to. But I also try to envision a few different future careers or ministries where this trait that annoys me so much at times can be used of God, so when I am hearing nails on the chalkboard again, I remind myself forcibly of the possibilities God has in using this trait. (The kid can get anything from anyone with them thinking they are privileged to give! Great future in fund-raising for organizations! Irritating when he walks away from a place with his hands full. “I didn’t ask mom! I just told them that I have wondered where they get these since they are so good and …..”)

    I’ve also begun listening when others talk of my son. Instead of hearing my tape of his traits… ‘grr, not again… we need to go, not talk…. why did he get that from them?…. I don’t want to talk to this stranger now who is coming to admire my son… who is making everyone late AGAIN!”

    When I listen to others, I hear a different view of that trait than I have. “He asks such good questions.” “He is a delight to talk to.” “He is so fun to be with.” “No kid ever talks to me after I lost my legs, but he spent a half hour talking with me with such excitement.” “He thinks alot, you know.”

    I need that view that others give me. It helps me remember that this kid was designed by God for reasons God has in mind. These personality traits are not mine to muck with or change, but God’s – chosen by God. I am to mold them, to teach him how to use them with wisdom, but not to shame him or bend him to my mold. Only guard and care well for what was entrusted to me. Even the non-stop chatter!

    Sometimes that helps. :) Other days, I beg for patience. And along the way, I’ve met airline stewardesses, the floor sweeper at the mall, the old man with no legs, the blind man who sits in the food court, the garbage truck operators, the funeral home assistants, the guy who collects shopping carts, the man who fills the vending machines, and the lab tech who takes his blood. I’ve heard their stories – from the mouth of my son. “Mom, did you know….”

  6. One of the things I read during the first few months of being “momma” was by Gary Thomas – that God intended our children not to make us (necessarily) happy, but to grow our holiness. Whatever this cilantro is… so long as it doesn’t fall into something destructive for your kiddo…I think His light will shine on how this difference between you is meant to grow YOU. It baffles me how often God uses my kiddos to push me towards growth.

    I don’t offer anything but my own imperfect thoughts – but if you want to think/hash this out further – I’m an email/skype/phone call away! You are loved.

  7. I love the way our God lays upon our hearts the same ideas… I too was going to voice like Amy did, “that God intended our children not to make us happy, but to grow our holiness” (although I would never have been able to say it so eloquently :)

    One of the things that I have ALWAYS treasured about you as my friend, and a model of mamaness… is that you truly treasure your children for who they are, and value what they teach you, show you about yourself, and push you to be. I know (oh my goodness how I know :) that cilantro is not on your market list, not one of the things that you would choose to buy and incorporate into your kitchen. But I also know that you are an amazing woman, who knows well how to open her heart and her arms to those different than her :) I look at our friendship on paper and we make NO sense… but you my friend open your heart to me (cilantro and all :) and over time appreciated our differences and what those differences did for both of us in sharpening us, growing us and pushing us closer to the image of our Lord. I don’t pretend to think that it will be the same on a parent/child level… I can only imagine, but I do know that you are an amazing woman. A woman who has the wisdom to know when to say HELP… to friends and family, but most importantly to the creator God who designed and brought into being this precious child that is your’s… and the beautiful self that is you. Never forget that your creator’s are one in the same… the parts of you both that are different, that compliment (and many times aggravate) the other, together make a more whole image of God… Love you friend!

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