Based on her book Growing Kids With Character, Hettie Brittz outlines the four main personality types of children and how parents can better nurture, communicate with, and discipline them. She explains what to do when your child is a hybrid of the types, when your personality clashes with your child's, and more. (Part 2 of 2)
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John Fuller: That's Hettie Brittz reflecting about the challenges and opportunities that can come your way when you and your child have different personality types. And she joins us again today on Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I want to start with Scripture because I think this is an interesting application right there in First Corinthians 12, verses four and six. It says this: "Now, there are a variety of gifts but the same spirit. And there are varieties of service but the same Lord. And there are a variety of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone." That is really what we're talking about today with Hettie. It's this idea that we have these core, I believe, stamped personalities. Uh, we do adapt to our environment, and I get that. But I think we come out with some very sure-minded approaches to how life should go. And, uh, Hettie's done a wonderful creative job of applying these to trees so we could better understand the character of people and why they are behaving the way they behave.
We covered that last time. If you missed it, get the download, get the, uh, free podcast. Contact us. We'll make sure you get it in your hands. I think it was extremely helpful for parents to better understand their children's personalities and how to be a more effective parent, which is our goal - to help you - as Hettie's book says, , we want to be a part of that.
John: And you can get a copy of that book or the download of the program at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call us, and we can tell you more - 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Hettie Brittz is an author and a speaker and a leading voice for parenting advice in South Africa. She and her husband Louis have three children, and they've recently moved to the U.S.
Jim: Yeah, Tennessee. And we mentioned that last time. Welcome...
Hettie: Thank you very much.
Jim: ...To Tennessee!
Hettie: We appreciate it.
Jim: And we love our friends there, obviously. It must have been a little bit of a culture shock though.
Hettie: We're loving it. We love...
Jim: Oh, that's good to hear.
Hettie: ...The community. People are warm and...
Hettie: ...Sociable. We have a lot of new friends. We're - and we like everything fried.
Hettie: That's also - that's also really good.
Jim: You kind of adapted to that really quick, huh?
Jim: Fried everything. I like that. Hettie, we do welcome you back. Uh, last time, we talked about these characteristics, and it's brilliant what you've done, I mean, to put these...
Hettie: Thank you.
Jim: ...In the context of trees. Um, and it really helps a parent better understand who they are and who their children are wired to be. And, uh, probably the nugget I pulled out of the program last time is this idea that we have conflict with our children and much of it is going to be rooted in this communication style issue - uh, the parent being built a certain way by God, and then the child to be, maybe, sometimes opposite of that. And so you have conflict when conflict doesn't need to exist really. You just need to understand each other a bit better and for the parent, the adult in the room, to really work that understanding so that they could help shape their children and help develop their character. Is that a good summary?
Hettie: Absolutely. Because from that, my question as a parent is so if I know this is my child, and these are my child's needs, how many of those needs should I indulge? And when should I shape? Um, because the world out there is not going to say, give me your tree type, and then I will do everything in a way that makes you happy. And so it's that fine line between shaping them to be able to work in a world with anybody - people who are not like them and don't accommodate their needs - but also to make sure that, in my house, they know they're all loved and welcomed and that I teach in a way that works, that I disciple their heart and that I help them on their route that God has for them.
Hettie: Because they're all going to honor God in different ways. We just read about those gifts and those activities that are going to be different with each child. But it's - they all have, in them, a seed to be God-honoring people giving, to bring Him glory in their...
Jim: Sure. And it's important to know...
Jim: ...Right from the outset, whatever your lumber is, if you pardon the pun...
Hettie: No, I love the pun.
Jim: ...God is in this.
Jim: I mean that's the brilliance of it - that God is present. And it's all about being rooted in His character and developing in His character so that you can be a formidable tool in His hands while we walk this Earth. And that's what you're getting at. So let's get to it. Uh, last time, we talked about the palm tree, which I resonate with. It's kind of the fun-loving person who wants to go to the party and - and interact with people. You get a lot of energy. Usually, it shows up in children, as you described yesterday, as that energetic, talkative child, which I was, and, you know, that - that child that just has a real insatiable desire to know things, and they're just bugging you sometimes.
Hettie: Yeah, and they're on the go. And we want to put them in the box, and we want to get them into a routine, and it's not really working. And actually, our best investment is going to be in discipling their heart, making sure they follow the right moral, you know, pointers - good friends, good role models...
Hettie: ...And by keeping in mind their purpose. Because this design is so that they can influence people, so that they can draw people into the kingdom, so that they can communicate ideas...
Hettie: ...About God. And as long as we're nurturing that, we're doing our most important job.
Jim: I could see these being the evangelists.
Jim: These are the ones that get engaged...
Jim: ...With culture.
Jim: They'll go to the party, they don't care, and they'll talk to people about the Lord. And that's a wonderful way to look at it. Then you talked about the rosebush. You're a self-proclaimed rosebush. That's how you described your...
Hettie: Yeah, I have a lot of...
Jim: ...Parenting style. But that's what? What's the rosebush?
Hettie: Feisty, forward-looking, fast, wanting stuff to get done yesterday.
Jim: Where's the prickly part?
Hettie: Oh, in the words.
Hettie: We are a bit sharp.
Jim: To the point.
Hettie: Yes. I mean, this is a child who - who tells you, you are not being fair, this is what you did yesterday, here are your mistakes, you really should be more this or be more that. And then they're often right, but it hurts.
Hettie: It's the prophetic...
Hettie: ...That's coming out.
Jim: When you look at Scripture, would you say Paul was a...
Jim: ...Rosebush? I think I would see him as a rosebush.
Hettie: Straight-shooter, very determined, very brave.
Hettie: And when God calls him, he says, "I'm going to show him how much he must suffer for the Gospel." If you tell a rosebush kid, "I'm going to let you do this, but it's going to be very tough, nobody's ever gotten this right." They go, "bring it on."
Jim: They want the...
Hettie: That's what they want.
Jim: They want the challenge.
Hettie: Yes, please. They're like - very often, the reason they misbehave is life is too easy.
Jim: Wow, interesting. All right, let's move to the boxwood. Um, we ended there. We gave brief descriptions last time, but most of us won't even know what a boxwood is. So I'm sorry for our ignorance.
John: I had to go online...
John: ...To see it.
Jim: But describe boxwood. And what are the attributes?
Hettie: Their original name that we used to call them by in the past was the lollipop trees because they're these perfectly shaped round trees. But they can also be shaped into a triangle or square or any shape you like. They're...
Hettie: Yes, they...
John: Kind of a shrubbery that you can shape...
Jim: The elephant at Disneyland.
Hettie: But they can also be these - these hedges around, you know, the princess gardens. And they're incredibly teachable the same way these traps are moldable.
Hettie: This is the child who says, just tell me the way it needs to be done, by when and how many times, and they're going to do it right. So they have a natural tendency to feel boundaries and to see them and to need them. So when the books tell you children need boundaries, and they love boundaries, then just keep in mind it's probably a boxwood who wrote the book...
Hettie: ...And who believes this firmly that this applies to all kids. Because the boxes are kind of square and linear, and things need to be...
Jim: But logical...
Hettie: ...Just right.
Jim: ...Is like...
Jim: ...We described it - the engineer. Last time...
Hettie: Yes, absolutely.
Jim: ...We said it's kind of that attribute.
Hettie: So this child does everything right by the book. And the parent thinks, what's so hard about this? Why can't everybody else just produce really well-behaved kids? Because I just did everything right, as the book said, and then my child sleeps through the night and feeds when it needs to and...
Jim: Does everything well.
Hettie: ...Sits still in church and reads his little book on the - you know, on the long journey off to the beach. And they are easy to parent in that way, except they are emotionally high maintenance.
Jim: Right. So describe that for the parent who is the parent of boxwood child. I mean, you have the descriptions are probably, you know, this is my easiest child, this is the one - I mean, you tell them what to do, and he or she does it. Those would be the kind of descriptors you'll be using as a parent.
Hettie: They do comply, but there is this whiny voice that comes with the compliance. There's this "but I just want to do this first. And - but there's a little spot on my pants. I can't wear them. But this is not exactly what the teacher said." You know, there's...
Hettie: There's something of a sensitivity there and a discomfort with things not being exactly right. So they can be finicky, and that goes from all the way from how they eat and what they will wear and how they need things done. This is a child who will be so compliant. And the next minute, you make the biggest mistake - you cut their sandwich in squares, and it should have been triangles, and the day is over.
Jim: So perfectionistic is...
Hettie: That is one of their...
Jim: ...The other big descriptor.
Hettie: ...Unfortunate tendencies, yes.
Jim: Kind of the root of that.
Hettie: The teachers love that.
Jim: How do you parent to soften that? How - and is it appropriate to say, "Okay, I recognize my child is a boxwood, a perfectionist, often easy - they'll do exactly what I want them to do, and I love that, as a parent - it makes my day easier." But how do you parent them to be less perfectionistic, to be comfortable with imperfection?
Hettie: It's very hard. If we look at the way God did this in Moses - Moses complained to God about the people all the time. I mean, he had reason, but he was...
Jim: So Moses was the boxwood.
Hettie: Very much - yeah. And we...
Hettie: ...See him complaining and stressing and really struggling with the burden of leading the people. And God helps him out of this, but it takes time. And he doesn't go into the promised land. He gets to stand in the promised land the first time when Jesus is transfigured on the mountain. And there's always something of a boxwood really needing time to get to a place where they can choose grace over law. Because that, essentially, is what you're going to teach this child.
Jim: So they're going to be hard on themselves and hard on others around them...
Hettie: They are.
Jim: ...Because they're not measuring up to perfection.
Hettie: They could be critical. And they need Christ...
Hettie: ...Um, to help them understand what it is to be acceptable even when you are flawed. The phrase good enough is going to be the one...
Jim: Really important.
Hettie: ...That's going to be...
Jim: That's critical. I know - uh, you know, one of my children, they really stressed about getting straight A's. And I could see the anxiety. And I wanted to make sure we want to hold a high standard, it's wonderful that you're doing that, but, you know, a B is going to be okay if - if - and the relaxation, the...
Jim: ...Thought that, "Really, Dad is that okay?" I said, "Well, you always want to do your best, obviously, but I don't want you being anxious and stressing to the point where it's hurting you emotionally or spiritually." And it - it has made a difference. I could see that relaxation occur in a good way, in a healthy way. And, uh, it doesn't mean, you know, I want mediocre. But he is still doing well and getting good enough grades, to your point, and he doesn't have to reach for perfection.
Hettie: That's so valuable because you're separating what he does from who he is.
Hettie: And that is what we can help them do. By embracing their deep emotionality, um, we build relationship with them. If we cannot deal with a meltdown, we cannot deal with the crying, we cannot deal with the whining, not in a sense that we - we give in when they use it to manipulate, but in the sense that when they have had a tough day and are really down about it, we need to be able to embrace that and say, today felt like the worst day of the year.
Jim: So disciplining this child, how does that go, and what does it look like?
Hettie: It's very easy. You basically remind them of the rule, and they remember that they were wrong. And you tell them what they can do next time, or even ask them, so you know you did wrong, what would you like to do next time? And if they can verbalize it, you're almost good to go. Very little punishment is needed.
Hettie: They do it to themselves.
Jim: How do we...
Hettie: They're hard on themselves.
Jim: How do we step on the oxygen hose of this child? Because I think this child...
Hettie: It's easy.
Jim: ...Can be very sensitive...
Jim: ...Of all the children types.
Jim: How do we do that as a parent? What do we need to be mindful of?
Hettie: By punishing them after they've already shown remorse. It's not necessary. They're guilt and shame magnets, so shaming is a very, very, uh, harmful thing with them. They're easily humiliated. They remember those words. They remember what you were wearing. We - we sometimes jokingly, but with a lot of empathy, say that they file all of the negative words on the hard drive alphabetically with the date. And they can pull those things up any time. And then the good - good words, the kindness...
Jim: The re...
Hettie: ...The encouragements...
Jim: ...The positive reinforcement.
Hettie: ...Those are the things they stamp as highly suspicious, and they put them on, you know, a thumb drive.
Hettie: They do not...
Jim: They don't even trust that.
Hettie: ...Always believe that.
Jim: Oh, that's too bad. That makes my heart heavy for them actually.
Hettie: It is hard. And that is why acceptance and daily reassurance, the way God tells us that He loves us and His reassurance throughout His word, is the way we parent this child's heart.
Jim: That's good.
Hettie: Daily reassurance that they are good enough...
Jim: I like that.
Hettie: ...And that we love them just because they are ours.
Jim: All right, we've got the palm tree, the rosebush, the boxwood now, and then we need to move into the pine tree. So the pine tree, I love the imagery of that - big, bold, rooted...
Hettie: Yes, very rooted.
Jim: ...But can be isolated, a little loner bit, but, uh, people-oriented.
Hettie: You get the metaphor.
Hettie: You can present the course as we will create it to you as a facilitator.
Jim: I love it. Go for it.
Hettie: You are ready to teach this.
Jim: Give us more description though.
Hettie: Yes. Um, when you step into a pine tree forest, you feel like you need to settle down, have a little picnic there...
Jim: It is calming.
Hettie: ...And just breathe. And they do this to us. And this child will slow you down whether you want to be slowed down or not.
Jim: What does that look like? Give me an example.
Hettie: That is them forgetting that it's Monday...
Hettie: ...And not getting dressed for school. And you go, how is this possible that you could have gotten distracted on your way to the cupboard? But they can just be a little dreamy and are not in a hurry. Because to them, it's not about getting stuff done, it's about being, it's the journey, it's the people around them, it's the impressions and the atmosphere. So they help us realize that it is about people and not about stuff. When we try and negotiate with them and put rewards on the table, you know, deal a little bit, they are immune to that because they're so content. So if you tell them, but I'll buy you, you know, a new phone if you'll just study harder and bring home better grades.
Jim: Like, whatever.
Hettie: They're like, my phone is fine. I'm quite okay with the phone I have.
Jim: Now, does that work in the opposite direction with discipline, if you say, "Listen, I'm not going to let you do any gaming, I'm not going to let you do certain things." And they'll go, okay.
Jim: And they'll just sit with it.
Hettie: They're equally difficult to punish.
Jim: So now I've got a combo kid in my mind. I've got the palm tree/pine tree.
John: I know what you're talking about.
Jim: I've got the palm/pine.
Hettie: Yes. But they do feel the pinch when you take away their relaxation and their comfort zone from them. So when you discipline by taking away the time with friends, the time in front of their screens, their computer games, they do - they do feel it. But remember, kids are not always going to say, "Ouch, yes, that hurts, I get the message." They're not going to let you know.
Jim: Well, this can also be a little bit, in the way I'm looking at it, a little bit of the rosebush challenge. Like, okay, I'm going to take social media away from you. And then they go, fine, I'm up to that task. Take me on.
Hettie: Yeah, the tougher...
Jim: And then they sit there...
Hettie: ...Tougher skin.
Jim: ...A year or two years later saying, hey, I don't care. You took it away. Is that kind of a rosebush attitude as well?
Hettie: That's absolutely the rosebush response is you can't touch me. You think you can, but you can't.
Jim: How do you discipline the pine tree - the one that's moving, you know, kind of through the world at their own pace, and they, for the 20th time, they haven't been able to get dressed for school on time, and you're ranting and raving? "What is your problem, Johnny? How come you cannot get ready for school? How many times have I got to tell you, at 7:30, to go get ready, and it's 8 o'clock, and you're still not ready? And mommy can't keep doing this for you." I think everybody's getting the feeling.
Jim: It's making me feel odd already.
Hettie: Yeah, that's...
John: ...Just now, yeah.
Jim: You feel it. How does mommy be more effective rather than coming back and saying get dressed and fight that battle?
Hettie: We need to understand that discipline only works - and punishment and reward only work in an area where a child willfully makes a certain decision not to do what you ask them. These kids don't decide not to do it. They just forget. They just - it just doesn't cross their mind. So we need to give them strategies.
Jim: So you, as the...
Hettie: So this is the child with the alarm clock.
Jim: Right, okay.
Hettie: This is the child with the chart. And - or - and this is the child with a big red bow around that particular item he never, you know, or she never, takes to school. So it's about strategies and working with them. Because as adults, they're going to be the people with the reminders on their phone, the secretary, the personal assistant, who reminds them it's Wednesday.
Jim: You mention - you mentioned hybrids. And so...
Jim: ...Again, one of the things, if you're hearing us say "everybody is one thing or the other", no, there's all these combinations. It's infinite how much, uh, percentage you work in...
Jim: ...As a pine tree, as a - as a box tree, as a rosebush. You're going to flow through all of these, I would think. You're going to have some preset things at your default mode. But speak to the hybrids - palm/roses, box/palms, pine/palms, all that.
Jim: That's got to be fun.
Hettie: ...That's a fun - sometimes, too, completely opposite trees come together like a rose, who is feisty and fast and a doer, and then you have the pine, who's a thinker, and who is an introverted type of kid and more people-oriented. And when these two come together, you have what we call the CEO profile because you have a person who wants to get stuff done, but at the same time, doesn't want anybody hurt. So this child will be not very talkative, maybe not very popular but a really good leader because they both know where we should be going and who should be going with us on that job. And it's usually a boy. We don't often see that doubly unemotional combination get together in a girl.
Jim: That's fascinating.
Jim: Now, that could be risky saying that in modern culture...
Hettie: It can be.
Jim: ...That boys and girls can't be everything. But you're saying, just generally, you see that attribute in boys more than girls.
Hettie: Yes, and...
Jim: What is it in girls that make them - probably the relational side is probably more...
Hettie: Probably the more emotional side. So you'll...
Jim: ...More wired for people.
Hettie: So you'll see a lot of the girls who have the combination of the boxwood, who is perfectionistic and systematic and the outgoing palm tree. And when those two come together, you have a very, uh, intensely emotional kid who can ride the roller coaster, depends on which side of the bed they get up, you know, this morning. And, um, they can be high maintenance for a pine tree parent, who wants peace and harmony, and this child is - is, you know, either high or very low.
John: Well we hope you'll have a great weekend and plan to join us again on Monday when you'll hear why doing something good for someone else is simpler than you think.
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Hettie BrittzView Bio
Hettie Brittz graduated as a speech, language and hearing therapist at the University of Pretoria in 1994. She worked in a multi-disciplinary practice alongside a pediatrician, psychologist, occupational therapist and other speech therapists, gaining extensive experience in therapy and parental guidance. Since 2002, Hettie started presenting seminars in churches, schools and corporate surroundings on a variety of topics related to parenting and education. She is the developer of the Evergreen Parenting Course and heads a group of more than 200 facilitators in four countries who use the course to help families. She also does temperament research which lead to the development of Tall Trees Profiles, the first set of locally researched and validated personal and leadership profiles aiming to strengthen relationships through a better understanding of individuals and their interaction with others. Hettie is the author of several books including unNatural Mom, Growing Kids With Character and Growing Kids Through Healthy Authority. Learn more about Hettie at hettiebrittz.com.