Tips for Dealing With Personality Clashes

By Laurie Winslow Sargent
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Here are seven ideas for keeping the right perspective, even when your child is driving you nuts.

Want some additional tips for dealing with personality clashes between you and your children?

1. Focus on the positives. How can you keep the proper perspective when your child is driving you nuts? Take a moment to consider the advice of Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”

What in your child is excellent, honorable, and admirable? How often do you fix your thoughts on what is lovely and worthy of praise? That same child who always seems to defy you may someday be able to look a classmate in the eye and say “No!” when he’s offered a joint. Your extremely shy daughter may be the only one with enough sensitivity to reach the lonely heart of a grandparent who is grieving over the loss of a spouse.

It can be refreshing to stop, look at your kids, and listen to them long enough and deeply enough to consider all that admirable in them. Delight in those attributes you see, in any measure!

2. Consider positive sides of “negative” traits, and share those with other grown-ups who spend time with your child. Sometimes finding the positive means looking at an annoying trait in a new way. You may be frustrated when your child wanders away five minutes after starting to paint (and after you spent twice that long locating and dragging out all the supplies), but don’t forget the bright side: Your easily distracted child is also likely to be flexible. That means that if you read about a fun family event in the paper, only to discover it starts in fifteen minutes, you and your child might actually make it there on time. Also, a flexible child may gracefully let you stop in the middle of a table game that you find dull.

An extremely stubborn child may frustrate you by insisting on dressing himself in a striped shirt and plaid shorts. Don’t forget, however, that he will also — before you know it — efficiently pack a school backpack without a whit of supervision.

3. Be honest with your child about differences.
Your child is also likely to react more positively if he understands your differences and how they sometimes lead to conflict. Don’t just point out your differences, however; be sure to tell your child what you appreciate about him. For example, say “I can appreciate that you are [energetic, sensitive … ]. That’s a good thing and will help you [accomplish your goals, make others feel cared for …]. I am different from you in that I like to [relax when I get home, be flexible …] and that can be a good thing too.”

4. Don’t pigeon-hole your child. Never assume you have your child all figured out. Personality typing is a form of labeling. Behaviors are clustered together and kids with those personalities are assumed to act exactly alike. That isn’t so — kids are also affected by their experiences and their own special wiring.

5. Learn to compromise, and teach your child to do the same. For example, if your child hates sudden transitions, build into your mental schedule a little extra time for five-minute warnings to wrap up activities. If your activity level is higher than your child’s, be willing to spend less time doing what you want to avoid burning out your child.

By the same token, talk to your child about making “trades”: “Stick with me without complaining until I can get these errands done, then we’ll stop at a fast-food joint with an indoor playground where you can run like crazy.”

6. Accept that parenting requires some self-sacrifice, but take breaks when you need them
. If your child requires more energy to parent than others, you’re probably well-versed in the sacrifices of parenthood! Don’t forget, however, that you need time to recharge. That may mean asking your spouse or a friend to help so you can spend some time away from your child.

Keep tabs on your own emotional meter. If you have PMS, overdue bills, and you didn’t sleep much last night because a child woke up twice in pain from an ear infection, it won’t take much to make you impatient or annoyed or weepy. Forgive yourself if you overreact and recognize when you need time alone.

If the conflicts between you and your child ever increase your anger to the point that you may be abusive (including verbally), it’s critical that you get help and find some new strategies.

7. Get help from other family members who share traits with your child. It may seem like a no-brainer to suggest that family members with like interests do things together, but it’s possible they may need a suggestion or a reminder. It’s likely, however, that the more they have fun together, the more they will cook up activities on their own.

Personality clashes are often the source of frustration between parent and child. Sometimes just meeting other moms and dads who face some of the same struggles can restore a sense of perspective and hope. Moms’ groups such as MOPS and MomTime, Dads’ groups, or groups for single parents can all offer support and friendship.

Taken from Delight in Your Child’s Design published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 by Laurie Winslow Sargent. All rights reserved.

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