Give yourself an edge on parenting tweens by learning about adolescent personality types and you’ll banish those “close encounters of the teenage kind.”
I once saw a bumper stick that said, “Parenting is Not for Wimps.” That may just qualify for the understatement of the century award. Not only is parenting not for wimps, but the challenges it brings can cause even the most confident person to question their sanity. Even parents who think they are extremely well prepared, who had strong upbringings themselves and who feel like they are 10 feet tall and bullet proof, can be brought to their knees like whimpering little puppies when their rosy cheeked darling hits adolescence.
When I was an administrator for many years at a large middle school, part of my responsibility was to administer discipline for 6th and 7th graders. I’m not exactly sure what I did in a former life to be granted this “privilege” but trust me, it wasn’t exactly the most fun part of my job.
Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
After I had been in that role for a couple of years, I suddenly realized that what first seemed like a dreary, not very glamorous assignment, was really an extremely valuable way to help parents navigate the murky waters of adolescence. I began to see definite patterns in the issues and problems that parents had when they came to meet with me because their 6th grader was no longer recognizable to them.
Here’s how the conversation went with parents in my office.
“I just don’t know what’s going on with Jayme. Last year when she was a 5th grader in elementary school, she was an A-B student and never had any discipline problems. Now, she’s been in middle school for four months and she’s had two discipline referrals and is failing math! I’m just so frustrated because nothing has changed in our family situation and yet Jayme seems like a completely different person. It’s almost as if aliens landed in our back yard one night, kidnapped our sweet, model student and replaced her with some alien life form that we don’t even recognize any more!”
It’s at this point that I would ask, “So is Jayme your oldest or only child?” I asked this question first because I can tell by this parent’s comments that they are a rookie to this whole adolescent drama. It’s painfully obvious that this is their first exposure to a “close encounter of the teenage kind.”
“Yes, Jayme is our oldest child of three.” It was then that I knew just exactly the approach I needed to take in being supportive to this parent in the confusion and anxiety they were feeling.
My child has officially turned into an alien.
As I said earlier, it really doesn’t matter how prepared you believe you are as a parent, when the eye rolling and the poor grades start, it’s completely unsettling. As a parent you begin to question why the ways you’ve been parenting for 11 or 12 years, suddenly have little to no impact any more.
Here’s the good news.
There are some definite things that you can do as a parent to alleviate some of the new tensions and conflicts, and they are all pretty simple adjustments to what you’ve probably already been doing.
One of the most helpful things that you can do is take some time to discover your adolescent’s personality type. I am a strong advocate for using the DISC Personality Profile because it’s so easy to use and understand. The letters in DISC stand for Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive and Cautious. The model is based on whether you are a more outgoing or reserved person and whether you are more task or people oriented. Each personality type interacts with the world in a very different way.
So what’s your adolescent’s personality type?
Dominant personality types are task oriented and outgoing. They respond most favorably to being given choices and they love challenges. If you believe your adolescent has a “D” type personality, then providing them with plenty of challenges and choices in decisions will go a long way towards keeping communication open and conflicts down to a minimum.
The Inspiring personality type is outgoing and people oriented. They love recognition, popularity and approval. As a parent of an “I” type adolescent, it’s important to know that they need lots of praise and approval. It’s literally what fuels them. Even when every cell in your body wants to scream and yell because they forgot to do something…again…resist the urge and find ways to praise them for when they do remember. Even though it may feel awkward and not make any sense, it will make perfect sense to the “I” type personality and it will get results.
The Supportive personality type is reserved and people oriented. They have a natural servant attitude and can seem shy. They appreciate security and balance in life and love to operate in routines. Unfortunately, they also often have trouble getting started and they don’t like change. The “S” personality type entering into adolescence may develop procrastination into an art form. They often are falling behind in school because they can’t get going and they have trouble making up their minds what assignments need to be a priority. You can be more effective as a parent by helping them narrow their focus and write out priorities. Once they get started, a lot of the negative behaviors you are observing will tend to calm down because they are less frustrated and can see some progress being made in their work.
The Cautious personality type is reserved and task oriented. They are intent on doing the “right” thing. They are very detail oriented, ask a lot of questions and have very high standards for themselves. As the “C” type personality child enters adolescence, you may see them become extremely frustrated because the changes they are experiencing in their bodies and minds are not allowing them the same level of focus and perfection they once enjoyed. What they need from you as a parent is reassurance that perfection is not the goal. You can help them to have a greater tolerance for conflict and imperfection and reassure them that no one is right all of them time, not even them.
So what are the main takeaways?
While the explanations and suggestions for each of the DISC personality types was brief and may not have addressed the specific challenge you are facing with your adolescent, there are three extremely important points to remember.
- Personality types matter.
- Treating all kids like they have the same personality type will end in disaster.
- Taking the time to discover your own personality type as a parent and how you interact with your adolescent’s personality type is pure gold.
There’s no job that you will ever have that has more impact, long lasting results and creates your own legacy than the job of being a parent.
So if having an adolescent makes you feel like a great big wimp and you still swear you can see the imprint of an alien space ship in your back yard, remember, there’s hope.
Arm yourself with more information and understanding about who you are as a person and who they are as a person, and you are on your way to getting rid of that alien!
Don’t go calling Men in Black just yet!
Unedited Photo: Flickr/kevin colvin