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Mama Drama – Unlocking the Parental Persona

As the holidays loom, tensions between different personalities can escalate, particularly when it comes to parent-child relationships. Parents feel they have a lifelong obligation/right to tell you what to do, and children, regardless of their age, have a seemingly genetic need to be contrary. When we make friends or choose a partner, we are developing a relationship between equals. The parent-child relationship is hierarchical, with much more clearly defined roles for each. You can break up with friends or lovers, but you generally can’t divorce your parents or your children. Because parents and children are stuck with each other, the battles can be devastating, particularly in the formative years. There’s an old joke, which says that children and grandparents get along so well because they have a common enemy!

Often, parents feel a certain amount of ownership or responsibility for their child’s actions. This can be good when a parent recognizes that their behavior has contributed to their child’s problems. Not so much when it simply becomes an emotional tug-of-war. The parent cajoles, pleads, demands, and threatens to get a child to behave. The child rebels, becomes passive-aggressive, or outwardly complies. If the child will not comply, the parent feels guilt, anxiety, and anger. This scenario can lead to the classic rejection: “No child of mine would …”

Temperament theory can help parents can understand why their children act the way they do. A child’s behavior may simply be a function of the way he is ‘wired’, having absolutely nothing to do with parenting, good or bad. Parents who understand temperament have an advantage-the insight to help their children develop into the people they were meant to be. Of course, it also works in reverse: an understanding of parents’ perspective can be very enlightening. Suddenly, the parent-child relationship becomes a much more relaxed and enjoyable affair! For the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at different types of parents, exploring what makes them tick. For now, let’s look at a few (sometimes amusing) ways to identify your Parental Persona:

CRACK THAT WHIP! Preferred form of discipline:
Guardian: Rules and consequences
Artisan: School of hard knocks
Idealist: Do we have to?
Rational: Logical consequences

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? Favorite thing to do with child:
Guardian: Read books
Artisan: Wrestling / tickle games
Idealist: Hugs / Craft projects
Rational: Building / experiments

“WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE…” Children need to learn:
Guardian: Discipline
Artisan: To be flexible
Idealist: Who they are
Rational: To think

WHERE DID I GO WRONG? Would be most upset if child cut from:
Guardian: Honor Society
Artisan: The team or the school play
Idealist: Earth Club
Rational: Chess club

THAT’S MY BOY! Reaction if child makes a touchdown:
Guardian: Boom sticks
Artisan: Air horn
Idealist: Tears
Rational: Touchdown? What touchdown?

YOU WANNA PIECE-A ME? Reaction to child being bullied:
Guardian: Talk to authorities or tell child to wait it out
Artisan: Teach child to beat snot out of bully
Idealist: Sue everyone!
Rational: Teach child verbal comebacks

CHIP OFF THE OL’ BLOCK? Want child to grow up to be:
Guardian: Member of Congress
Artisan: Terrorist
Idealist: Cult Leader
Rational: Mad scientist

Over the next few weeks, we will explore the different Parental Personas in more detail. By gaining insight into different parental temperaments, we can all have healthier and happier family relationships. For more information on temperament, and to take the free Keirsey Temperament Sorter, please visit Next time: The Guardian Parent

Author: Kip Parent
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