Any mom will tell you that it’s rare to have two children who are exactly alike in personality and temperament. We are uniquely created beings who respond in different ways to everything from how we spend time with people to what we like to eat for breakfast every day. If you were observing my family on any given morning you would bear witness to this very thing as my husband tries to accommodate each individual request first thing in the morning!
As a mother of five very uniquely wired children I have seen this play out many times over my 14+ years of parenting. Introverts and extroverts; nuts versus no nuts; outside riding bikes or indoors reading a book-- surely parenting five has given me the opportunity to learn how to manage a myriad of personality types and discover how my own responds to each child in a different way.
Sometimes, as an introvert, I have a harder time understanding my two extroverted children. They love to go places and be around others. This is all fine unless they want me to participate as well. Me and my other three are quite happy to have a cup of coffee or tea, play a board game together and call it a night. But these other two… well, they want more people, more activities, more fun! Fun is not exactly my middle name and I’m completely ok with that. But for them, they need the engagement to fill their tanks—just like their dad does. So we sometimes make adjustments to plans to include more fun, activity or people. This is probably good for the rest of us as well, but we’re too exhausted at the end of the day to think about it!
With different personalities come different motivations as well. We all have different levels of desire to achieve. When it comes to school and grades it's difficult at times for me to navigate with our crew. I want all of my children to succeed and work hard, but each child has different levels of drive and desire to achieve. For two of my kids, they work hard because they want the recognition and grades that accompany high marks. I appreciate this about them and applaud their hard work. I also make sure that they remember their worth is not found in grades, but in being a child of God.
On the flip side, sometimes more “relaxed” children need reminding that hard work is part of life and that planning ahead can yield great rewards. They need an extra push, or two, to get things accomplished. Being a student of my children has been part of the process of learning to parent their unique styles.
Not one personality type is “better” than the other, just different, and I value each one of them and how they're wired because it’s integral to the path God has mapped out for their lives. And if I’m to shepherd well, this is essential. Equality isn’t the goal. The goal is to see my children as individuals and try to meet those needs.
That being said, we as parents have non-negotiable standards that are the same for all the children regardless of preferences or giftings. God’s word sets the plumb line for how we desire to live. Kindness, justice, mercy, grace, obedience, patience, and love are necessary no matter our personality types, and deficiencies in these areas are the places in which we give God the space to work and grow us up.
As a mom, there are days I feel like I’m simply a referee trying to insure no one gets injured, fights don’t get physical, and nothing gets broken. Certain personalities chaff others more easily. So we all get many chances to exercise self-control and extend grace to ourselves and others daily.
At least that’s the hope. It doesn’t always look that way.
Some days it’s early bedtime, no desserts, extra chores, and toys in time-out. Then some days it’s friends over for dinner, long hours outside playing, siblings caring for each other with kind words and attention. But really, most days are a mixed bag of highs and lows—tears and grins.
If you’re a parent fumbling your way along on this journey, I encourage you to be a student of your child. Learn what speaks love to them and to evaluate how you can meet their individual needs in light of who God has created them. And remember that while they are growing up, you are too. Sanctification is a process that lasts our entire earthly lives and parenthood has played a tremendous role in my growth in the Lord.
So remember that the next time you feel like you blew it with one of your kids. Extend to yourself a large measure of grace, apologize to them, and then begin again. Give your child a hug, a high-five, a cupcake, or whatever speaks love to their hearts and remind them that you love them and are so grateful for how they are made and that they are yours.