Little People, BIG Personalities

Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a volunteer or a dayhome provider, you quickly learn that little people can have BIG personalities!  Sometimes they mesh with yours and your methods, sometimes…. not so much.  So what to do? Not all strategies are going to work with all types, so it’s best to have an arsenal of tricks in your bag of tricks. And, sometimes, when you are at the end of your rope, an adult timeout is the best way to go… I took one today :)  Today, I’m going to talk about the different personalities as I see them. Next week, some possible strategies when dealing with them.

There seem to be a few main types of personalities. Of course, there are variations on these themes, but it helps with your mindset to know the basics.  With ten years of teaching under my belt, I have lumped them as follows:
Social Butterfly:  This is the child who is always surrounded by a gaggle of friends, is pretty easy going as long as there is something going on. Typically they are fairly laid back and will go with the flow. Often they are highly energetic as well – getting up to talk to their friends is a good way to move around. This is the child who will be asking for a cell phone at age 7 so they can text and Tweet!! This is my daughter, and she can be exhausting, but she makes me laugh everyday! 
Energizer Bunny: This child NEVER STOPS MOVING!  They like to change activities pretty often and may have what seems like a short attention span. However, get them doing something physically active, and you will have their attention!  They are often attracted to other energizer bunnies so they can all do something physical together.  If you need something done, turn it into a competition, and you will have this child’s engagement immediately!
Shy Guy: This little guy can be easily overlooked. Because they don’t adapt super easily to new situations, they will often hang back quietly until they feel comfortable. This child is going to need a bit more support when trying new things or meeting new people.  Typically they will have one or two special friends, and that will be plenty for them. Building in time for transitions is important for this child.  One-on-one quiet time with you will be extra sweet for this child.
People Pleaser: This child wants to help, wants to impress, wants to make you happy. Want help cleaning up, or doing the dishes? Ask your People Pleaser. They can sometimes be swayed by the other kids in the group into doing something they are not necessarily comfortable with because they want to make others happy. Building confidence in this child to speak their own mind is an important skill.
Sly Guy: At first, this child may seem like a People Pleaser, or a Shy Guy, and this may be part of their personality, however, you need to keep an extra close eye on this child. This is the child who, quietly, behind the scenes, is setting the stage for a coup. They are often very intelligent, and very convincing, especially when they want something. However, get them on your side, and you will have all of the group on your side.
The Sensitive Soul: This is my son, so I have a sensitive spot for this personality type. This is the child who also may not have a ton of friends, because they are only interested in friends who they know they can trust completely. You have to watch what you say, and how you say it with this child, especially when they are tired and/or hungry. Overly harsh discipline can backfire with this child because they internalize EVERYTHING, and then can belittle and berate themselves.  Extra time for transitions is important.  A wonderful aspect of their sensitivity is empathy. If you are feeling down or unwell, they notice first and you will be sure to get a hug, kiss or a picture drawn just for you.
Of course, no person, 3 feet tall or 6 feet tall, fits into one perfect box. However, if you think about the kids and adults in your life, I bet you know these personalities! Often, they can be combined, or certain aspects of the personalities come out in different situations. My Sensitive Soul is also an Energizer Bunny – so when he is climbing the walls (LITERALLY), I have to ensure that he is paying attention to me so he HEARS me when I tell him to come down, firmly, but kindly. My Social Butterfly is also quite a People Pleaser. One of the best ways for me to mesh these two types is to have her tell me all about her day WHILE she helps me do the dishes – win, win in my books!
You also have to take into account YOUR personality when dealing with the others. If you are a people pleaser, you are probably not going to love discipline: it goes against your very nature!  Next week I’m going to talk about the different management/disciple strategies and how they may work for your personality, and the personalities of the kids in your life.

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