As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, no two children (or adults for that matter) are the same. Each individual, young or old, views the world differently, interacts with others in a distinctive way, and processes information uniquely.
Of course, differences are good. It would be boring if everyone acted, behaved, and thought the same way. But sometimes, interacting with people who are vastly different from you (as with many parent/child relationships) can be stressful.
Noticing behavioral styles among people is nothing new. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to categorize behavioral styles. Jung postulated that every individual develops a primacy in one of four major behavioral functions: intuiting, thinking, feeling, and sensing. If you and your child operate from different behavioral styles, friction can easily result.
Realize, though, that no style is good or bad, right or wrong. There is not one style that is better or worse than another; they are just different.
You can discern children’s styles by watching them and examining how they process experiences. In Parenting Without Stress, we use the four style descriptions of Thinker, Feeler, Doer, and Relater. To better understand this concept, visualize a directional scale with a thinker in the north, a feeler in the south, a doer in the west, and a relater in the east.
A thinker (north) analyzes and can be described as someone who processes information using a great deal of thought. A feeler (south) can be described as being more directed through emotions than through cognition. A doer (west) is orientated toward results, while a relater (east) is into relationships. Since directions are not limited to north, south, east, and west, think in terms of general areas or neighborhoods, such as the north and west, south and east, etc.
A parent who is aware of styles has a decided advantage in relating to and communicating with the child. The same holds true for a husband and wife. For example, just knowing that your spouse wants time to relate can prompt you to redirect an impulse of “getting on with a task.” Such knowledge can help you take time to listen.
In short, being aware of styles enhances communications. When you observe a youth’s style and start relating with this understanding, you will experience less stress and more joy in your parenting. For more information about the four styles, and to take an online assessment that will help you determine your own style, click here.