Understanding personalities makes for a happy family.
If there's one thing about healthy, loving, family relationships that has helped me more than anything else it's this... There are 4 basic temperament categories that each person naturally falls into. There are many different "names" for these temperaments, but I like the animal names best because they really help me to remember the strengths and weaknesses of each temperament. When I learned this and taught it to my husband and children, we all were able to recognize why some people do things that really rub us the wrong way, and we were able to understand why they do what they do (and why we respond the way we do).
So here are the 4 temperaments (and we have ALL 4 in our family):
Lion - Lions are leaders by their very nature. They are strong, they want to take control of everyone and if left untempered, they can be overbearing and intimidating. However, the strongest leaders in our community are Lions. We need their strong leadership skills and as parents, it's important for us to recognize if one of our children is a lion, and help them to "soften" a bit and realize that they're not in control. Mum and Dad are in control (when they're young) and submitting to authority is really important for them to learn at a young age. When they are older, they will then be better prepared for being in a leadership position. But for now, just remember that your little lion has a hard time thinking of others and wants to be in control. I have one son who is a lion and he challenges us more than any of the other children.
Golden Retriever - (The opposite of Lion) Golden Retrievers are loyal and easy going. They don't like conflict and they tend to be peacemakers, trying to make everything "okay" even to their detriment. They often don't have a strong opinion and want to please others. They naturally think of others and can easily empathize when someone is going through a hard time. Because this is their natural, God given, temperament, they have a hard time making decisions and will shy away from being a leader. They are natural "followers". If you have a child who is a Lion and a child who is a Golden Retriever, you'll want to be sure that you're teaching your Golden Retriever to stand up for himself/protect himself because the Lion could easily physically hurt the more sensitive child (both physically and emotionally) without trying. I have a child who is a Golden Retriever and we have worked with him from the beginning to help him be more firm in his decisions and to help him protect himself from his younger "Lion" brother. They have an excellent relationship because we've worked so hard to help them recognize each others strengths and weaknesses.
Beaver - The Beaver is a perfectionist by nature, and has a very hard time being spontaneous. They like to schedule things in advance so that they can plan to do it perfectly. I don't have very much of the Beaver temperament in me, so if I woke up one morning and decided to take a 2 hour drive to the snow park, I'd just gather a few things and off we would go. If I forgot mittens or a hat, we would make do or I'd stop and buy some at a second hand store. Beavers would feel very uncomfortable in this situation because it wouldn't give them enough time to make a list, get everything on the list, plan where they will stop for potty breaks, where they will have lunch or what they will take for lunch, etc. And if a Beaver has to do something spontaneously, and they don't do it perfectly (they forget something they should have taken) they will tend to beat themselves up over it. It's just their nature and it's really good to know if you've got a Beaver in your family or not. If you do, be sure you recognize that if you ask them for an answer, they're going to need time to calculate and consider before they feel comfortable giving an answer.
So let's go back to my comment that Beavers are perfectionists by nature. Think about a Beaver (animal). They work very hard to gather what they need to make a dam and then they perfectly calculate where to place each tree branch so that the dam is very strong and is able to hold back the water. If they didn't have just the right size piece to put in just the right spot, the dam would be weak and would easily break.
My youngest daughter is a Beaver. I recognized this when she had just turned 1 year old. I remember standing in the doorway of my room and watching her play with her toys. I needed to go and start some laundry so I called her to me. I expect my children to immediately come when they're called, and I'll take action if they don't start moving towards me right away. My daughter didn't come when I called her. I knew I needed to train her (as she was only 12 months old) so I called her again (in a more agitated voice) and started to move towards her to take her hand so she would come with me, and then I realized something. The reason she wasn't moving towards me when I called her was because she was picking up her toys and she was going to put them away.
Now this was foreign to me because I'm not a Beaver and none of my other children were beavers (though my husband is) but because I had learned about the 4 different temperaments, I recognized that she just might be a Beaver, and I quietly stood by and watched what she would do. She picked up those toys and put them neatly way... without being asked, without being trained. It was totally because God has given her the Beaver temperament which likes things in order. Beavers see things others don't see (i.e. a spot on the floor, crumbs on the counter) and anything out of place or not "clean" bothers them, so they have to neaten things up themselves. They often enjoy cleaning, at least my husband and my youngest child (who is now 7) does. They love to clean and sort and neaten and tidy :) But everyone else in our household tends to drive them crazy because nobody else cares that there's a spot on the floor, or something didn't get put back in the right place.
Beavers think they're way is the best way and the only way, which is probably their biggest weakness. So we work on helping them see that there are different ways to do things, and just because someone chooses to do something a different way than they would doesn't mean that the other person is wrong. This is an ongoing struggle but we all have more patience for the Beavers in our family because we understand their temperament. And the Beavers have more patience with us because they understand our temperaments too.
Otters - Otters are the opposite of Beavers. Otters look at life as one big party. They are usually social people who enjoy going places and talking to people. But Otters rarely create deep relationships. You could be at a party, talking to an Otter (they're great at engaging) and then you might bump into them 3 days later and they may have a hard time remembering that they even met you. Otters love spontaneity and they often forget things and aren't prepared. They're great "starters" and they bring lots of energy to the start of a project, but when the next thing comes along that looks exciting, off they go and they rarely finish things. Otters bring joy and laughter to our world because they are so carefree. If you want to have fun, take an Otter with you. If you have an Otter child, you'll need to work on follow-through, finishing what you start, making lists and working off of lists, and being responsible. Those things don't come naturally to Otters, but they can be developed. Don't expect an otter to follow directions unless you specifically tell them to. If you give an Otter a gift that needs to be assembled, they'll try to assemble it without even looking at the directions. Beavers will follow directions and will look for the directions, and they are the ones that wright the directions that come with all those things that need to be assembled. Otters don't even think to look for the directions - they just dive right in and hope for the best. The experience of trying to put it together without directions is the "fun" they seek... even if it takes them longer and they have to try 2 or 3 times. If you want something done efficiently you'll need to either give the task to a Beaver, or give your Otter very specific instructions... and you'll need a lot of patience with the process.
Many people are a combination of temperaments, and I'll give you a sample of what our family looks like:
Father - Beaver
Mother (that's me) - Golden Retriever/Otter
Daughter - Golden Retriever/Otter
Son - Full Golden Retriever
Daughter - Golden Retriever/Otter
Daughter - Beaver
Once you know about the 4 main temperaments, you can even get a feel for what your parents and friends are and it really will help you to have more patience and understand better why they do what they do.
Here's a little video where Gary Smalley talks about the 4 temperaments himself, and answers the question: "Why Won't My Husband Help Me Clean The House?"
And if you'd like help in determining your family's temperaments you can download the Personality Test here. It's a great tool for helping you to resolve conflict within your relationships which makes for a happy, emotionally healthy family:)
What frustrates you about your husband or children and do you better understand now why that is? Need help trying to overcome a parenting or husband/wife relationship challenge? Post below your thoughts below.