Personality Matters

My oldest is a sensitive soul. All I have to do to get a point across to her is look at her sternly. She's also a rule follower. She always tells me what she is doing and asks before doing anything she thinks will be outside the rules. I've often said that monkeys could raise her. She's that easy to discipline.

My youngest, on the other hand, is strong-willed and no respecter of rules. If you draw a line in the sand, she will jump over it. In her mind, rules are simply suggestions of how she should behave. She may or may not follow them, depending on how she feels that day. She's difficult to discipline because she's not often swayed by what we think.

With these two different personalities living in our house, we learned early on that our discipline methods would have to be individualized based on our girls' personalities. What works with my youngest would crush the spirit of my oldest, and what works with my oldest doesn't even cause my youngest to miss a step.

Ephesians 6:4 says "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Using discipline methods that don't take into account the personality of your child, is a sure way to exasperate them.

Take a moment to consider your child's personality, then think about the way you discipline them. Are your discipline methods working? Are they tailored to your child's personality? Are your methods teaching your children or crushing them? Are you seeing heart and behavior change when you discipline?

If your discipline doesn't seem to be effective, then it may be time to change what you're doing to get different results. Consider some of these things when deciding how to discipline your kids.

  • Don't crush a sensitive child. Kids who take everything to heart and wear their feelings on their sleeves can be hurt by harsh discipline. If your child internalizes everything you say, you want to be very careful not to use your words to harm. These kids often respond really well to a rational discussion of the issue. For these kids, being yelled out seems worse than losing privileges.
  • Avoid placing too many rules on a child who likes to break them. Some kids see rules as a challenge. As soon as you make a rule, they will set out to see how far they can bend it. Try setting up broad parameters for these kids. We did this with our youngest. We no longer talk about things we don't do. We talk about how our actions need to show respect for God, others and ourselves. All those things we don't want her to do fall under these three things, but we no longer have a list of rules to follow. The goal is to get her to change her heart, not follow a list of rules. If there are few rules to bend, then we can spend more time talking about how our behavior should reflect God's priorities.
  • Don't break the spirit of a strong-willed child. Kids who are stubborn and strong-willed can drive a parent to tears. Our frustration can cause us to come down on them with a really heavy hand. But it's important to remember that God gave them that little stubborn personality for a reason. The goal of discipline is not to break their spirit; it's to mold that spirit.
  • Be consistent. No matter the personality of your child, no discipline is effective if it's not consistently applied. Inconsistent discipline confuses kids and leaves them guessing about what to expect.

No matter your child's personality, remember that God created them to fulfill a purpose in His plan. He gave them parents to help guide and direct them. Discipline is meant to teach them and to turn their hearts toward God. And discipline is at its most effective when it is tailored to the personality of your child.