Supporting Your Child's Personality

by Jackie Woods

Every child is born with a personality that, depending on environment, is either given a chance to blossom or to wither. There are some parents who believe making little clones out of their children is the proper way to parent, but many others want more than anything else in the whole world, to give their child room to become the flower that was intended. The question that all parents face is, "How do I expand my personality to make room for theirs?"

Unfortunately, breaking down rules and boundaries isn't the answer. Obviously, giving a child "free rein" to express without defining appropriate forms for them to express through, can lead to total chaos inside and outside of the child. That path would make room for expression, but the goal is to make room for healthy  expression. It is also important for the parent's expression to be honored. Unstructured children tend to run over the boundaries that support the parent. The goal is to support your child in being different than you are, not to eliminate you or the child.

Most people feel their choice of politics, country, religion or even eating, is better than all other people's choices. The consciousness of our world today holds great judgment for anything that is different. How does one change that way of thinking? How do you expand to allow for differences and not lose your own personal space and choices?

You may choose not to have preferences or definitions in your life. This does not necessarily mean you have made room for others' choices, nor does it make you a bigger person with a bigger space. If you define your space to allow for the healthy choices of another person and for yours to coexist, both you and the other person will be supported in becoming the script of your original personalities.

Let me share an example. I was eating in a restaurant next to a little four- or five-year-old and her mother, and overheard their conversation. The Mother asked the child why she threw a fit at kindergarten. The child replied simply, "I missed you so much Mommy that I cried and cried, and threw a fit." The wise mother's response was, "It is ok to miss me, but Mrs. Jones has twenty children to see about, so could you miss me without throwing a fit?" The child said she could, and that was that. This child was being taught that she had a right to miss her Mommy and a right to be herself, but that there were choices that would better fit her and the situation.
Let's try another example. A friend of mine birthed a very angry child. By age two, this child would scream and try to bang her head against the floor to express her anger. The mother would hold the child to keep her from hurting herself, but would allow her to scream. By age three, the child had expressed all her anger. While it might have been difficult, the mother chose to support the child in her choice to be angry, but not in her choice to hurt herself.

Small children aren't capable of making big life choices, but they can make small ones. By giving your child a choice between two things you begin to recognize their preferences. For example, don't just buy one flavor of juice - buy two. Then give your child a choice. Try branching out a little farther. Let them choose between soy milk and cow's milk. You may only like one kind of milk, but let your child have a choice that goes beyond your choice. After all, their body chemistry may be entirely different than yours.

I have two granddaughters who are sisters. They are as different as day and night. One's basic personality holds a lot of recklessness and passion. The other one is reserved and cautious. If my goal were to "bring out" the quiet one or "hold back" the outgoing one, I would be dishonoring the seed in each of them that wants to become its own kind of flower.

Supporting each child in who they are means giving them each rules that fit who they want to become. This means I teach the reserved and cautious one how to relate to others while supporting her reserved and cautious way of doing so. I teach the other one how to be safe while being passionate and reckless. I must always keep in mind that one child's choice of movies, books, clothes, etc., will be completely different from the other child's choices.

Think about why you had children. If it was to have cute little things to love, or to prove you could be a different parent than your parents were, or to have someone in your life who would love you, then this article will not help you. However, if your intent was to bring life into being, you are on the same page as this piece of writing.

Since life is as varied as our surroundings, giving life to a child means allowing your view of life to be broadened. This means you will have to give up having all the answers. It means you will have to move away from the "better than, less than" philosophy that is so popular today. It means you will need to stop defending or apologizing for who you are, and start accepting yourself as one of the many types of flowers that life offers.

Once you understand everyone needs support in expressing their basic personality, you will begin to find ways to do this. This new way of relating to your child, and to others, may take you out of your comfort zone. You will have to learn to look at the person, not their patterns. If a person's choice fits their basic personality, it is a good one. If it fits their patterns, it is probably made for the wrong reasons and doesn't support them in being part of life. Children learn patterns that don't fit them, just as adults do. Learn to support your child's person, rather than the patterns - no matter how different the child's basic personality is from your own.

I hope that you will start looking at your child as a piece of universal life. Your child is someone who is here to add his or her own kind of beauty to the world, a beauty that is different than yours. Support your child in making choices that fit the personality they were born wearing. Expand your views of life and give up the limitations that block that expansion. I am not here to tell you parenting is easy, but through learning to support your child's personality, it can be very expanding and fulfilling.

About the Author:
Jackie Woods is a healer, spiritual teacher, and founder of Adawehi Healing Center in Columbus, NC. Jackie’s ability to recognize and correct unhealthy patterns of living has enabled her to help thousands of people to improve their lives. For more information about Jackie's work, and to subscribe to her free newsletter The Heart's Journey, please visit www.jackiewoods.org.