Parenting the High Energy Child


In the last post, I talked about the ‘D’ wired or strong willed child.  Another outgoing and active personality type is the ‘I’ profile.  See if you can tell the characteristics of this child from the following letter. It was written to Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. In a fourth grade guidance lesson about people who overcame great difficulties and finished strong, we studied Bethany’s story then each student wrote her a letter. Here’s a letter from one of the fourth grade students:

Dear Bethany,

My name is Carleigh. I’m enjoying learning about you. What do you like to do when you’re not surfing? Are you still surfing? Are you married, and do you have any kids? Lots of people like you. You are the people’s competition winner! Oh, yay, have a great Halloween and have a great Christmas with your family. And tell your family members have a great day and have great holidays.

Sincerely, Carleigh

P.S. You’re a great surfer and keep up the good work! It’s possible so do what you got to do Bethany! You’re a great person and don’t ever forget that. Your parents raised you swell.

I think from this letter, you might feel like you know more about Carleigh, the student, than Bethany the surfer. Do the words, inspirational, interactive, imaginative, friendly, talkative, outgoing, enthusiastic, warm and fun come to mind? You have just described the child who is high ‘I’. They love to be the center of attention, are extremely social, excited, warm and friendly. Unlike the ‘D’ profile, they are people-oriented, not task oriented. If you want someone to boost your spirits or to plan a party, talk to an ‘I’ personality. However, if you want to get the job done quickly, maybe you want to find another personality type. Just as with all the personalities, the ‘I’ profile has weaknesses including unfocused and impulsive.

Parenting Strategies for the High I Child

What can you do to help the high “I” child succeed? Encourage the high ‘I’ child with short term goals and recognition, so they will flourish. At the same time they need to have clear boundaries and be held accountable and responsible. Just as they are great at influencing and encouraging others they can also lean toward manipulating others with their charming personality.  Don’t let them talk their way out of the necessary chores and details of life!  The energizing fuel for this personality is FUN!  You will get better cooperation if you can inject some element of fun into their responsibilities.  Perhaps make tasks into a game or contest. Resist bailing them out if they fail to follow-through though and help them develop the discipline necessary to accomplish their goals.

 Your Parent Personality Style Matters

As always, your own personality style can influence how you parent.

  • If you are a high ‘D’ personality style, you will need to remember that the ‘I’ personality is more concerned about relationships and having fun than results.  Your skill in accomplishing the goals is something the ‘I’ personality can benefit from learning.  Help them learn to transform talk into action.
  • If you are also an ‘I’ wired parent then you will have a lot in common with your fun-loving and social child.  However, make sure that you help your child develop organizational skills and responsibility as well.
  • If you are a ‘S’ wired parent, keeping up with the pace of this active and outgoing child can be a challenge for you.  You must learn to set firm limits and follow through, since her charming and fast-talking ability can leave you wondering how you got persuaded into something you had no intention of doing.  Hold her accountable and do not overdo for her.
  • If you are a ‘C’ wired parent, you must first recognize that your personality is exactly opposite of that of your ‘I’ wired child.  You may need to modify your high expectations and look for ways to encourage him in his strengths.  This child hungers for acceptance and recognition, so find ways to encourage them as much as they encourage others.

Finally, no matter what your wired parenting style is, find time to enjoy your high ‘I’ child as much as they enjoy life!  They can bring sunshine and smiles into any group they are a part of.  Hopefully like Carleigh, they will someday say, “You raised me swell.”


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Parenting the Strong-Willed Child

my little hero

In a favorite comic strip, a little boy tells his Dad, “You’ll never be as smart as me Dad.  Back when God built your brain…he was using older technology.”  Pretty clever, huh?  Probably hits home for many parents like me who rely on younger children to tweak their websites, blog posts and download all kinds of materials that seem beyond  our older antiquated computer competencies.

D Wired Children

There’s another aspect of this cartoon that I like to focus on:  How is this kid wired?  What is his personality style?  Not hard to guess if you are familiar with the  DISC personality profile.  Sounds like a ‘D’ profile to me.  Often represented as a lion or an eagle, here are some words to describe them: determined, decisive, demanding, takes charge, bold, self-reliant, independent, confident, direct, competitive, challenges the status quo.  In a word, strong-willed.  Sound like anyone in your house?

Encourage Leadership

If so, I bet you are wondering how you can create a climate that promotes peace in your household while still ensuring success for the ‘D’ wired child.  Here are a few recommendations: First of all, celebrate their unique qualities!  The same characteristics that make them a challenge to parents, can also be traits that put them in charge of their own corporation or  make them the next president of the country.  Find ways to channel that talent into productive pursuits.  What can they be in charge of at home?  In the community?  At church?  If you can pique their interest and develop in them a passion for excellence in a productive arena, you will make your job as a parent much easier.

Provide Challenges

Provide them with a challenge as well as some control and choices in order to get their best cooperation.  Give them room to not only grow but fail when necessary.  ‘D’ wired children especially need to learn that there are consequences to their behavior.   Crystal clear boundaries, preferably written down, so they know your expectations will be essential.  The more you can encourage ownership of the situation, the better will be their cooperation and participation.

Develop Empathy for Others

‘D’ wired children are often not naturally sensitive to the feelings of others, so it may be your job to help them recognize how their behavior and words affect others.  Help them learn compassion and develop a servant’s heart while accomplishing their goals.

 How Are You Wired?

 Your own personality profile often determines the type of struggles you may have with the ‘D’ wired child.  If you happen to be a ‘D’ wired parent, there is the possibility of power struggles and as you both vie for control.  Be firm but consistent, avoiding threats and ultimatums.  ‘ I’ wired parents may need to focus on establishing rules and clear expectations, while following through with consequences and discipline.  If your own wiring is the ‘S’ personality profile, you will need to visit the ‘D’ traits in order to maintain control and teach her to recognize and respect authority other than her own.  Be firm and consistent.  Finally, ‘C’ wired parents may need to give their ‘D’ wired child some responsibility while refraining from stepping in when their own perfectionist goals aren’t met.  Keep in mind that while ‘D’ wired children are similarly task oriented, their pace is faster and less exacting than the reserved ‘C’ wired individual.

This is the first of a four part series on parenting through speaking your child’s personality language.  Next post will discuss parenting the Inspiring or ‘I’ type child. Sign up for the Wyatt email list to receive a description of each personality style and strategies that work well with each one.  

If you would like to read more on parenting and personality styles, I suggest Personality Insights for Moms! by Susan Crook with Robert A Rohm Ph.D.  or Different Children, Different Needs, by Dr. Charles F. Boyd with Robert Rohm.  Ph.D.


Understand Personality Style to Motivate Children

Recently, I was talking with a kindergarten teacher who told me a child came into her class that morning announcing proudly that she would be attending pajama class after school. Being a pro at deciphering children’s language, she quickly realized the student was talking about going to drama class after school.

My youngest daughter remembers when she was in kindergarten, the bus driver always reminded everyone to be sure and take all their belongings with them as they got off the bus.  Unfortunately, she always thought he was saying, “Take your bologna with you when you leave the bus.”  She never could understand why so many kids would have bologna with them everyday.

The Four Basic Personality Styles

Understanding and speaking the same language is important isn’t it?  Speaking a child’s personality language is helpful in parenting as well.   This is especially true if you want to help your child set goals that motivate them.  As a quick reminder the four main personality types are:

D wired=dominant, decisive, determined, doer

I wired=interactive, inspiring, influential, initiator

S wired=stable, sweet, shy, likes status quo

C wired=conscientious, careful, cautious, careful

Personality Style and Motivation

If you have a D wired child, then you will want to help them chose a goal that is very specific and has a deadline.  D personalities are highly motivated and competitive, so setting a goal to give their energy some direction will be very successful.

I wired children are great starters but not such great finishers.  They also thrive on social interaction and recognition, so setting a goal that involves a social network to support and encourage them to achieve it would be best.  Add in an element of fun and the I wired child will be hooked.

S wired children are great finishers but have difficulty starting tasks.  They are very tuned in to the needs of others and will work to accomplish a goal as much to please you as to please themselves.  Select a goal that they can commit to with your support or the support of a close friend to motivate them to get going.

Finally, C wired children love to develop and research a goal.  If they are committed, they will work hard to accomplish the task.  Help them see the big picture so that they don’t get lost in the details and you will have a winning combination. Learning to set and accomplish goals is an important skill to learn and by speaking your child’s personality language, you can ensure that they are successful.

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Developing Resilience: The Story Behind Kid President

Kid President is taking the world by storm! Over a million views on just the one video above.  Why?  What makes him so engaging?  Well, he’s funny, energetic, loves to dance AND has a good message.  The above video encourages teachers to look for the awesome in students and students to be awesome and change the world.

What is the Story behind the Videos?

Even more interesting is the story behind the videos.  The bubbly, energetic, laughing kid in Kid President has overcome some adversity in his own life.  Just listen to the story:

As he explains in the video, Robby has osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic condition that results in frequent broken bones.  He has already experienced over 70 breaks.  His brother-in-law, Brad decided to make videos of  Robby because of his “resilient spirit”.  What is their goal?  Not fame or fortune but to make the world a better place by dreaming big and encouraging others to be awesome.  You can’t live by a better mission than that!

What Makes a Child Resilient?

In his book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, Kenneth Ginsburg identifies the Seven C’s of Resiliency.  They are:

  • Competence-Help children recognize their strengths and maximize them

  • Confidence-Encourage children to be confident and recover from challenges

  • Connections-Help children develop relationships with family, schools and community is critical to a sense of belonging

  • Character-Help children develop a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity

  • Contribution-Encourage children to contribute to the well-being of others and to be a positive impact on the world

  • Coping-Encourage children to develop a variety of healthy coping strategies

  • Control-Learn to make wise choices, earn privileges and respect in order to feel a sense of control

Not every child faces the kind of medical challenges that Robby, the Kid President faces, but every children could benefit from developing the seven C’s. Certainly challenges come in all shapes and sizes and it is a rare individual who does not need to develop some coping skills for getting through the problems in life.  Not only is the Kid President an inspiration through his quirky, funny YouTube messages.  He is also an inspiration in a life well-lived that illustrates the Seven C’s through his positive attitude and confident spirit.

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Five Ways to Turn Sibling Rivalry Around

We can all probably remember the sibling rivalry that went on in our own families.  At the same time one of the most infuriating things to deal with as a parent is children that fight and argue. However the conflict and arguments that are an inevitable part of siblings growing up together are also great opportunities for children to learn interpersonal skills.  Here are some ways that you as a parent can ease the tension when children disagree and encourage cooperation and understanding.

  • Recognize each child’s different personality style and talents– Each child has their own unique personality, talent and ability.  Recognizing strengths and maximizing them is a great way to honor the individuality of each child. Practical ways that you can do this are by spending one-on-one time regularly with each child and letting him choose what you do together.  Be sure to point out the areas where you see him excelling as well as encourage him in those areas.
  • Model how to compromise and solve conflicts–Children learn from us how to handle difficult situations.  Talk with her about the challenges you face every day and how you worked out the problem.  Make sure you aren’t blaming others or pointing out others faults, but rather are honestly sharing how you reconcile differences.  As you encounter conflicts in your children’s lives remind them of good skills for working problems out.  Point out that just as you had to compromise, or consider options or look at things  from a different perspective, so she can do this as well in her interactions.
  • Encourage positive and constructive communication–Teach your child that conflicts are normal but there a lots of ways to solve them.  Teach your child to identify the problem and then consider the possibilities for resolution.  Does one child want to play with a toy and the other not want to share?  Ask them to list all the possible solutions to the is problem; play together with the toy, set a timer for each child to play individually with the toy, both take a break and play with something else, etc.  Then rather than you as the parent making the executive decision have them work together to decide which choice is best.  Teach them ways to decide such as; vote, roll a dice and high number wins, rock, paper, scissors.  The point here is that as parents we aren’t just solving their problems today, we are teaching them how to solve much bigger conflicts later in life.  Does this take more time than putting the toy up and not letting anyone play with it?  Yes!  But in the long run you are saving time because children are learning to solve their own problems rather than rely on you every time.
  • Frame conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem–Some personality styles are more sensitive to conflict than others.  Some would rather avoid it and others prefer to face it head on.  Teach your children that conflict is normal but how you look at it is important.  Instead of a problem, consider it an opportunity to become closer to each other, to establish rules of play or family time, to understand each others point of view better.  In order to do this, we need to encourage dialogue rather than separation.  As a parent, I would sometime separate my daughters in their own rooms “until you can get along.”  Unfortunately nothing is happening in the separate rooms to encourage this. Instead, consider having the children in conflict sit beside each other and talk until they can solve their differences.
  • Recognize your own feelings surrounding conflict and interpersonal differences.  Just as our children come with their own personalities, we as parents have not only our own temperament but our own history with sibling rivalry.  Were you the youngest child in your family who felt continually picked on by the oldest?  Were you the middle child who felt you had to create conflict to get noticed?  Our own history may flavor how we react to conflict in our children.  Make sure that you are operating out of a calm space and teaching good skills rather than taking sides or replaying your own history.

Sibling rivalry can be seen as a problem to be squashed or an opportunity to build character, cooperation, understanding, interpersonal skills and closeness if we give our children the support and encouragement to help them work it out. As parents we can model and teach the best way to solve interpersonal conflicts, leaving our children with skills they will use all their lives.


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What If You Embrace the Difficulty?

Every one has some sort of limitation in life.  For some this may be an actual physical disability, for others it is more subtle.  Some children have great difficulty with math, or reading or social skills.  It is a rare child who excels in every area.  Often as adults/parents in children’s lives we try to avoid the areas of difficulty.  Or perhaps we focus on them and try to shore up the problem.  What if instead of avoiding the limitations that we each have in our lives, we embraced it?  What would that look like?  How could we teach and model for our children this concept?  Here is a terrific TED talk by Phil Hansen called, Embrace the Shake:

Although Phil is talking to adults, his message has great meaning for educators and parents as well.  What if we encouraged children to see their limitations as new possibilities?

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