I think it was the moment when she was three years old and she crossed her arms, widened her stance, and stared me dead on that I knew I was in trouble.
This tiny person with chubby cheeks and chocolatey almond-shaped eyes was not impressed by my angry eyebrows, my threats of consequences or even my raised voice. None of the authoritarian parenting tactics that had worked with her big brother swayed her in the least. In fact, they made things significantly worse.
I had backed her into a corner and I knew in that moment who would emerge the victor. My frantic brain spun wildly, searching for some hidden bit of wisdom that would help me untangle this scenario gracefully, without losing my “authority” or my cool.
But I was already a goner and she knew it.
This daughter of mine is a left-handed, right-brained, whirlwind of creative mess and exploration; a strong-willed math whiz always hungry for a challenge and unwilling to conform tidily to other people’s rules or expectations. She has called me to growth and delighted me from the day we met, 17 years ago.
But I had my work cut out for me.
My journey to growth started years ago with delving into learning styles, love languages, and various personality typing models. And when, two years ago, I came across the Four Tendencies Model, I realized this was a missing, important layer of understanding that would take us both to the next level in terms of self-awareness and how to relate to each other.
The Four Tendencies model speaks to the manner in which we respond to outer and inner expectations. It is potentially life-changing as it helps us understand how we make decisions, meet deadlines (or don’t), initiate lasting change or form new habits, and how we engage with others.
In 2015 when I read Better Than Before (aff.) by Gretchen Rubin, my daughter and I eagerly uncovered our individual tendencies. The skies parted and the light of heaven shone down upon me and so much more about this girl who I adored began to make sense.
My daughter, you see, is a Rebel.
A Rebel resists both inner and outer expectations which helped me understand why she would go nose to nose with me when I tried to assert my authority over her; why she resisted my well-crafted homeschool plans but would work wholeheartedly if she came up with her own (until she got bored and moved on); why she was an amazing artist but left countless half-finished projects in her wake; why she is highly gifted in so many areas of life and study but has a hard time imagining sticking to any one profession for years of her life; and why she walks with envious confidence and doesn’t seem to care what other people think of her.
Here’s a bit of fabulous news for my older daughter and me: Questioners and Rebels actually have a natural affinity for each other as we have discovered. But a deeper understanding of WHY we operate the way we do deepened our ability to fully enjoy each other and not feel like we were purposefully out to antagonize the other (although as a rebel I do think she enjoys pushing my buttons sometimes just for the fun of it).
How the Four Tendencies Made Me a Better Parent
Our family is made up of three Questioners (oh, the conversations we have!), an Upholder (his work ethic is something to be admired!) and one Rebel. Seriously, I am a far better parent and partner now with this knowledge and I highly encourage you to go find out your tendency now!
1. This is one more tool with which I am able to help my children become more self-aware so they can live with greater emotional intelligence and achieve their personal goals. This includes understanding how to leverage their strengths and “manage” their weaknesses as needed.
2. We can laugh at ourselves more easily now and we experience significantly less conflict because we understand each other more fully.
3. Understanding The Four Tendencies helps me present information and requests in ways that are far more likely to receive a positive response or even eager cooperation (and parents – you know this is a huge win).
4. Becoming a student of my children led to an overarching sense of respect in our home (no more grouchy authoritarian parenting for me) for each individual to be who we are with less judgment and more celebration.
5. Exploring typology including The Four Tendencies opened up the conversation for my children to help identify my blind spots and triggers – and the grace they have offered me has been incredibly healing which, in turn, has made me a kinder, gentler mom.
This Rebel daughter of mine is an amazing, interesting person. She is not, of course, “just Rebel” but a multi-faceted, multi-layered unique construction of personality and personal choice. An ever-changing artistic expression of one piece of sacred humanity. I am so grateful she crashed my quiet party all those years ago.
She made the decision at age 6 to play piano and never once did I have to cajole her to practice; all I had to do was get out of her way. In grade nine she decided to self-teach two years of math in one school year; I couldn’t have stopped her if I had tried. She graduated this spring with many awards including the Governor General Medal for top academic achievement; scary to think what might have happened if she had decided she didn’t like learning!
It’s so amazing how life changes when each of our children joins the nest, bringing with them distinct personalities and unique gifts. And one of the best bits of advice I could ever offer other parents would be to deep dive into personality typing to begin to uncover who your kids are at the core. I suggest starting with The Four Tendencies.
It might just make you an even better parent.