Firm Like Jello: Parenting with Your Child’s Personality

Like Joylene, I’ve been fascinated by the personality differences in my three daughters. I love her advice in this post on how to understanding your child’s personality type can help you parent him or her better.

Firm like Jello: Parenting with Your Child's Personality

I recently had a young mom ask me which parenting books helped me raise our 3 daughters over the years. The truth is, I didn’t read parenting books. At least not all the way to the end. I began reading two highly recommended and popular parenting books of that time but before getting too far into them I was disappointed. I found them too … generalized.

Child will do this and this by such and such an age. When child does this, you as his parent must do this.

They didn’t take into account that each child is as unique and individual as the fingerprints they bear. And that was what fascinated me about parenting: the fact that each daughter was so very different from her sister. How three girls conceived by the same father and mother could be so unlike one another blew my mind.

One time my husband and I did decide to use the suggestion of one of the parenting books I had just begun. It said that, when disciplining, we should let the child choose her own punishment.

Sweetie and Peaches (not their real names) were five and three at the time. I don’t remember their crime but we brought them before us and told them they needed to choose a punishment for what they had done. Sweetie thought for less than 2 seconds and then announced, “I think I should go to my room for one hour.”

Ah yes, her room. Where all of her favourite toys and, especially, her paper and pencil crayons were. She loved to draw. Clever girl.

But that was the punishment she had chosen and so we sent her to her room.

Then we looked at 3-year-old Peaches.

“Well Peaches, what do you think your punishment should be?”

She looked up at us with her big solemn eyes and, imagining the worst possible punishment, said, “Pour boiling water on me.” (blink blink)

At this point, hubby looked over at me and said, “I don’t think this is working.” (Of course we gave her a more reasonable punishment chosen by us.)

There were, however, 2 books I did read all the way to the end that I found interesting and helpful. But I wouldn’t call them parenting books. They were more what I’d call getting-to-know-your-child books.

The first one was The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman. You can still find it in bookstores and it is still receiving 4.5 stars out of 5.

I don’t recall the title of the other book and I’m sure it is out of print, but it used the Myers Briggs method for determining personality types in a child. There are lots of new books and websites that deal with personality types in children, such as this one on Kidzmet.

The point is that, rather than lump all children in the same bag, I worked with each daughter according to her own individual personality. What worked with one child didn’t work with the other, etc.

I read and learned about what the basic personality types were and what I could expect from the girls’ birth order. Then I watched my children and learned who they were. It would be rare for anyone to exactly fit a personality profile. So, it was a matter of being always aware and constantly seeking understanding for why they did the things they did, and then following through accordingly.

Kind of like jello, the basic rules of life and family boundaries were firm, but able to take the particular shape of whatever the moment required.

Never touch a hot stove.


In our family, we work before we play … but sometimes turning work into play gets the job done in a fun and happy way.

It was a tricky dance and sometimes jiggly, like jello.

Through it all, my mainstay was prayer. Prayer for my husband and me—for wisdom and guidance, strength and patience as we parented. Prayer for the girls—that they would grow up strong of spirit and of body, and that they would be the best of friends always.

Our oldest turns 30 in a month and it delights me to watch her and her husband parent their own strong-willed son. Many times I am taken back to when she was his age and fighting for her right to be heard. And it dawns on me that by listening to them and being aware of who they were and who they were becoming, they taught me how to parent them.

Joylene M. Bailey writes because. What began as making up childhood stories to put herself to sleep at night, became creating stories and songs for her three daughters. This entertainment morphed into writing articles and stories for children’s publications, writing rhymes for her grandson, and blogging.  Her current work in progress is a novel about a wandering little girl and her flawed but loving mother. Joylene and her husband live in Edmonton, Alberta, and are enjoying their recent transition to empty nesting.

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  1. Bonnie December 28, 2015
  2. Donett December 24, 2015
  3. Bobbi December 21, 2015
    • Bonnie Way December 22, 2015

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