Accepting our children’s individuality

My 14-year-old daughter likes to take online personality tests. I remember taking the same type of tests in my Tiger Beat magazine back in the 80’s. (While working on my Rubik’s cube and eating Pudding Pops–whatever happened to those little delicacies?) It’s natural for teenagers to want to figure themselves out so they can get a better idea of where they fit into the world. Heck, most adults could still stand to learn a thing or two about themselves and where they fit in!

If you’ve ever taken personality tests, you may have noticed there are varying degrees of accuracy due to varying degrees of quality testing. To be honest, I don’t usually give much credence to personality/love/intelligence tests (might be that association with Tiger Beat magazine), but both my daughter and I were fascinated last night by the description of the personality type she fell under. It completely hit the nail on the head and put into words certain things about her personality that neither of us could ever verbalize before. (I know you want to know. Here’s the link, and it’s not for Tiger Beat magazine.)

The timing of this latest personality test was interesting because I had been thinking about this post on The Power of Individuality and what a struggle it has been for me to accept my daughter for who she really is–someone very different from me. (Is that why she’s taking those tests? Have I already given her a complex?) It’s not that I thought she would be exactly like me, it’s just that I thought she would be more like me. But as I read that dead on description of her personality, not only did it help me to finally see just how truly different we are, but also how inherently strong and beautiful her personality really is.

As a 14-year-old, my friends were my world. I didn’t just have a few friends, I was friends with everybody! I loved getting to know new people, and I had no reservations about walking up to total strangers to start a conversation. I wanted to know everyone’s life story, and telling my own stories and jokes to make people laugh and feel comfortable was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I got so much energy from being with people. I was an extrovert in every sense of the word.

Keeping this in mind, you can imagine I felt a little bit anxious and even annoyed when my own daughter approached the teen years and wasn’t doing the same things I did at her age. What was wrong with her? Why wasn’t she begging me to throw a party for her and her fifty closest friends on her 13th birthday? Why didn’t I have to fight with her to get off the phone to do her homework? Why did she like to stay home with our family on the weekends? Not only was my daughter totally uninterested in befriending everyone and their dog, she actually seemed to get exhausted by being around too many people. Was it possible that I, Allyson Reynolds, had given birth to an introvert? (By the way, the personality test I referred to gives much more complex definitions than just extrovert and introvert. I’m using simple Tiger Beat definitions for the sake of time.)

Well, it’s taken a few years of anxiety on my part (and I’m sure frustration on hers), but I think I’ve finally figured out that my daughter being different from me is not only okay, it’s wonderful! I have my own strengths, and she has hers. Lots of them. And while the path she may take in life as a result of our very different personalities may be completely different than what I’ve been dreaming up for her, I now know she is going to be just fine. And that’s a nice place to be.

So I will no longer be bugging her to run for class president, or join the tennis team, or go over and say such and such to so and so. (Heaven knows I said more than enough for ten unthinking teenage girls when I was her age!) She can go right on doing her art, playing her music, reading her books, excelling in school, and being an independent thinker who isn’t easily influenced by social pressure. That’s all part of the power of her individuality, and it’s perfect.

QUESTION: Do you have a child with a completely different personality than you? How do you deal with it? How is your relationship?

CHALLENGE: Make a point of identifying your child’s unique strengths as well as the things you have in common. Focus on those and you can’t go wrong!

2 comments

  1. Joan Wester Anderson

    Iam a writer of angel and miracle books, and during the 90’s I would occasionally get sent to Salt Lake. There was one escort who was always playing catchup (she had 6 kids) and on one occasion she locked her baby and her keys in her minivan, then burst into tears. It occurred to me that maybe I should be writing about her. It took awhile, but I now have a humor book published, titled MOM KNOWS BEST (Cedarfort) which–if I ever find this mom–will make her laugh. Would you like to do an article on me?Or would one of the blogers be interested? Or the feature editor? (I need to get out of the kitchen…

  2. Martin

    Amen! My kids don’t like to play with my old Rubik’s Cube, either. Of course, the only way I was ever able to “solve” it was by peeling all of the colored labels off and just sticking them back on. As a result, they now won’t adhere to my cube very well, at all. Well, not “my” cube, really — it actually belonged to my little sister. I am a horrible person.

    What was this post about again?

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