Leading My Lion by Joy Thomas
Are you similar to or different than each of your kids? How is that working out for you? What have you learned to relate to and reach them? I really want to know. I am in the THICK of this struggle at this very moment.
Laid back Jack. That’s me.
So of course, God in all His humor, knows the best kids to give to us. They start as little babies and you think you know who you’re dealing with but then in these years where we hear about how shaped they are, they actually ARE shaped and they actually do change. So in the last couple years, our oldest’s personality has become stronger and we now sometimes feel we have someone else’s seven year old.
I haven’t read all the personality info there is out there, but I’m familiar a little with it – the four main types being choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholy which sound like jibberish to me. I remember when Smalley and Trent gave animal names to the four words for personality types which help me immensely.
So in our house, we are two golden retrievers trying to lead and raise up a lion (our other two kids’ personalities are still TBD!). Can we all just picture those animals for a second? How would that work in the animal world? Not well. In the human world? Well, I am working on discovering how we CAN lead and raise him up without being devoured!
I made a list and wonder what your list might look like with you and your child who is not wired like you:
- I am spontaneous and don’t make plans; he gets thrown off and makes plans for us and everyone around
- I am emotionally reserved; he wears his emotions hard. Front and center.
- I enjoy doing what is asked in the right way in order to keep peace; he turns anything into a competition and relishes being top dog no matter who is in his wake.
- I avoid and even fear confrontation; he practically seeks it out. For the win.
- If I’m not good at something, I move on; he will not. give. up. at. any. cost.
I’m sure our lists could go on and on!
Lion Up! I’m the Mom!
You know when you have your first little bundle of JOY and you read up with gusto lots of great parenting books? I loved them but honestly, was shocked about how authoritarian I was supposed to be. I follow much better than I lead. I go with the flow. I like others to decide. When I heard John Rosemond speak, I was amen-ing in my heart, but was simultaneously nearly in tears. I know I have a few of you chuckling right now.
I tried “lion-ing up” and purely overpowering him but that creates a big FIGHT which he will win every time at least from my perspective. I may win because of power, because I’m the mom, but I know his heart is many times not reached and our relationship is not strengthened in the end. The authority must be established but where is the heart connection? I was praying but what was I praying for? What I have wanted is an easy way: a new book, a new blog, a new verse, a new strategy, a new chart, a new system for me to try to change it all up. I thought I’d missed the way I was supposed to parent him: like I didn’t know enough. No matter what the personality difference, we can all wish for that quick automatic fix!
Then very recently, there came this into my brain out of the blue:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” -Romans 11:33
“But if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all generously…” – James 1:5
As Maddox has grown in these last couple years and tested out who he really is and is going to become, I have realized I have choices with this kiddo. Finding one new thing that “works” is a pipe dream and doing the same thing in every situation (same consequence, same lecture, same routine) would be nice and easy but is not the answer. God is showing me – present tense, because we are right in the middle of this – to do these:
1) PRESS ON
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” -Philippians 1:6
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” -Ecclesiastes 1:9
People have been parenting for thousands of years and God has been equipping them. All the wisdom I have from my parents and His word over the years and years and years are not empty. They are ongoing. They are working. He is still working! He isn’t giving up now and I’m not. Continue seeking Him every day personally and seeking after Maddox’s heart for God, not his behavior to check off. Leave room for, no, build the whole parenting foundation on Jesus. He isn’t hiding. He is found every time.
[Jeremiah 29:13-14] “Quit frantically ordering new parenting books off of Amazon and just read My word and pray and do what I have already equipped you to do. Drink from my deep well of wisdom and knowledge,” He told me.
2) LIGHTEN UP
Maddox likes to blow up with atomic bomb type reactions. Several times a day. I do not, scratch that, DID not yell as part of my personality before I had confrontations with him. His explosions used to affect me for hours and even days but he’s over them in minutes. I know we are all dealing with DIFFERENT personalities so I’m just an example of one set of opposites. Here are some practical things that help me lighten up in the area of my personality differences with Maddox.
> Let go of the grudge and hurt feelings. Maddox can do that in 5 minutes and God has infinitely for all I’ve done.
> Drop my own pessimism. This is my personality problem and it often clouds how I see situations and my children (much praise due to my saintly husband in this arena!!) Go on with my day and realize I can still have a happy one!
> Ask God to show me Maddox’s personality strengths playing out. Or of course ones that are hard for him. Oh, I can be so clouded that I don’t even see them! The other day, the God of the universe in all His grace – and I am not being sarcastic here – allowed me to see Maddox WAY far away on the soccer field bending down to help an injured teammate at practice when everyone else was trotting the opposite way. I had to do a double take because that, simply is just NOT something that he is wired to do.
Pray we notice strengths then praise him – and Him – like crazy.
> Keep time in our days for easy fun that Maddox specifically enjoys. Family dance party, obstacle courses, racing, throwing or kicking or hitting a ball in any way imaginable are his favorites and speak to his need of quality time and physical touch. We are doing only ONE extra activity right now outside of school and home responsibilities and that works for us.
> Maddox thrives within routine so stop being so spontaneous all the time. It doesn’t kill me to make a plan and stick to it. If you, reader, are the opposite personality, switch the words “spontaneous” and “make a plan” in that sentence!
> If it wasn’t a big deal, joke about it later. What is a “biggie” and deserves a big reaction/emotion and what is “no biggie”?
> Let his inner lion come out and let him be in charge on something small and reasonable. Praise him for that leadership!
> Let him be the only one who’s emotional. Sometimes after a few minutes, he is starting to realize the craziness of his outbursts when everyone else has stayed calm or even stayed happy. Good phrases said calmly are “Do you see what’s happening here?” then pause and let him see. Also, “You know since you [pushed your sister, said disrespectful words], you have [lost your screen time, given me a quarter].” He knows the consequence ahead of time so it isn’t a shocker. He has chosen it with his action.
> Continue laying down your life. Reach out with a (small!!) act of love like a tickle, note or snack. He may see my extra-mile-going every once in a while, but 9 times out of 10, he may not get it at all. So then, see suggestion 1. And breathe.
Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:2-3
Press on, Mama. – Joy
Your insights are spot on. As an (older) (ouch!) Mom of 4, I can attest to how challenging it is to parent children with different personalities. In our family, we have an excellent, highly motivated student, a couple of pretty good students…and one who has Down Syndrome and (obviously) struggled a lot in school. We have one who is a naturally gifted athlete…one who is a Special Olympian…and two that are in-between. I’m laid-back. My husband is Type A+. Our children are weird and wonderful combinations of both of us. Just reading your description of your oldest son, he.sounds.awesome. (I know you already know that!) You are wise to try and figure out ways to teach and guide him…in order to bring out his best. Because, as adults, we know there’s more to being a leader than just being “the best” or “first.” It sounds like your son has a lot of compassion. I’m not trying to make it sound easy…it’s not…but I think you are doing all the right things. Be encouraged!
thoroughly enjoyed this article and laughed out loud many times! i am an a-type with a low key child who has a few of my tendencies. it has been hard to realize and accept that while she needs order in her life to feel safe and comfy she really likes being at home without an agenda. she plays for hours, creating in her little world while i sometimes think we need to be “doing” something. i know as she grows our differences and similarities will continue to manifest. thanx so much for sharing the joys of raising your lion. it made me think about my parents and their approaches with me and my 3 siblings! god most definitely is the answer and as we continue to rely on him he will make all things new and well! thanx for making my morning sweeter!
joy. this is fantastic. i can’t wait to diagnose myself according to the animal chart. i am no golden retriever that’s why i need you in my life. i am currently struggling with the one who is JUST like me. and i don’t love how it’s playing out. seeing yourself in another human – especially the weaknesses isn’t pretty. and then we explode, cry together. it’s awesome. your advice is so helpful. you’re so wise my friend. love you!!
Thank you so much for this, Joy! I am in the middle of a struggle with my oldest. I was always a teacher-pleaser in school, and wanted to make good grades. My guy just wants to impress his friends, and isn’t very interested in school work. Its hard to relate. We are definitely butting heads. But he has such a fun personality. I know God has huge plans for him.