It Takes All Kinds

If your household contains more than one person, it is pretty fair to say that you are not all alike. Personalities differ and no one is better than another. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve given many workshops on the four basic personality types and how best to understand and interact successfully. As a teacher, or as a parent, understanding that our kids are not clones of us nor of anyone else. Life will go more smoothly if the adult adapts to meet the needs of others’ personalities. Unless you are totally narcissistic then you should stop here.
My visual mind has color coded these types as Orange, Blue, White and Red. The Oranges are spontaneous, fun loving and sometimes flamboyant.

The Blues are very neat, organized and schedule oriented. These might be the engineer types. Totally practical.

White is an easy going, go along to get along. These are the worker bees. Their laid back manner makes them very likable but can be passive to a point.

The take charge, bossy types are the Reds. These folks make good leaders and are not interested in the details. They prefer to get to the point and don’t bother with non-essentials.

Most people have a little bit of each color but one or two will be more dominant. I was the oldest girl with one older and three younger siblings. It wasn’t long before I earned the nick name of Sarge! I am not patient with the laid back types nor with the frivolous, fun folks. Those folks waste my time when I just want to get it done!

In my family I learned to recognize that my husband is an Orange and as long as I can make a boring task seem like fun we’re good to go. He is the fun guy to be in any group. The Oranges love to tell a good story and feel that all the details are essential to understanding what he wants to relate. But I, being task oriented just want him to get to the point.

My secondary trait is in the blue field, so I want to get things organized, filed, labeled and color coded. I like to stick to the scheduled plans and then as the bossy one, I’ll take charge.

The poor oranges who don’t abide much by schedules are driven nuts with the likes of me and and the White who doesn’t make any waves. That is not because of lack of caring about the project at hand but because they like to keep the peace.

When I was training and supervising student teachers I liked to take them through a little personality test in order to identify their own dominant traits. Know thyself before judging others and learn to form more effective groups in the classroom.

The fun began when I grouped them for a small group activity by their dominant trait. The task given to them was to create a lesson plan to introduce fractions. They had to complete the outline in 15 minutes.

I prowled around the room listening and recording some of their comments. The Orange group was animated, loud and full of creative ideas and never got the task done because they were having so much fun generating ideas.

The Blue group quickly organized a good clear sequence of steps to accomplish the goal. They wrote it up and were finished long before the time was up.

The White group chatted quietly, threw out a few ideas and kept the plan quite simple.

The competitive, argumentative group was, you guessed it, the Reds. They did not settle on a plan because each one aggressively pushed for their own idea. They were all the controlling type.

In the debriefing when the time was up, it became apparent that each group was somewhat dysfunctional because they needed the balance of the different types to function efficiently as a group with a goal to be reached. Every good group needs idea people, organizers, good workers and leaders. None is superior because each lends their won expertise.

This is a good paradigm for understanding the personal traits of the members of our family or coworkers. I once had a boss that was the easy going White type that could not make decisions quickly. Knowing that he needed time to process what I might be proposing, I usually went in with a quick summary of what I wanted and said I’d be back later to discuss the details and his ideas. This worked every time. If I had pushed for an immediate decision I would have met a brick wall.

In a future blog I’ll explain the importance of an “Advance Warning System” to reduce push backs and outbursts. Understanding how others view the world and trying to present ideas in ways that match their needs is only fair (and that too is a topic for another day) and gets more done with less stress all around. It takes all kinds working together harmoniously to get a job done. Know thyself and Know thy kids!

The Role of Family in Society

In today’s world there are many acceptable definitions of family depending on who you ask. We live in an age where any structure of family is tolerated. But, Nana’s kind of old school, so I’ll stick with tradition. Society tolerates other definitions because sometimes they are born from extenuating circumstances that may be beyond a person’s control. Tradition identifies a family as persons of blood relationship, mother, father and children and sometimes includes extended family. This also incluedes adopted children. I can only speak credibly from my own experiences and faith traditions. What I may suggest is not unique to Christianity but I am not qualified to address the role of family in society from any other perspective.

Parents often quip that kids don’t come with instruction manuals! True, so True! If you grew up in a big family you may have a leg up on how to handle children because you were often the babysitter for siblings. Having worked with kids with severe emotional and behavioral problems, in public school and in psychiaatric settings, I have learned a lot about managing children and they have taught me what works and what hurts. I grew up with a Mom who was frequently unwell and therefore I took on adult responsibilities from a young age. I gained a certain sense of pride in being able to step up to an adult role and be reasonably successful. We are all shaped by our personal history and I can honestly say that though I never have been a biological parent I have been a surrogate and step parent. Someone once told me that I didn’t know what kids needed because I had never had my own biological children. Yup, I was offended! But there is no accounting for ignorance. Biology does’t insure competent parenting but 40 years in the classroom counts for something!

Family is the basic unit of society and the primary vehicle for learning and transmitting the culture we find ourselves in. In the family gender identity and gender roles are learned. We learn right from wrong and how to interact socially. Family teaches us about responsibility, how to get our needs met without depriving others of theirs. From our parents we learn how to interact with those we love, how to forgive and how to share. We learn how to play fair and how to fight fair.

Parenting is an enormous responsibility because children are little mimics and will imitate our vocabulary, our voice and everything else we do. Our parenting style will create tomorrow’s citizens. Every family impacts the future of our nation, culture, religion, and governance. You are never off duty as a parent and you hold the future in your hands. Couples with no children unfortunately do not get to influence the future in the same way. I could go off on a tangent here about the importance of family leave, maternity leave, and child care subsidies but I’ll control myself. Mother Teresa once said that you can tell a lot about a nation by the way they treat their children…abortion, broken families, inequality in schools etc.

There is something sacred about home and family and passing on family traditions and customs even when family is usually imperfect and a little dysfunctional. We observe that in all those schmaltzy Christmas specials we love. In the home we should be loved unconditionally, forgiven often and never have love withheld because of our mistakes. In a healthy family we learn to look out for one another and when we mess up we make up and move on. This dynamic is our earliest lesson in developing faith in a God we cannot see and that the world is not a totally hostile place.

All the skills we will need as adults are first learned in the home because parents hold the responsibility of being the primary educators of their children. We see in history what happens when the State takes over the control of its children. Choosing childcare, babysitters or nannies requires serious “homework” before entrusting our children to strangers. In reality when circumstances necessitate abdicating our parental role to even qualified substitutes, we are allowing our kids to learn what kind of person they are, what kind of behavior is acceptable at someone elses knee.

When our life is done the world may judge us on our financial successes and what we own, But God will judge us on how well we have loved not only our own but everyone around us and how well did we teach our children to love the apparently unlovable or ugly, or smelly people.

By now you are thinking ‘that’s all well and good and an idealized picture’ but it doesn’t help me with a tantruming toddler nor a wailing teenager. Therefore, in future blogs and in no particular order, I will address several topics on managing children’s less than pleasing behavior.. Much of what I will share was learned in the school of hard knocks as well in formal course work in child development, child psychology and adolescent psychology. I will not offer these as an “expert” but as one who wants to make a difference in the lives of children and on tomorrow’s citizens.

Hello world!

Nancy Lessard_1For all those folks out there who would rather not discuss stuff about your kids with your parents or in-laws, Nana is here to lend support and share her wisdom. I’ve been around  the block a few times and have learned much by trial and error, through research and some more from just navigating a lot of decades. Most of my experience center around kids from five to twenty five. But the fun part was when I worked with children with special needs. I’m not an expert but handling children who are the most difficult, meaning emotionally disturbed and aggressive, there are some strategies we can use and some definite things to avoid. So stay tuned and come to Nana in the no judgement zone.

Blog # 1   Why do we need families anyway?