When my youngest son started kindergarten, his teacher was worried he could have Autism. He kept to himself, didn’t make many friends, and wasn’t eager to participate or talk much in the classroom or on the playground. After in-depth testing early on with my son, I learned he was not on the spectrum. He is just a quiet kid with a unique personality.
Often, when kids don’t desire what we hoped they would or they have other differences, we think it’s a problem, but it’s actually something else: evidence of their unique personalities and needs. My son is more introverted than his brothers or me, but he’s happy. His personality includes some social awkwardness that may, one day, cause him some discomfort. But it’s part of who he is and I quickly recognized the need to support that. We all need to do that for our kids. Here are 5 ways to support and nurture your child’s personality.Appreciating your child’s personality will lead to a better relationship with you overall.
1. Get comfortable with your kid’s unique personality.
As a gregarious and outgoing social animal, it was heartbreaking for me to think my son wasn’t making many friends. Yet he came home from school happy and full of love each day. Appreciating your child’s personality instead of expecting him or her to fit a certain mold will lead to a better relationship with you overall.
2. Continually celebrate your kid’s personality qualities.
While many kids build confidence and satisfaction from large peer groups and other social interactions, my son is happy with quiet, one-on-one interactions and quiet contemplation. Each child’s personality is unique, and instead of worrying about it, we can celebrate it by regularly recognizing what’s good about it. Call out why you appreciate the differences between his way and yours.
3. Challenge your kids to venture out of their comfort zones sometimes.
While I have come to appreciate and not worry about my son’s unique personality, I sometimes encourage him to try new and uncomfortable things. Kids who venture outside their comfort zones learn self-reliance, gain confidence, and discover new talents. This supports their unique personalities because they realize their talents are well suited to all sorts of things.
4. Prepare your kids to be hurt.
The world can be cruel to those who have certain kinds of personalities. We strive to protect our kids, but we must also be there to comfort and prepare them for the inevitable stone thrown their way. Talk to them about why people sometimes hurt others. I often tell my son that “hurt people hurt people.” It reinforces that he’s just fine and that others often lash out at those who feel comfortable in their skin.
5. Enable your kids’ investment in deeper relationships.
Because my son invests deeply in his childhood friends, I enable the best interaction and conversations with his friends when possible. He might not have a huge birthday party with a massive deluge of kids, but he’ll invite one or two kids instead—and that’s what he wants. He wants meaningful and closer relationships with his buddies. Do what you can to learn what your kids actually need and give it to them so they know it’s OK to be who they are.
Sound off: How do you support and nurture your child’s personality?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing about you that is different from everyone else?”