Nurture by Nature ranks as one of the all-time most helpful parenting books I’ve ever read. Usually I prefer less practically focused books in this genre, but in this case it’s the incredibly detailed specificity that makes the book a winner.
The book begins with the premise that many (not all, but many) parenting issues are actually rooted in how we relate to our kids. In other words, the problem is not always what is happening but how it is going down. By understanding our own temperaments and the different temperaments our children possess, we can overcome many misunderstandings of motive and intent, and parent our child in the way that is best for his or her particular bent.
If you’re an involved parent, you probably do some of this intuitively. We all know that the same consequences don’t work the same way for different children. We know that some kids are more sensitive or more logical than others. We see that some of our kids need more downtime, more snuggle time, or more freedom to talk things out than others. But how do you really dig into these differences and find tactics that work in a consistent, reasoned fashion?
You read Nurture by Nature. I have read a bunch of personality books, but they make it hard to type kids because they are geared toward adults. As adults, we’ve had years to learn how to cope with our weaknesses, how to function in our society, and how to relate to other people. Kids are still learning those things. So a child manifests a personality type in different ways than many adults. This book does an INCREDIBLE job of helping parents pinpoint differences between personality distinctions using the Myers-Briggs types, which is, while not perfect, a pretty nuanced framework. First you work through your family’s types in light of temperaments (the two most dominant letters in any type—SJ, NT, SP, NF), which can be helpful to start narrowing down the types for any one person. Then the authors walk through distinctions between each of the letter pairs as they apply to children, and then how children evidence each individual Myers-Briggs type by age. I found it enormously helpful to see how each type behaves in age brackets—birth to preschool, elementary kids, and teens—especially because those sections highlight particular challenges for different types of parents with that type of child, as well as techniques that really work for that type and stage and how to show your love and support in a way the child can understand.
My husband and I had a fantastic discussion about this (he finds the Myers-Briggs framework fascinating too) and how we could tweak our parenting and better understand our kids. It was so illuminating to see how certain recurring conflicts have been rooted in our misunderstanding one or another child’s temperament, and also in seeing how to reframe our responses to difficulties. One of our kids has been giving us a major challenge lately, and it was amazing to learn that temperament is part of that—as well as getting insight into how to respond to problems that has REALLY worked as we put it into practice.
This book has changed how I relate to my children and I’m seeing wonderful results, even in the short time since I finished reading it. I also talked over the concept of personality types with my nine year old, who is now reading the book in an effort to better understand the conflicts she has with her siblings.
Nurture by Nature is an incredible resource, and I highly recommend it to parents, other caregivers, and teachers. At the very least it will make you more understanding, and at best it could revolutionize your family relationships.
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