Creative Child

Making Positive Parenting Work with Different Personalities

by Rebecca Eanes


What’s the Same?

1. Empathy. Both of my children benefit from empathy. They need to feel heard and understood. Again, this isn’t a personality-based need but a human need. “Yes, I get you. I understand how you feel.”

2. Unconditional love. Dr. Gordon Neufeld said “Children must never work for our love; they must rest in it.” This is also a universal need. I try very hard not to send the message “I only love and accept you when you follow my rules or behave perfectly.” I want the message to be “Yes, some behaviors are not acceptable, but you are always acceptable. You belong here. You are loved. I will help you with the behavior.”

3. Attachment. All children need a secure attachment with those who care for them. I work to make sure I stay connected. That means I make time to listen, to play, to visit their world, and to communicate. 

4. Respect. By learning and seeking to understand their unique personalities and strengths, I am respecting their personhood. I respect their bodies by not using physical punishment. I try to communicate respectfully. I am cognizant that they learn how to respect me and others by being respected. 

5. Positive discipline. While there are some differences in how I handle corrections in my two opposite children, I still do not rely on punishments to teach lessons. Rather, I strive to teach and problem-solve first.

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What’s Different?

1. My alpha stance. This isn’t something I really had to think about for the first several years of parenting, but my youngest has, at times, a strong counterwill and is quick to try and take the lead. This is part personality, part immaturity, and sometimes tied to his strength of connection. I always know when my husband or I need to spend extra time with him because of the strength of his counterwill. I have found actually that he requires even more tenderness and quality time than my highly sensitive child whose emotional meter seems to fill quicker and last longer. This boy also prompted me to take a class from the Neufeld Institute which discusses the caring alpha stance. This makes a big difference with this particular personality type.

2. Correction and consequences. Had I only had the one sensitive INFP child, I might have been content believing that consequences were entirely unnecessary. He just doesn’t really need them to learn. Then came child number two who will debate verbal correction until the cows come home. Ever quick-witted, he always has a comeback, a reason why the rule is unnecessary, and how he can manage on his own just fine without said rule (even though that would mean staying up until 2 am on a school night and living solely on Hot Pockets). Though teaching and problem-solving are always the first go-to in Positive Discipline, I have learned that sometimes a consequence is appropriate. My rule with consequences is that they should be logical and used to teach or enforce a boundary and never used for retaliation or simply to make my child “pay.” So, I would take away an iPad if it wasn’t shut down on time but not as a punishment for back talking. By the way, my go-to phrase when he wants to be a debater about everything – “I adore you, and this isn’t up for debate.” *Embody alpha stance. 

3. Parenting with an understanding of strengths and personal needs. My oldest needs structure, my youngest can change direction on the fly. My oldest requires time alone to de-stress and re-energize, my youngest requires physical play and contact with others to de-stress and re-energize. Understanding their unique personalities and strengths makes it easier to understand and relate to them. Balancing their needs with my own isn’t always easy, but it helps my perspective. I know that defiance is often a call for connection and that some things are just personality driven and not related to how they are parented.


Some children may buck at time-in. That’s okay, give them physical space but emotional closeness. Some children may laugh at your verbal correction. Put on your best alpha and give a logical consequence. The big take away here is that Positive Parenting is about the whole relationship, not a bag of tricks. A bag of tricks won’t work with every child, but love, respect, and kindness are universal. A healthy relationship will overcome. 

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.


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