I recently started reading Gretchin Rubin’s book about the four tendencies to help me understand more about my daughter.
I have a three year and a half year old problem, I mean daughter (said somewhat jokingly). Things have always been hard between us, a poor fit, I’m not proud of it, but it’s the elephant in the room I would rather talk about than ignore. Part of the problem is that we don’t understand eachother. I don’t know anyone like my daughter to help me get inside her perspective and understand her motivations to encourage her to be her best self and comply with neccisary health and safety rules in a neutral or pleasant manner.
Recently, I read the Jon Klassen shape trilogy. I really enjoyed it. It’s a children’s serries, but I think I would have liked it even if I didn’t have kids (maybe because I loved “Flatland.” In the shape trilogy there are roudy, rebellious triangles, hard working, yet inflexible squares and emotional, encouraging circles. I really associate with the squares and my husband and daughter with the triangles. At the same time I started listening to “The Four Tendencies,” after another horrible rock bottom moment with my daughter. There were was a lot of syncronicity between the shape trilogy and the four tendencies book. I enjoyed learning about analyzers/promoters/assertives from “Never Split the Difference,” and the 16 Personalities from 16personalities.com (I’m an INTJ), but although they helped me understand and accept myself, they didn’t help me understand and deal with other people, nothing had until now.
I remember being a child myself, I remember feeling in my 20s that eventhough my family helped and supported me in many ways, they had never loved me for me, because they had never known me for me at all. I felt unheard and unaccepted until I accepted myself over the past 2 years, after doing that I still think my family hadn’t known and accepted me, but it doesn’t crush me anymore, beause since I have my own understanding and acceptance of me I don’t feel I need theirs anymore. It took me about 30 years to understand who I am, how I am, what I value, because most of my life I was trying (yet failing) to do and be, what I thought, people thought, I was supposed to do and be. I got my head straight more during a long illness, which forced me to take more down time and evaluate what I wanted to do with the time I had left, since I was made aware that time wouldn’t be forever.
The Four Tendencies book was a really good finish to a journey I started a few years ago to gain a workable amount of understanding of myself as a human being. It’s probably the best of self knowledge, more than values, strenghts, personality, because it transends all of them and interacts with all of them. The tendencies are what you really do on a normal day, the way you live on autopilot, which is how most of life happens.
The four tendencies are upholder, questioner, obliger and rebel.
I am an upholder, I finish the fight most of the time, but I was an obliger just a few years ago. Meaning I put other people first, I could have gone to the grave without ever having played the cello (which I wanted to do since age 8), without trying to write (which I wanted to do since age 5), without enjoying a simple sunset without rushing to clean up or teach my kids or ask my husband if he needed something. It’s fine to help people if you like it, but I didn’t like it, I just felt that I had to put everyone else first and there wasn’t much left over after I was done with what was demanded from me on a daily basis. I’m not that person anymore. My demanding daughter killed that person. Now I put myself equal with my loved ones, not really first, but not after. I think about what we all need and want, what makes since to me to do first and what I have to do now because the chance won’t be there later.
My husband and daughter are rebels, which is hard for me to deal with, but I love them and I think someday the love will carry me all the way through the pain and help me find the wisdom I need to restore the love I want to have between us again.
My sister is a questioner, she is and always has been so different from me that it sparked an early intrest in personality differnces with me. Physically we aren’t too disimilar, small, female, thin, short, but mentally we have always had a different process of thinking about and interacting with the world, besides just having different tastes in food, pets, hobbies, music, books, people.
The book has convinced me not to try to change my rebel daughter and rebel husband anymore, I had stopped trying to change my husband already, but I had stopped out of despiration that it didn’t work, that isn’t the same as stopping on purpose because I accept the way my husband really is. With my daugter, I felt like I had to change her, that I couldn’t release a J-walker into society, but as painful as it will be to see it, she is mainly going to learn from experience what she does or doesn’t like in her life and won’t just take my word about what situations to engage or avoid.
It’s not that easy to change people, but it is possible, because of leverage. I can change the enviornment I share with my daughter and I can change myself and both of those things will change her. It’s subtle, but it’s true. We can change ourselves and we can change others, but not easily just by commanding the world to be the way we want it to be immediately with no time and effort expended.
The best part of the Four Tendencies book for me, is the guide on how to work with people of different tendencies. It’s helped me already, with myself, managing myself as another person. It’s helped me accept myself, when the book talks about an obliger having a burnout moment and refusing to meet expectations, that happened to me recently… after a really hard day my sister said, “we still love you,” to my daughter and I screamed “not me,” if it wasn’t described in the Four Tendencies book I would never have understand why I did something so unkind and uncharacteristic of my typical behavior. I’m not excusing my behaviour, I don’t even need to excuse it, moms don’t loose the right to yell once in awhile while being yelled at, kicked, bitten, pooped on and otherwise abused by kids who get a pass for anything and everything. But, yeah I don’t like yelling at my kids or think it’s the best way to communicate on a normal basis. I could have lived and died without ever knowing why I did yell though, since I have a small baby I could have thought it was post partum hormones, but it wasn’t. It was burnout, because I don’t take breaks. It’s a work place health code violation to go 4 years without a 10 minute break, but it’s standard parent life style in the modern world… I should take breaks, so I don’t get burnt out, so I don’t yell, I never knew that before this book. Because I thought I could live up to an unlivable standard of doing everything my husband and daughter asked me to do before taking a break, but I didn’t know that break would never come, I didn’t know that I couldn’t ever satisfy my daughter and that with or without a break she wanted more than I ever had to give her. Now that I have more insight I can get more help, I didn’t know I needed it before, but I do. I need more help to take more breaks so that when I am caring for my kids I can do my best job, imperfect as it will still be.