Parenting That Nurtures Your Child’s Strengths

Parenting That Nurtures Your Child’s Strengths

This question never fails to come up in Relational Intelligence training.  At what age do children demonstrate MVS?  At what age do children begin to show a proclivity to a particular personality type?  And if they do, how can that help me as a parent know how to raise my children more effectively?  These are great questions and are worth pondering today.

I have shared this before in my blog, but it is worth emphasizing that MVS, or personality is generally set before the age of seven.  Yes!  It happens that early.  Psychologists are united in their opinions based on research that children’s personality remains fairly constant and predictable once a child reaches the age of seven.  If you have children, you may have noticed that your children are very different from each other and you can see that from an early age.  Even when children are under five, you can notice the differences.  One child is very compliant while another challenges everything you say.  Some children are focused on keeping order with their toys, lining them up in a straight row.  Others have no interest in order and are focused on making you laugh.  As they grow older it becomes clearer how their behavior differences are predictable and repetitive.  These behaviors are linked to their motivations.  Motivations are the source of what we term Motivational Value System (MVS).

Children are learning how to achieve self-worth through their behaviors.  Just like adults, children experiment and try different behaviors and learn what works for them.  As children learn what works for them, they begin to form behavior patterns that form their Strength Profile.  Strength Profiles are not set in concrete and are always changing and adjusting.  Even though behaviors are shifting and moving, the MVS is largely established early on in life.  If this is accurate, it has great implications to parenting.

Certainly, we are not suggesting that you try to pigeon-hole your child as a particular MVS at age seven or under.  All the cues we use for identifying MVS are not sufficient to gauge accurately someone’s MVS even when they are adults, let alone children.  We don’t have an assessment that is accurate for people under 15 so we need to be careful.  However, we can see tendencies that can inform our parenting styles with our children.

As parents, we have the opportunity to nurture our children and encourage them according to their strengths.  If a child is bossy, our tendency is to get them to stop acting that way.  But perhaps that child is learning to exercise their RED and needs to learn how to use that impulse in a way that is productive.  Children like adults, don’t know the boundary lines between strengths and overdone strengths.  We can nurture strengths rather than squash them if we can recognize the strength and understand what purpose they may be serving in the child (MVS).

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Children need correction and discipline.  I am not suggesting that you permit bossy behavior or other kinds of antisocial behavior.  I am rather suggesting that before we discipline, we consider what the intent of the behavior may be and how we can correct the overdone strength and not hinder the development of behavior that comes from MVS.  All children need correction.  But we can correct behavior and discipline with understanding.  For instance, if a child is being bossy, it may be RED being expressed.  Correct the antisocial behavior, but perhaps give the child tasks that require a challenge.  Reward them for accomplishments that encourage the desire to achieve.  Nurture the RED.  When we bring correction, let’s also remember that there could be a strength that needs to be nurtured as well.

When my son was around four, he got a hold of a screwdriver and took apart his plastic cassette player (showing my age) and had it in about 10 pieces scattered on the floor.  I wasn’t happy because it was a gift and I’m sure it wasn’t cheap.  I corrected his behavior and told him not to take things apart.  When I returned, I discovered that he had assembled the pieces all by himself!  It didn’t work until I made a tweak to his attempted repair, but I realized he was motivated by complex challenges!  I didn’t have SDI training back then, but he turned out to be a RED-GREEN.  Today he solves complex challenges in the mobility sector in industry.  Looking back, the evidence was everywhere that this little child was RED-GREEN.

When you look at your daughter or grandson or nephew, you will notice behaviors that will clue you into their MVS.  Think through how you can nurture that MVS and what kind of discipline might squash the intent of the behavior.  Every child is a gift from God.  They are uniquely created and gifted.  The earlier we recognize their genius, the earlier we can nurture it.

One more thought I have on this topic is that our own MVS can serve as a bias on how we discipline and nurture our children.  If you are BLUE, the behavioral strengths you may appreciate and celebrate may be very different from your GREEN child.  We can say this about every MVS.  MVS is strongly related to what we value and celebrate.  If we value getting into action highly, we might not value being analytical because that takes more time.  If we value risk taking, then being cautious might be treated with distain.  Our own MVS impacts our parenting style and how we relate to different children in different ways.  We may even have a favorite child as a result.  Just becoming more aware of our own MVS and thinking through how that might impact our parenting style could help us bring out the best in our children.

Very little has been written on this topic (MVS and parenting).  This article is just one person’s thought about the topic that needs greater exploration and research.  But it is an important topic because parenting shapes the next generation.  What are you learning about parenting and MVS?  Are you able to identify MVS in your children?  At what age?  What were the clues that helped you?  How are you disciplining and encouraging your children differently because of their MVS?

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.