September 9, 2004

Nurture by Nature : Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent

Genre: Health, Mind & Body
Author:Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron-Tieger
When I had my first child I kept him mostly to myself. Others would offer to hold him but I'd refuse them, not so much because I wanted my little bundle to myself, but because it just seemed that he didn't want to go to anyone else -- for others he would fuss, for me he would settle right down in grand contentment. When my twin girls came along, I more than happily passed them off to others, not only because I was exhausted and needed a break, but because they were just as likely to cry, or not, for others as much as they would for me. They clearly didn't care who held them. Even as infants my kids made clear statements about their preferences and in so doing gave a peek into their personalities.

Lamentably, when others confronted me about my child rearing habits, I didn't have any outside sources to back up my theories about the differences in my children. Now, at last, I've found something that supports my hunches. It's a book called Nurture by Nature : Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. The book first helps parents to try to identify their children's personality types (as well as their own) and then describes expected behaviors, attitudes and needs of children by type.

Unfortunately young children can’t take personality tests themselves, so determining your child’s type is done through observation and comparison. My son's profile fits him so well that it seems like the authors had been watching him and had written down things about him that I had thought were unique to him alone. In the same way, the profile for my personality type fit me so well that it even described specific events that had happened to me as a child (such as sitting at the dinner table for hours after the meal because I refused to eat something). For my twin daughters, however, I'm less convinced of their type and have yet to find a profile that fits them as well as the ones for my son or myself. All the same, what I have discovered about the twins so far has already helped me to better encourage and discipline them.

Each personality profile describes not only over all characteristics of a specific type, but also how that personality will be manifested at various points in the child's life from infancy through adolescence. Though I haven't found the infant characteristics very accurate (at least for my kids), the preschool and school-age descriptions have, for the most part, been right on. The authors point out possible problem areas (such as the tantrums that my son threw in preschool), reasons for the problems (difficulties with transitions), and means of avoiding or dealing with the problems that will set the child at ease rather than demanding something of them that doesn’t fit their personality needs (like taking time in advance to prepare the child for upcoming transitions rather than forcing him to deal with them without warning).

My mother's philosophy in raising my sister and myself was fairness. Whatever I got, my sister got exactly the same thing or something comparable. But my sister and I aren't alike. As children we had very different strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Nature by Nurture helps parents to identify the differences in their children and raise them more fairly not by treating them the same, but by treating them more in line with their personality types.

I'd highly recommend the book. In fact, I found several copies online for under $4 dollars (though it looks like the price has since gone up) and bought extra copies to hand out to friends and teachers. I still have to see if it'll get me through the teenage years, but I have high hopes.


  1. I'll be ordering this one. I think my eldest son is an ExFx. With an INTJ and INTP for parents, well.. His brother, though only 8,5 mos, seems to be an archetypal IxTx. He's quite the odd one out, little bubbly chatterbox he is.

    Edit: still hasn't come in from Amazon. Getting impatient now.

  2. Just got the book today! I've been leaing through it, and I'm fairly sure my eldest is an ENFP. My mother in law, a professional coach, guessed ExFP, leaning towards S but after hearing my explanation why I guessed N changed vote.

    I've only read the verification profile of INTJ, but if I hadn't been sure before, I'm sure now I'm INTJ :) I'm actually considering having my father read it to see what he thinks (don't think I could get my mother interested for 2 seconds...).

  3. so you felt like the INTJ description fit your childhood?

    i always felt SO misunderstood as a kid. and their description of the kid sitting at the table refusing to eat was me to a T. i've never liked meat and i'd end up sitting at that table for quite awhile after dinner time with a piece of chicken or a few hunks of beef on my plate. (that is, until my mom came and had mercy on me. if it were up to my dad, i would have been there until breakfast.) i finally got smart and would cram the meat into my mouth during the meal then excuse myself to the bathroom where i'd spit it all out. ;-)

    it also makes more sense to me now why my parents (both S's) always trusted my sister (younger) more than me. i always felt like i was quite responsible, but the fact that i didn't do things exactly "by the book" must have freaked them out too much to consider me reliable.

  4. The table-incident did seem familiar. It didn't happen too often, because I'm a fairly easy eater. I'm actually fairly easy going in general, except when I'm not - then I tend to become immovable :) He's barely a year old, so it's the wildest of guesses, but I suspect my youngest might be INTx. He's so focused, so terribly determined and not easily distracted by his surroundings, I'm putting my money on J.

    Doing things secretly goes against my grain, so I'd sooner sit somewhere for hours than give in. In adolescence (16-17), I had two comparatively 'secretive' years (man involved). And as a young adult, having moved out, I didn't volunteer much information. Nobody asked. But there's only one thing that would qualify as a secret.

  5. Whether it's right or not, I don't force my 3-year-old to eat. I do require him to sit down with us meals as a family. But if he's not eating, that's fine. Also though I don't let him eat anything typically after dinner. Also don't let him fill up on junk food or desserts/ If he is going to eat desserts then he has to eat some of his meal. Pretty laid back in this area.

    I saw a new piece once on a study examining why humans over eat. The study said that about 2 years of age kids start eating for other reason rather than being hungry. To oversimplify the research, the study said that because parents reward the child with food, or make them at at dinner/breakfast what have you that we re-program the natural tendency to only eat when we're hungry to eat for other reasons (ex. because it tastes good, or bored and what have you). It was pretty interesting, and made sense.

    One of the study examples was to set up a bowl of soup in front of 5 adults and by some kind of hidden device slowly keep re-filling their bowl with soup so they never finished it. Most of the adults (if not all) kept eating and eating, far beyond the point whereby they satisfied their hunger. A great majority of younger kids quit eating the soup when they became full.


Leave me a note!