Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

Printer Friendly Version

Title: Is Your Home a Zoo?

Category: Positive Parenting


      Dr. John Trent, Ph.D. is a family counselor, seminar speaker and co-author of eight books on family life, parenting and Christian parenting.  He has a good analogy for dividing up children's personalities into four animal categories.  They include lions, otters, golden retrievers and beavers.  By understanding that each child is a combination of these four animals but probably more of one or two of them, we can help our children to get along better and appreciate their whole personality and special place in this world.

      Lion children are strong leaders.  They are very purposeful and decisive.  They have strong opinions and they are not afraid to express them.  They are very determined and are always ready to overcome obstacles.  They like quick action and are not very patient.  If your child is a lion, you may have discipline problems with him.  You might try discussing rules for good behavior with them and set up a written plan of consequences if the rules are broken.  This will probably be more agreeable and work out more harmoniously.  It will allow you to be less of a policeman in your home. 

      The next child personality type is the otter, who is like a party waiting to happen.  These are precious children who love to talk, are energetic, impulsive, and enthusiastic.  When guests come over they want to entertain them.  They have great wit and humor and are frequently the life of the home or any party.  They love to start projects but get bored quickly and rarely finish them.  They just enjoy constant activity and socialization.  If they are not on the phone or doing something all the time, they get bored.  These children are susceptible to peer pressure as they get older.  In resolving problems with otter children, remember their great need to talk and be liked.  Help them to construct a more basic contract system similar to your lion child with definite rules and consequences spelled out.  Put this in writing and they will begin to learn that responsibility goes along with their fun loving life style. 

      The third child personality type is the golden retriever.  This child is loyal, sensitive and nurturing.  They tend to get along well with other children and will tend to give in to the other child's suggestions.  They are very good listeners and feel deeply about everyone they love.  These strengths which are helpful in becoming a peace maker, supporter or nurturer can also, when pushed too far, become a co-dependency.  In other words, they become so supportive of their friend or family member or parent that it becomes their problem as well.  In resolving problems with golden retrievers, help them not feel too much over-commitment in wanting to please everyone.  They are usually easy to parent and discipline.  Teach them to say "no".  Although serving is a wonderful character trait, they need to learn reasonable limits.  Regular, ongoing discussions with your golden retriever child will help them to make wise decisions throughout their life.

      The final animal personality type is the beaver.  Beaver children are very persistent and like to complete all their tasks.  They may not start as many projects as an otter but they will finish each one that they start.  They are very organized and have everything color-coded and neat in their closet.  They love lists and they love to finish projects and cross some things off their list.  In resolving problems with a beaver child, remember their very strong sense of right and wrong.  Of the four child personality types beavers tend to be more susceptible to adolescent depression. Possibly this is because they have such high expectations and they are perfectionists.  Help them to set realistic goals and praise them for their good character traits which are separate and apart from completing any specific tasks.  Again a clear, well spelled out rule system can help them to know they are on track and feel appreciated.  Now in raising a brood of all four of these animals or any combination of them in a home, it helps to let each child understand their unique values and strengths.  In other words, if you have a daughter who is a golden retriever and a son who is a lion they may be constantly fighting and frustrating you as a parent.  Cut out a picture of their personality type and stick it on the refrigerator.  Write down the personality characteristics that go along with their animal type.  As they understand each other's unique personality they will  better compromise and get along instead of the lion constantly expecting the golden retriever to speed up and the golden retriever expecting the lion the slow down and be easy going.   Besides understanding each other better as siblings, you can expect lots of good laughs and good humor as children work out their differences through greater empathy for each other.  Try to build on each child's strengths. If you have a lion child, give him challenges.  Give a beaver child a project and a list of step by step things to check off as he accomplishes it.  For an otter child, let them help you organize the family supper when relatives or friends are coming over and let them direct the after supper social time.  For a golden retriever, praise their loyalty and commitment in getting along with everyone and doing their part in the family. Help each child to see that their unique personality characteristics are specially given to them by God and make them a unique and beautiful person.  Don't try to change them but as the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, "Raise up a child in the way he should go (according to his personality style or animal type) and when he is old he will not depart from it".