Part 2 of an interview with Hettie Brittz,
author of Growing Kids with Character
Parents are faced with the enormous task of not only raising their children to be productive members of society but also helping them grow into the individuals God intended them to be. However, God created each child and each parent to be unique, so what parenting techniques work for some children do not work for others. In Growing Kids with Character: Nurturing Your Child’s Potential, Purpose, and Passion (David C Cook), Hettie Brittz offers parents advice tailored to their own personality as well as to the temperament of each of their children.
Q: Why do parents need to change and shape themselves to raise their child instead of demanding the child be more pliable? Doesn’t this put the child in charge and teach him or her that everyone should bow to his or her needs?
It can easily seem as though Growing Kids with Character promotes child-centered parenting that coddles kids by ensuring the world accommodates all their needs while never asking them to grow beyond their comfort zone. That is something real life simply won’t do for the child, and I can say emphatically I’d never recommend that approach.
Instead, the idea is to discern the absolute essential emotional and spiritual needs of each child and to fulfill those while identifying the areas in which each child will need a bit of discomfort, challenging expectations from our side, and support to change potentially harmful or unhelpful characteristics. Let’s revisit the idea of a gardener for a moment. The balance is always struck between giving the necessary fertilizer and protection against frostbite, which could destroy the tree on the one hand, while doing painful pruning for the sake of a good harvest on the other. Similarly, it would be unreasonable to expect that a tree would bear fruit while withholding what is essential to the particular tree’s flourishing, wouldn’t it? A child has to feel loved, accepted, understood, and believed in before such a child can press beyond selfishness and entitlement.
Q: What challenges do parents face when their personality is one tree type and their child is a very different type?
The toughest part is anticipating needs that are so far removed from ours. I can’t, for example, imagine that someone would want to be a passive spectator because I always engage, even when I shouldn’t. I am a contra-pine (a combination of the driven Rose Bush, the adrenaline-seeking Palm Tree, and the dutiful Boxwood who needs to finish everything). God gave me a Pine Tree daughter who is my opposite. She is content to be on the sidelines 90 percent of the time. She can stop a project that doesn’t interest her halfway in and have fun sitting down. In parenting her with her nature in mind, I have to curb the urge constantly to hurry her up, press her to participate, or push her forward into leadership situations where she’s not inclined to step up of her own accord. If I do those things, she experiences a need to be someone she isn’t to win my approval.
Now imagine an outgoing Palm Tree mom whose Boxwood child would rather sit and color than go on an outing. This mom may need to slow down, sit down, tone down, and essentially dial down her volume and gestures to connect with her child.
Q: Not only does each child have his or her own natural personality, but each parent has a natural way of parenting as well. How is it possible to work with your natural tendencies yet parent each child individually?
It starts with believing that God has a design for your family. Your tendencies and style are not a problem. They are God given and will do two things: provide essentials that are not present in your children’s make-up and are part of their journey to maturity, and challenge your children by creating the type of discomfort that makes both parent and child grow.
Take for example the easygoing mom who resists schedules and routine. She’s probably a Pine Tree and Palm Tree rolled into one. This Pine-Palm mom is super nurturing, tends to have lots of grace with mistakes, and creates a warm atmosphere. God very likely will give her a Boxwood Tree or Rose Bush child to raise who might not appreciate her style all the time. A Boxwood kid would need routine and, as a toddler, will have many whiny tantrums over little mistakes and frustrations, which the Pine-Palm mom may not be able simply to smile or hug away. The end result will be a mom who starts planning and structuring her home life more carefully, and a child who learns to take certain things in stride and be more flexible. Both ultimately adapt and win! It becomes challenging when we have two or more kids, each with his or her own needs, but the same principle applies. Each child will smooth a different set of our rough edges, and each will gain something unique from us as his or her parents despite the apparent clashes.
Being similar to our kids can make us behave extra tough with our kids in areas where we have struggled. For example, a dad is a laid-back Pine and has been told all his life he was lazy or too shy. He may force his Pine Tree son into public-speaking classes or leadership positions to try to save him from the same hurtful feedback. The opposite could happen too; the dad could be very sensitive to the pressure that was put on him and respond by setting expectations too low for his Pine Tree son, permitting him to remain in his comfort zone. This may actually stunt his son’s development. Many people say we are most irritated by traits in others that are in fact present in us. Assuming this is true, an ambitious Rose Bush mom with her strong will could be super strict with her strong-willed Rose Bush child, determined to “break her in” to be more compliant than she was as a child.
We’ve seen that some personalities get along best with kids who are like them, while others gel better with kids who are their opposite. It also depends on the parenting situation. Let’s take Boxwood parents and kids as an example. They’re usually detailed and task driven and can be pedantic. Put them together in the task of wrapping birthday presents, and they’re a top team. The result will be color coordinated, tidy, and timely. They work well together. However, if they have a conversation about dating and both tend to hear the negative or assume the worst, which us Boxwoods tend to do, you have a recipe for hurt feelings, triggered defenses, and even tears. Socially and emotionally they are less of a great match than they are on a task. There is not a clear-cut pro or con to having temperament differences between you or your child. That is why the book addresses tips for each tree type parent and child for working, talking, and playing better together.
Q: At the end of the book you include an addendum on “Spanking and the Biblical Mandate.” What reasons did you have for devoting an extra chapter on this specific form of discipline?
In the original version of the book, published in South Africa, the little bits about spanking were addressed in the Palm Tree and Rose Bush chapters as a discipline option among many others that generally work better with their temperament at a young age than with the Boxwood Tree’s and Pine Tree’s temperaments. I decided to remove it from those chapters and only address it as an option in the back of the book because of the understandable issues with spanking being outlawed in many countries around the world and with child abuse in this area becoming a more conscious social concern. In theory, many parents say they oppose it, but in practice we see an overwhelmingly large percentage of parents admitting to spanking their kids on occasion. I felt there had to be a guide for a biblical way of doing what parents end up doing in anger or frustration, even when many don’t want to consider it an option. It is my way of saying we should at least reflect on both sides and decide where we stand on the spanking issue, so that when we, a spouse, a grandparent, or another adult differs from us about the matter, we can say we’ve carefully considered it and have made up our minds about how it will or will not figure into how we raise our kids. Reports from countries where spanking has been outlawed or effectively phased out several years ago are beginning to come in, and the results of that social adjustment are not resoundingly positive. I felt parents needed to know that.
Q: Why is it important to cultivate your child’s unique way of encountering, following, and worshipping God?
God is a God of creativity and diversity. He makes us works of art, and I believe He wants us to glorify Him in colorful, unique ways. When we force a spiritual style and spiritual journey on our kids, they may not worship God the way He intended for them.
The apostles Peter and Paul had vastly different encounters with God. Peter (a Palm Tree) was called from his boat to a more exhilarating adventure—fishing for men—while Paul (a Rose Bush) had an almost traumatic encounter with God. God grabbed Paul from behind, struck him with blindness, confronted him about the direction of his life, and sent him a message that he would suffer much for the cause of Christ. Moses (a Boxwood Tree) encountered God in the miraculous sight of a burning bush and was given his calling in great detail, while Abraham (a Pine Tree) had sit-down meals with God and angels in a precious friendship-style relationship. It’s going to be the same with our kids; each will find, hear, follow, and honor God uniquely.
I believe in a purposeful design for every atom and cell in God’s creation. Our kids have designer DNA in their bodies and a calling in their souls and spirits. Their temperaments are adjusted to the same tune so their whole being will worship Him as they find their God-given passions and follow these passions toward their purpose in Christ.
Q: Why does a parent need to read the entire book and not just the chapters that address their main tree type?
Temperament means mixture. To understand the subtleties of how each person has two or more other temperament types mixed into his or her dominant tree type, one must read all the chapters to get a truer picture. We never deal only with one person or one clear-cut personality, so the other chapters will help us with our other kids, spouses, kids we mentor outside of our home, and even ourselves! Some of us are pressured out of our original designs. Seeing the child we used to be described in some of the other chapters may help us rediscover our nature and celebrate ourselves. I truly believe God rejoices every time we gain insight into another person because He is all about relationships. In the letters of Paul and the book of James, spiritual maturity is very often equated to getting along with others, cooperating in the body of believers despite our diversity, and having grace with one another. I would be delighted if Growing Kids with Character has even a small impact on unity among families, among church members, and among God’s people anywhere.
Q: Where can parents go to complete the Tall Trees Profile for their children? Should parents take the Tall Trees Parenting Profile as well?
Talltreestraining.com has a variety of Tree Type Profiles, and parents can follow the links on the product page of the website to complete the Tall Trees Kids Test. Those who purchased the book will have one free code for a complete Tall Trees Kids Report with individualized feedback.
The Tall Trees Parenting Profile is all about mom and dad and their natural styles. Having the combined insight will, of course, be even better, but the profile reports are optional, as there is an additional cost for taking those assessments. Every effort was made to give parents enough information in the book to make progress even without the assessments. We do offer discounts on the Parenting Profiles to those who purchased (un)Natural Mom, and there are frequent promotions offered. Parents are encouraged to keep an eye on the Tall Trees Profiles Facebook Page and talltreestraining.com page for these offers.
Learn more about Growing Kids with Character and Hettie Brittz at www.hettiebrittz.com or by following her on Facebook (HettieBrittzAuthor) or Twitter (@hettiebrittz).