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Behavioral Style Analysis – The Parent Trap

July 25th, 2010

Often when I give lectures or training classes I’ll ask the parents in the room, “for those of you with more than one kid, at what age did you realize they didn’t act the same?” Usually they laugh and say they realized in the first few months, some even say they noticed the difference before the younger child was even born. I tell them, “see… you’re already practitioners of behavioral style observation.”

If you’re a parent it’s only natural, you’re going to become out of necessity a keen observer of your children’s behavior. Day after day of close inspection and interaction are bound to define your reflexes based on behavioral expectations: you figure out that your daughter is very detail-oriented in the way she carefully arranges her doll collection, or you note that your youngest son always seems to be directing his friends as to which game they’re going to play today. Or another parent realizes that his daughter always wants the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day, while his son never cares because he always swaps his lunch because he seems to be friends with every kid in school. Mothers and fathers get to put in lots of hours observing and comparing, but what they may not have is the vocabulary to identify that the girl with the super-organized dolls is a high C, the boy who is setting the playtime goals is a high D, the girl who likes to stick to the same routine for lunch everyday is a high S, or that the boy who knows every kid in school is a high I. Yet vocabulary aside, the parents clearly understand the differences that each child expresses through his or her actions, but without the blueprint of a structured approach to understanding behavior as provided by DISC profiles, they are in a disadvantaged position when handling collisions of behavioral style.

When the High I boy with tons of friends takes his sister’s PB&J sandwich to trade with his buddy who said he likes peanut butter, he’s just following his impulsive behavioral pattern of trying to please and influence, not realizing that he may be creating an avalanche of stress for his sister, the High S, who is now very distraught to have the reassuring stability of her expected sandwich being unexpectedly replaced by her brother’s turkey on wheat. Further, if the parent is unaware of his or her own behavioral style they may fall into a biased reaction to the incident. If the mother is also a High I, she might be led by her behavioral disposition to take the son’s side, while the High S father might see the issue as stress-inducing his daughter does.

The parental dilemma grows as the kids get older and are exposed to an increasing number of influences and experiences that are outside of the parent’s sphere of observation. Expectations set by past patterns of behavior may be jarringly disrupted by the emergence of behavioral shifts so often seen during the teen years. Here again, the trained DISC behaviorist has an advantage in deciphering the puzzle of disruption due to inconsistent behavior. Proper DISC profiling examines and charts both natural and adapted behavioral profiles – shifting environments and peer dynamics are as likely to cause behavioral adaptations as any stressful office – understanding modifications of behavior and the gap between natural and adapted styles can give the experienced behavioral strategist data points for understanding that a typical parent wouldn’t have at their disposal.

On the other hand teenagers are just weird 🙂

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