Tendencies: the way children form habits

I listened to an audio book by Gretchen Rubin recently.  Since learning she was a lawyer who gave up the legal profession to become a writer, I have become a fan of hers.  I recently took that brave step too.

In the audio book, Rubin describes four types of tendencies which underlies every person’s habits.  She calls this the habit sorting-hat.  It is important to understand these tendencies when breaking and/or forming new habits because one approach will not suit everyone given each person’s underlying tendencies.

The four tendencies

The four tendencies are:

  • questioner
  • obliger
  • rebel
  • upholder

You can read more about each of them here.  If we are going to succeed in teaching our children good money habits, we need to understand the child’s tendency. A child’s tendency is his or her default response to our ideas and suggestions.  It is the reason why some children are willing to participate while others are reluctant.

Most children are obligers to begin with.  When they are young, they want to do the right thing to please their parents, teachers, etc.  But as the child matures in his or her thinking and understanding of the world, these tendencies will change.  An obliger may become a questionner (“but why?”) and eventually either a rebel or upholder or remain an obliger or questionner.  Understanding each of these tendencies and being aware of how our children are changing will go a long way to engaging them in learning about money.

Effective communication

I have three children.  It comes as no surprise that the youngest child is an obliger, the middle child is a questionner/obliger and my eldest is a questionner/upholder.  Before undertaking this exercise, there were times I have wondered why some of my children were more receptive to my ideas and suggestions and some would argue and hold back on their participation.

Understanding my children’s tendencies has made me reflect on how to communicate differently to each of them given their underlying tendencies.  It is still the same ideas and suggestions that I may be implementing, but I now take a different approach with each child to convince him or her to try.

This extends well beyond the realm of money lessons to communication in general.

What is your child’s tendency?  Has it influenced the way you communicate with your child?  Share it with us in the comments.

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