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Lisa's Articles > Parenting with Style: Why You Might Clash with Your Child

Parenting with Style: Why You Might Clash with Your Child

By Caron Goode

Every morning, six-year-old Josh and his mom clash at breakfast just as Mom is ready to walk out the door. A daydreamer by nature, Josh moves through life at a slower pace than his task-oriented mom who values organization. Their distinct ways of relating to the world reveal their obviously different personal styles.

A “personal style” is a natural predisposition toward time, stress, people, tasks, and situations. Understanding a child’s style enables parents, caregivers, and teachers to interact more effectively and get results. Researcher, Terry Anderson, Ph.D. notes four style categories: behavioral, cognitive, interpersonal, and affective.

When parents can communicate and interact in ways that fit their children’s unique styles, there is harmony in the home. Both parents and children develop confidence and self-esteem.

A Constant Through Life
Personal style is only one of six factors that make up personality; it’s a foundation for one’s preferences, reactions, and values. It remains a constant throughout life. The chart below provides an easy way to “picture” the differences in the four styles, followed by brief descriptions and suggestions for interacting with your children.

Style Name

Preference for…

Limited with…

Best Learns...

1. Behavioral




2. Cognitive




3. Interpersonal




4. Affective




Source: Robinson, Everett, T. Why Aren’t You More Like Me? Styles & Skills for Leading and Living with Credibility. Seattle: Consulting Resource Group International, Inc. 1997. p. 30


1. Behavioral Style
Behavioral children need freedom and self-expression; they enjoy structure but not controls. They prefer to learn by themselves rather in a group. They look to real-life examples rather than abstract thinking or discussions. Rising to their challenges as problem-solvers, they’re often bold, willful, productive, competitive, unemotional, and self-reliant. They like to be leaders and recognized for their achievements. When they feel a parent’s incongruence, they question authority. These children rarely talk about their problems or emotions. Instead, they set goals and take the necessary actions to reach them.

Parenting communications for Behavioral-style children: These children need a no-blame, non-emotional approach. Be fair, open, logical, honest, and direct. To get tasks done, give them the task, state the benefit or reward, and ask them when and how they can do it. Don’t stand over them or try to direct their activities. Instead, set the structure for this child, and expect it to be done without having to explain the ‘why’ of it. If you’re an emotional or touchy-feely parent, don’t take it personally if this child doesn’t respond in kind.

2. Cognitive Style
Cognitive-oriented children need affirmation and understanding. They take instruction well, admiring expertise and knowledge. Yet they are deep thinkers, and like to examine issues and relationships. Respectful of others, they appreciate respect in return. They value intimacy and good relationships. They work well with data, are organized, and can be perfectionists. Because their talents lie in numbers and mathematics, they often spend hours at their computers.

Parenting communications for Cognitive-style children: Heart-to-heart appreciation and respect work best. State facts calmly (“you didn’t clean your room today”) rather than argue or make generalities (“you never clean your room.”). Because cognitive children prefer not to compete and might not respond to rewards or games, lay out activities and then provide time and freedom for children to complete them. Make only constructive suggestions. As perfectionists, they’ll criticize themselves enough without a parent’s help.

3. Interpersonal Style
Interpersonal-style children need appreciation and trust. Highly perceptive, they require honesty in communication and relationships. They are the peacemakers in your family, and will worry about you if there are arguments or illnesses. Sometimes shy, they like to feel included in the family. They value secure relationships and stable environments, and don’t fare well with transitions unless prepared beforehand. These children feel disharmony deeply and might internalize it. They’re often employed in service businesses because they are people-focused.

Parenting communications for Interpersonal-style children: Friendly conversations and clear communications that don’t threaten or punish are advised. They listen well. Model behavior for them, as they’ll hear and watch you. Solve problems together, each contributing to the solution. Present tasks so that success can be measured easily before progressing to graduated stages of difficulty. Don’t present the hardest problem first; or children may feel overwhelmed and won’t finish it. Appreciate these children often, and they will feel great about themselves.

4. Affective Style
Like Josh, these children are highly creative and artistic; later in life, they’re called visionaries or dreamers. They need to feel through things before making decisions. They easily live in the world of ideas as a writer does, or find other expressive outlets like organizing games around friends. They enjoy variety and get bored easily. They crave acknowledgement for their creativity. They want to be the center of attention. They value friendships and easily enjoy life. They learn by doing.

Parenting communications for Affective-style children: Give these children affection, touch, conversation, and personal attention. Share stories about life, and look at photo albums. Engage them in group activities; they’ll rise to challenges when presented with excitement and fun. These children love outings, family vacations, and new experiences.

Allow them to be creative, offer structure and discipline positively and enthusiastically. Encourage them in projects involving drama, theater, group activities, peer counseling, and selling for fund raising. Good luck asking these kids to take out the garbage!

How can Josh’s mom communicate better with her affective-style son? Applying her organization skills, she can develop a colored chart showing scheduled times for Josh’s activities. She sets a clown-face timer for 20 minutes, the amount of time it takes to share breakfast. When the buzzer sounds, she gets Josh to move by gently touching his arm. That urges him to get ready before leaving for school.

Find out your Personal Style Indicator with our exclusive assessment tool.

Copyright © 2004 Dr. Caron Goode. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprinted with Permission.

About The Author ...

Caron Goode's (EdD) insights are drawn from her fifteen years in private psychotherapy practice and thirty years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment, and health and wellness. She is the author of eight books (www.inspiredparenting.net ) and the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents,(www.acpi.biz) a training program for parents & professionals who wish to mentor other parents. A mom and step-mom, she and her husband live in Whitney, Texas. Reach her at caronbgoode@inspiredparenting.net.


Caron Goode

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