A few years ago I was introduced to a tool that has really helped me personally and as a parent...it is a behavior assessment tool called DISC.
D stands for Dominance
I stands for Influence
S stands for Steadiness
C stands for Conscientiousness
Each of the four categories has a list of behaviors that is typical with someone with that dominant behavior style. It includes communication preferences, ways they process information and relate to people. Of course people can lean towards a couple difference categories or be stronger in one than the other. One of the reasons it has been huge for me is that as far as I can tell a this stage each of my four kids represents a different style. As I help my kids negotiate their differences and their preferences for how they are treated it helps me not just communicate but navigate these conversations.
I have one kid who seems to be a "high D". D's are motivated by competition. They like to win. They are direct and to the point. They think and move fast, work independently, are risk takers and like things that are concrete. Sometimes they can be seen as insensitive and not detailed oriented. I have another who is a strong "S". An "S" doesn't like to move fast. They like to have plenty of time. They like things that are stable, predictable. They also like to help people and are very loyal. Confrontation isn't their strong point, they want to get along with everyone. So a "D and an S" who are in relationship with each other naturally tend to behave in ways that drive the other one nuts, or in ways that can be seen as hurtful. The S wants to help, the D wants to do it on their own. The S wants to avoid conflict the D confronts to get something done. As a parent I get to help them expand their natural abilities, to help one learn how to navigate conflict and the other to learn to be sensitive.
An "I" is enthusiastic, loves being around people, likes action and is motivated by friendship. They like being the center of attention, collaborating and are generally optimistic. Like a D they may not be detailed oriented and move quickly but unlike a D they may not be direct and they may not finish their tasks. A "C" on the other hand likes to know all the details. Like a D they are independent workers but like an S they like to take their time and stability. They like to acquire knowledge and value accuracy and quality. Unlike an I they prefer to work on their own and don't like to make quick decisions.
So when it comes to playing a game as a family: My "D" kid wants to play to win and doesn't care too much about the accuracy of the rules and taking time to set it all up. My "S" wants to play as long as the whole family plays and likes to help everyone else. Competition actually makes it less fun. The "C" likes to read the rules and make sure we are all playing the game correctly. My "I" doesn't really care about the game itself but will do whatever it takes to make it fun including messing up the whole game, doing a dance while we are setting it up and cracking jokes along the way. Each kid has the potential to drive another kid nuts. But if we can help them understand their preferences and use their strengths we actually can have a great time together. It would be easy for me to tell my D to knock it off and stop being so insensitive. Or to tell my C to hurry up, my I to settle down and my S to stop worrying about how everyone else is doing. These might be things they all need to learn but it helps me have patience when somehow I see their weaknesses in connection to their strengths, their personalities and their basic behavior tendencies.
I took a two day class on DISC but there are books and online resources that both test your style, help you learn your natural communication preferences. For a basic overview of each category see www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/. For more in-depth I really like Jason Hedge's work with the DISC. He wrote a book with Danny Silk "DISCovering You and your Team". Wendy Crawford also has a good book "Understanding Me Understanding You." (Both books can be found at shop.ibethel.org) Of course I haven't tested my kids and I think that people change over time. I'm not interested in pegging them into a specific personality type. DISC however has help put a frame work around their natural behavior tendencies which has helped me understand how to communicate with and connect to them, and of course how I naturally communicate and connect. Genesis says that God created humans in God's image, male and female. So I like to think that each one of us is unique, different and a different representation of a part of God. I find it fascinating that i have have four little humans, born of the same gene pool and in the same family culture yet with such different preferences and behaviors. I love watching them grow and develop and getting to empower them to be all they were created to be and am sometimes find it hard to not try to make them more like me and my preferences. DISC is one tool that has helped me let them be them and me be me!