Parenting Kids with BIG Personalities … a Visual Tool

We have a very sweet little girl with a very BIG personality. She is 7. She is also confident, she reads people unbelievably well (and has since she was a baby), she easily draws in attention and she has an amazing gift for storytelling. All of these things about her personality make her an amazing person to know.

Just like any personality trait, these can be both positive and negative. Think about it. Any positive thing you can say about a person can easily be switched to a negative. “She’s so nice” can easily become “she’s a pushover”. “He’s smart” might also be “he’s a know it all”.

And any negative thing could be flipped as well, “he’s impulsive” becomes “he takes action”. “She’s loud” can also mean “her voice carry’s really well” (something I’ve always wished for). “He’s bossy” might just mean “he’s a future leader learning the ropes”.

I’m a firm believer that finding the positive is the best way to go… especially with our kids.

great visual tool for parenting kids with big personalities
We had a parenting challenge not too long ago that reminded me of this in a very big way. While I can’t go into specifics (privacy rights of the kid in question), I think the watered down version is helpful enough.

A less than desirable behavior popped up (as they do) and we focused on the behavior pretty much the same way we handled it with her brother. The difference was, with him our parenting strategy worked. With her, something else happened.

She was acting out in other areas. Her teacher and other family members were coming to me about tantrums and meltdowns. All of these things were so unlike her. I thought about it and talked about it with some wise Mom friends and thought about it some more. I finally came to the conclusion that we were making a very serious mistake.

This behavior, while absolutely not okay, hit way too close to home. She was doing something that comes very naturally to her, something that felt right. And then she was told it was wrong. Ack, even just writing that down makes me cringe.

I knew we needed a new plan. Instead of squashing the behavior, we needed to teach her how to use it constructively. That right there was a light bulb moment for me.
Here’s what I did…
great visual tool for parenting kids with big personalities

Setting Up the Visual Tool for Positive Parenting

I made a chart. Not unlike many of the charts we’ve made for fun.
  • I gave it a title, Special Abilities.
  • In circles below the title I listed her very special abilities. She smiled as I read them… and agreed they were true.
  • Then I made two columns. I labeled one gifts and one blocks.
  • I wrote out cards with things like “Using your strong voice and confidence to start and continue conversations.” “Singing a song to make someone feel better.” “Leaving a group because someone else is leading an activity.” “Making up a story to avoid getting in trouble.” I made sure to include all of her special abilities. Some of the cards had positive ways to use these abilities and some had negative. Everyone was relevant to her, examples of how she has used these abilities.

great visual tool for parenting kids with big personalities

Using the Visual Tool for Positive Parenting

  • Once the chart was made, I sat down with her. I explained that her abilities (like all abilities) can be used as a gift to lift up and connect her with the people around her… or they can be used as blocks that create walls between her and others. We talked about that for a little bit.
  • We read the cards together and she placed them where she thought they would go. If there was a card that I felt belonged in a different category we talked about it further.

Would you believe the meltdowns, tantrums and that less than positive behavior stop right then? I certainly don’t think it will be roses and dancing from here on out, but I do think we figured out a new way to address challenges that arise. I’m always grateful from more parenting tools!

I have three questions for you. What behavior is driving you crazy right now? Is it related to your little one’s personality? Does it have a positive counterpart? 

More Positive Parenting Tools

Positive Behavior Book
Connect with Kids by Looking Them in the Eye
How to Get Kids to go to Bed


  1. First time commenting, but I want to let you know that I am really impressed by the concise, effective visuals you come up with for parenting and learning. I have been slowly implementing several of your tips and they have made a huge impact for our little toddler, but (currently) more for my children’s class at church.

    I also love the nuanced principle being illustrated in this particular example. Makes me think twice about my own “faults.” Thank you for sharing your excellent ideas! : )

  2. Thanks for this eye-opening post. I like it when you say “Instead of squashing the behavior, we needed to teach her how to use it constructively”.
    I’ll keep it in mind for next time.
    Best regards

  3. My first time at your website. I love this! I think it could also be a great tool to help parents see how a trait that they might consider mostly negative (e.g., competitiveness) can actually be one of their child’s Special Abilities. It might help to consciously come up with positive behaviors related to that trait to see how they can help their child channel that trait into positive actions. Great stuff. Thanks!

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