Why do I use animals to discuss childhood temperaments?
No, I’m not calling your child a wild animal (but no judgement if you do, though).
I could’ve chosen colours, numbers, shapes or letters of the alphabet, but I remember something easier by association. I decided on this approach to make it easier to remember, but also incorporate a bit of fun. Most people like watching animals and we laugh at their behaviour, because we can recognise ourselves in them.
OK, OK, let me rather be truly honest. I love animals. And I have a Zoology degree to prove it. So, after giving all these beautiful reasons that makes a lot of sense on paper, it actually came down to my love of animals. The true beauty of the uniqueness between species has always fascinated me. The beautiful colours of some of the bird species, the majesty of a male lion’s roar, the call of the fish eagle, the playfulness of all the new arrivals in spring, the elephant matriarch leading her herd to water in the desert…
Hang on. Just give me a moment to collect myself.
As a girl born in Africa, my heart will always long for the African sky over the African bush.
Deep breaths, deep breaths!
OK, back on topic.
I think we enjoy watching animals, because they are so different from us, yet we can often see the ‘human traits’ in them and thus recognise ourselves.
Some kids are like monkeys, true entertainers who love attention. They have a bubbly personality, make friends easily, like talking to anyone who will listen. They have amazing imagination, and can be quick-witted. They wear their emotions on their sleeves and can go to both ends of the extreme in seconds. They can have a short concentration span and easily get side-tracked. They are not detail focused and will avoid unpleasant or boring topics and tasks. And no, no strict routines allowed.
Then you get the kids that need to be handled with care. And gloves. Not for their safety, but yours. They have a strong will, are competitive and can be demanding. They remind me of lions. Even a cute, little kitten needs to be handled with the appropriate personal protective equipment. They can be fiercely independent, and want to do things on their own. Often, they are not very emotional or sympathetic. These kids also have strong leadership skills, are very goal orientated and makes great project managers. They look up to and admire strong, fair leadership and mentoring, but disrespects people who are not ‘deserving’ of the role in their eyes. They know exactly what they want and how to get there.
Other kids can be quite sensitive, perfectionistic and know all the rules, even the fine print. They need all the detailed information before they can even start a task, and then completing it to exact specifications. They can struggle to make a decision, as they always want more information first. These kids can easily become anxious, stressed or worried. Just like a gang of meerkats spotting a flying eagle many kilometers away and already running for that safety hole. They require lots of structure and routine, so lists, star charts, schedules, diaries and any other organisational tool were made just for them, probably by adult meerkats who use it themselves.
And then you have the koalas. The kids who are steady and stable and prefer a slow lifestyle. They easily feel overwhelmed and exhausted by a too-busy schedule or a fast-paced environment. They like socialising every so often, but then require time on their own to ‘recover’. At social events, they are the observers and definitely not in the spotlight. Their biggest fear is conflict and they will do anything possible to avoid it. They don’t really get into arguments, but will protest in silence by being really stubborn. They will avoid responsibility if they can, as they prefer to do things that requires little effort.
So, as you can see, for me it was a logic next step to combine my love for animals with my knowledge of different temperaments. A fun and easy way to remember it. Especially on those hard days of parenting when you are just trying to survive.
Go hug your baby monkey, lion cub, little meerkat or koala joey, as they are all special and unique. May you enjoy your parenting journey as you guide them to become the best version of themselves.
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