Heather Bellamy interviews Hettie Brittz about 'Growing Kids With Character', and how you can identify your child's temperament and parent accordingly.

Hettie Brittz
Hettie Brittz

Heather: In your book you talk about the 'Tall Trees Kid's Profiles', can you tell me what they are?

Hettie: They are tests that enable a parent to determine the child's personality type, and when we measure something as elusive as personality, we need a little bit of help.

This test is the first of its kind that allows up to four people to look at different scenarios, in which your child could show their temperament, to make a choice as to how they think the child would respond and what they would say. The responses of the four people combined, deliver a report that we call the 'Tall Trees Kid's Report'. This will explain where your child's strengths are, how they communicate and what their love needs are. Which helps us to nurture them appropriately, communicate with them in a way that makes sense, and to show them real unconditional love.

Heather: Could you give me some examples to help us understand it?

Hettie: Let's say you take your child for a visit and you announce that playtime is now over, the four personality types will respond to that situation uniquely. A child that we call the rose bush, because they can be a little bit prickly, will probably throw a tantrum or be really angry. They may blame you that they never get to do anything that's fun and will try everything in their power to stay a bit longer. The child that we call the palm tree child, who is fun-loving, popular and a talker, loves friends so much that they will probably burst into very sincere tears. These are not designed to manipulate, but really are because they are being torn away from their friends. The pine tree child, if you think of a pine as being a peaceful kind of tree, and when we smell pine fragrance it brings a calm over us. This is a child who will probably just go "Oh, ok. Goodbye friend" and be alright to leave because they are seen to be very compliant. Then there is the child we call the boxwood tree. When we look at boxwood in nature they are usually perfectly pruned like topiary trees in a fancy garden. This is the child who keeps to the rules and who will say goodbye, but can whimper and whine a little bit and will probably let you have it all the way home by crying on the back seat.

Parents reading this scenario will be able to predict how their child would respond. This is what temperament does. It gives us a prediction of what would be hard for our child to deal with and what would be easy. 'Growing Kids With Character' will give you the guidelines on how to help your child through situations like that and when to know when they are manipulating, or when they really just need our compassionate support.

Heather: What about parenting? I imagine you parent based on who you are and your character, but how does parenting style need to change depending on what type of child you've got?

Understanding Your Child's Personality

Hettie: You're absolutely right. Temperament doesn't bother us in isolation, but it is in relationships with clashing temperaments that we really need parenting help.

I am the opposite of my daughter and all of what I teach and write, around temperaments, comes from that painful place of naturally doing exactly what she didn't need and having to be very intentional about meeting her personality needs.

I'm very fast paced; I need to get things done by yesterday; I'm a talker and a doer. She's a thinker and feeler. So my rose bush personality, that is driven and can be a bit forceful (she will say can be very forceful), almost damaged this little peaceful pine tree personality that she is. There was a day when she said to me, "Mum, I often feel like I have a fox on my heels and I'm a little bunny rabbit." And I said, "Sweetie, who is doing that to you?" And she turned to me and said, "Mum, it's actually you."

The thing is, I love her. I waited six years for her. I wanted her desperately and I enjoyed her, but because I did not understand the personality differences and how they play out, I did everything exactly the wrong way round with her. So how we nurture, how we communicate and how we discipline is ultimately allied to temperament. She does not need spankings and harsh punishment; she does not need a person screaming at her, it shuts her down completely. She needs half a word and actually just a facial expression, then she's brought back to the straight and narrow. But a child like a rose bush, who is tough and who thrives on competition and who wants to test the boundaries, needs a much firmer hand.

Heather: So do you believe that it's a parent's responsibility to have to alter who they are for the sake of their child? And if it is, how do they do that if they feel "I can't be someone I'm not?"

Hettie: It is a combination of give and take. I believe there is design in the children and parents who are put together in families. My personality is a gift to my child, as much as my child's personality is a gift to me. I'm not supposed to change them. I don't need to change, but I need to adapt and there is a big difference. I don't need to become somebody else, but I need to be mindful of how I affect her. So in my case, I need to speak more softly and I need to sit down and not tower over her. Those are respectful behaviours that are reasonable expectations to put on a parent.

Heather: In your book you talk about training and teaching different types of children and also speaking their language, all for the purpose of growing their potential, purpose and passion. Could you unpack that a bit more? Why should parents be looking at those three areas?