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Articles / Applying to College / Parents: Know Your Children

Dec. 5, 2012

Parents: Know Your Children

Moms and Dads, if you have more than one child, have you noticed any differences between (or among) them in personality and temperament? I'll bet you have. I certainly noticed the differences between our daughter and son when they were growing up. Our daughter was five years older than our son (in fact, she still is). She's outgoing, compassionate, traditional, and tends toward obsessiveness in her attention to detail.

Our son, on the other hand, is somewhat reserved, rational in thought, open to new ideas and directions, and flexible as far as details are concerned. If you met them at the same time, you would notice some differences right away (the more obvious ones), but the important (less obvious) contrasts would take some time. That's where you parents have the advantage with your children. You have the time to observe, analyze and discern the more subtle personality and temperament shadings.


How then does this relate to the world at large, your children's development, and your role as a parent in their impending college admissions process?

Well, there are billions of people in the world. Even so, there are amazing similarities among us, even though we have been talking about differences.

Modern psychological research has produced a classification system that assigns all of us into one of four basic temperaments which leads to one of 16 personality types (check that grid graphic that adorns this article). So what does this mean to you?

As the parent of a high school student (if your child has reached that age), you may have already discovered that your child gravitates toward some tasks or situations more easily than others do. This relates to his or her temperament and personality. Have you ever heard someone say, "Alice has the right temperament for (this or that)"? This implies that the person and the task have a good fit. They just seem to go together naturally.

Helping your child to know who he or she is can go a long way in helping you understand what path you they may want to follow through college. How can you find out more about who you are? Probably the best book on the subject is Please Understand Me written by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.

This little paperback contains a self-test called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter that will detect which of four main temperament types you are. David Keirsey, a great pioneer of temperament theory, dramatically extended the work done in that area by the noted Swiss psychologist Carl Jung.

The theory says that all of us display one of four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational. Each has its own core values and behaviors. Preferences also play a big part in each temperament. These preferences often determine which career path will prove most rewarding and successful for each of us.

Here are some very simplified guidelines about temperaments and the careers that often provide happiness and success for them.

- Artisans prefer careers where there is some risk involved and where they can make an impact: actors, performers, surgeons, athletes, stunt people, artists, and so forth.

- Guardians love to guard the welfare of the social unit and are frequently fond of police work, elementary teaching, security work, nursing, and related health services.

- Idealists are big on meaning and significance and helping others become what they need to be. They like the ministry, counseling, psychology, social work, writing, and college teaching.

- Rationals have a hunger for knowledge and control over nature. They like to be lawyers, architects, college professors, scientists, economists, and philosophers. The Keirsey book and web site can clarify these for you.

Another fun resource for your child (and yourself) is the HumanMetrics "Typology" Test. This takes about 10 minutes to click through and leads to those four letters (see that grid graphic again) that can explain a lot about your child's behavior and life preferences. It's worth those 10 minutes.

Take the time to help your child find out who they are. It can save you much stress and money later when the meter starts running in college. Oh, yes. Finding out who you are, yourself, isn't such a bad idea either.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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