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Jessie Buttons – How to honor your child’s nature

This interview is part of How To Get Kids To Listen: Leading International Parenting Experts Reveal Their Best Secrets For Getting Kids To Cooperate, an ebook containing a collection of interviews I did with parenting experts from around the world.

I asked each expert one simple question: What is your best strategy for getting kids to listen and cooperate? and then listened as they shared their best parenting tips and advice.

How To Get Kids To Listen is available for free download here

In this interview with Jessie Buttons, a parenting coach and international nanny, she shares the four Natures of children that she identified while working with children from around the world.

Jessie shares how understanding the nature of your child can help you to motivate them and prevent clashes and fights.

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Also in this interview:

About Jessie Buttons

Jessie Buttons is the go-to parent coach for families across New Zealand and beyond. With years of experience in the field, she has gained a reputation for her practical and effective strategies for improving family life and managing challenging behaviors. 

Jessie's approach is grounded in empathy and understanding, believing that every child is unique and deserves individualized guidance. Through a combination of one-on-one coaching, group workshops, and online tutorials, Jessie helps parents understand their children's needs, which is normally what is driving the unwanted behavior. 

Beyond her expertise in parenting, Jessie also draws on her high profile Nanny experiences from around the world, and also on her own experience as a mother of one and step mother to 3. She is dedicated to empowering parents with the knowledge and tools they need to confidently navigate the ups and downs of parenthood.

Whether you're struggling with a specific issue or seeking to enhance your parenting skills, Jessie Buttons is your trusted partner for achieving a happy and healthy family.

Jessie runs a free Facebook community called The Village, which you can join here.

How understanding your child’s Nature can help them cooperate

Jessie Buttons: I am a preschool teacher by trade and an international nanny. I travelled overseas for many years and helped families with children. And I learned lots of different parenting strategies from living with those families. Some of those strategies were amazing and some of them were not so good. In fact, it made the behavior worse.

So, I came back home to New Zealand after 10 years being abroad and I started coaching parents using the strategies I had learned as a nanny.

Before I came home. I was the director of a Montessori preschool.

Something a little bit different than nannying. And it was there where I observed children and I learned about different personality types. And I then published my own version of a book about the four different personality types of children. I call them “natures”.

And that's what I'm going to talk to you about today: using children's personality type to have the sort of connection and influence you need to get them to listen and cooperate.

I call it "honoring their nature."

And I do believe that when children feel connected to you, they want to follow you. And they want to listen, and they will cooperate. And so, when a child gets the message, "I see you, I'm connected to you," then they will cooperate. But when you know their personality, it's one level deeper. It's not just "I see you", it's, "I know you". And when you know the child and the child feels really known, then you have influence.

You have influence over their decisions, and you can influence them to listen and cooperate.

Sue Meintjes: That sounds very interesting. Can you explain the different personality types that you have identified?

Jessie Buttons: So, I'll explain them very quickly. There's four. And I call them social, strong, sensitive, and structured. And each nature is motivated by different things. And once you realize what they're motivated by, it can be really easy to get them to cooperate.

What happens if you don’t honor your child’s Nature

Sue Meintjes: So, the four personality types are social, strong, sensitive, and structured. What about when we see more than one personality type in our kids? Is there usually just one that stands out?

Jessie Buttons: Great question. There's always a dominant nature followed by a second nature. And this is really important to know because sometimes a child's dominant nature is not valued, and they don't feel that they're worthwhile being that nature.

For example, a strong natured child might get the message, "Can you just stop? You're too much, you're too pushy." They might get that message from parents, from friends, from teachers. We've all done it. We've all said, "Hey, you just can you stop?" And the child receives that message as, "Can you stop being who you are? Don't be who you are. We don't find that very valuable or worthwhile at all."

The child then taps into their second nature, and they think, "Well, if I can't be my dominant primary nature, my natural nature, I'll be the second nature." And that comes out dysfunctional. And that's where we see a lot of dysfunctional behavior is a child who is not living true to their nature.

That's where I help a lot of families with their at-home environment, to help the child to come back to their true nature and to feel safe being that person, being who they are. They don't need to try and be anyone else.

The Strong nature

Sue Meintjes: That sounds like a great way for parents to understand and connect with their kids. It makes me think of my daughter - she is very stubborn and wants to do things her way. She is very determined to get her way.

Jessie Buttons: Is she quite extroverted? Always moving forward? Always quite determined and pushy, quite physical. She sounds like a strong nature.

The Strong nature is motivated by action and challenges and results and being in charge. So, if you were trying to get her to listen and cooperate, you would challenge her.

You would say, "I bet you can't get dressed before me." Or you might say, "I'm gonna race you to the car." Or you might put her in charge of something. You might say, "Right, you are in charge of the clock today. Give us all a shout when it's five to eight, when it's time to leave, you are in charge." And they love that kind of leadership.

They love that challenge; it just engages them.

When I say you have to honor their nature, I mean that you speak to their nature. It's kind of like you're speaking their language. You're filling up their bucket in a way that they love.

So that's the Strong nature.

The Social nature

The Social nature. These are the other extroverted nature, along with strong, but their movement is more upward, bouncy, bubbly. They're quite distracted. They are motivated by fun and novelty and movement.

So, to get them out the door in the morning, you can say something like, "Hey, I've got something to show you." They like that kind of surprise or excitement. Or you could use a little rough and tumble. They love the kind of rough and tumble just to kind of move them along. That's the Social.

The Sensitive nature

Now there's two other nature's: Sensitive and Structured. These two natures are more of the introverted, more of the quieter, slower moving natures.

The Sensitive nature is very intuitive, very slow moving, especially in the morning. They're slow to get out of bed. They're slow to eat their breakfast, they're slow to get dressed. They're motivated by comfort and predictability.

They need to know what's happening.

So, a visual plan of their day or their week is really helpful for these sort of children. To motivate a sensitive, you can say, "Here's the plan, here's what we're going to do." Or you can give them some comfort. They're motivated by feeling comfortable. You could say, "Let me hug you, and then we're gonna get dressed."

So that's Sensitive.

The Structured nature

And then the Structured. These are the more “stand back and observe” type kids. They're very analytical, very logical. They love order and routine, and they are motivated by feeling respected and having authority over themselves.

To get them out the door in the morning, you can say something like, "Would you like to make your own morning routine for yourself? You can decide how you're gonna get yourself ready, as long as you're ready by 8:00 PM. You are in charge of you."

The Structured nature likes to feel respected and to be left alone to do their thing, how they want to do it. And of course, you can always be nearby to support. You can always say, "I'm here if you need some help."

But that's how I would motivate them.

How to give your child a sense of control

Sue Meintjes: Thanks for that, that is very useful. Do you have any resources where parents can find out more about these natures of children?

Jessie Buttons: I have a book for sale on my website and also on Amazon, called The Nature of Children.

Sue Meintjes: Thanks, I think it is so important to better understand your child.

On your website you mentioned certain things that parents do that make children's behaviors worse. Can you explain a little bit about that?

Jessie Buttons: I feel like micromanaging a child makes them feel like the parent has control. So, when parents are in a rush, and I find today's parents are in a rush all the time, they're micromanaging.

They're saying, "Okay, get your bag. Get your shoes quickly. Eat up. Eat up. Time for breakfast. We've got to go." Or it might be in the evening, " Eat your dinner. Sit down. Okay, bedtime, we're gonna have a bath. We've gotta read your book."

Children feel like they're being pushed along till the end of the day. What that feels like for a child is they have no authority over themself. They have no control over themself. And what they do is they decide, "You know what? I'm gonna have a little bit of control. I'm gonna dig my heels in and I'm gonna do the opposite. I'm going to cause some sort of trouble because I don't like being bossed around."

And so, what parents can do instead is to slow down, just slow everything down. Just take 30 seconds more. In the bath, 30 seconds more, at the dinner table. Just really trying to be conscious of how fast they're speeding their children along.

And they can also give their children two choices. Instead of telling them what to do, they can ask them, "Would you like a bath or a shower tonight?"

And let the child decide what they would like to do. So, give them a little bit of authority over their own day and that sort of thing.

Sue Meintjes: That sounds exactly like my mornings. I get too rushed and too bossy.

Jessie Buttons: We all do it, don't we? Because it's just the nature of our lives. We're so busy.

How to prevent clashing with your child’s nature

There are also things that parents can do to make children's behavior worse depending on their nature. So, each nature has a couple of things that clash for that nature.

I elaborate a lot more in the book, but as an example, the Social nature, they like an environment that is really light and easy.

And so, if there is conflict in the home or there's too much tension or the routine is really structured, then that makes this child feel kind of boxed in. And then you will see worse behavior from this child.

And for the Strong nature, they like to be moving forward because they like results and getting things done. If they feel stopped in their tracks, they can tend to explode and have a tantrum and that makes their behavior worse.

A Sensitive, they need to know what's happening. They like to know who's coming and what the routine is. They like comfort and sometimes parents forget to tell their sensitive natured kids what's happening, and they tend to rush them along and that can make these kids' behavior a lot worse. It can really clash with their nature if they're feeling rushed and pushed.

And the Structured nature, as I mentioned, they love to feel respected. And these are the kids that hate to feel micromanaged. They don't like to be bossed around and they like to be in charge and have authority over themselves. So, when they feel ordered around or disrespected, they can really act up and that can make their behavior worse.

Actions steps

  • Think about your child’s personality, then determine what your child’s dominant Nature is – Strong, Social, Sensitive, or Structured

  • Create a pro-active plan for how you can deal with the problem times – eg. getting them ready in the morning, getting them to bed, using your child’s nature

  • Identify any behaviors that you might be doing that clashes with your child’s nature

  • Think of ways in which you can give your child more control over their own decisions

  • Join Jessie's free Facebook community for parents here.

This interview is part of How To Get Kids To Listen: Leading International Parenting Experts Reveal Their Best Secrets For Getting Kids To Cooperate, an ebook containing a collection of interviews I did with parenting experts from around the world.

I asked each expert one simple question: What is your best strategy for getting kids to listen and cooperate? and then listened as they shared their best parenting tips and advice.

How To Get Kids To Listen is available for free download here