Harmony children* are just what the name implies — they thrive on harmony. They hate fights, anger and tension and will do what they can to avoid it. Unlike an Integrity child*, Harmony kids can easily comply with your wishes and back down when faced with anger. Similar to the Dandelion child* who does well in any environment, your Harmony child is likely to be flexible and can transition well.
Whereas an Integrity child has you tearing your hair out, Harmony kids make you feel like a great parent. They will work hard to meet high expectations. This child can get very upset and angry but gets over it pretty quickly. Things that stick to your Integrity kid like Velcro, roll off your Harmony child like water off a duck’s back. This child is easy to live with and doesn’t often stress you out or give you reason to worry.
They make great friends and generally have lots of them. They are easy to like as they are good at understanding all points of view. They can move from group to group with their chameleon-like qualities and rarely cause discomfort or discord among friends. They generally fit well in school because they are malleable and work diligently. They make great mediators and can stand up for the kid who gets bullied.
Whereas an Integrity child has you tearing your hair out, Harmony kids make you feel like a great parent. But they also make it easy for you to be lazy at parenting.
Problem: These kids can be easily manipulated into doing as you say. You think time outs and groundings are working but in fact they shove a Harmony child’s voice — her opinions, desires, and upsets — down deep inside. She will easily back down in shame believing she’s bad or undeserving. It looks like the punishment is effective but in fact, if used enough it may be weakening your child’s sense of self and damaging her self-esteem.
Key: Become versed in problem-solving methods to use with behaviors you don’t like. Problem-solving not only gives each of your children their voice and opinions but uses fair and balanced agreements so everyone feels heard.
Problem: Your Harmony child is likely to back off when bullied or teased. You might worry he will never learn to stand up for himself and fight back.
Key: Remember this child does not like fighting. Don’t try to get him to fight back or meet aggression with aggression. Empower him to feel good about himself by role playing and allowing him to come up with his own way of defending himself. If supported, he will be able to teach you about non-violent communication.
Problem: If you are stressed by work or other children, your Harmony child can suppress his problems to keep from adding more stress for you. It’s easy to take advantage of this compliant quality. Harmony kids hate to disappoint or cause problems so will work hard to meet up to parents’ expectations that may be inappropriate for them. You can tell a Harmony child that she is making you upset or angry and she is likely to shut down. If this happens enough, you may start hearing, “Are you happy, mommy? Are you mad at me? Am I good? Am I bad?”
Key: If you notice this child holding back, being quiet, give devoted one-on-one time to provide opportunity for him to speak up. Ask his opinion on family situations or what he would like to do for special occasions. If you hear, “Are you happy, Mommy”, know that it is not enough to say, “You’re not responsible for how I feel.” Take is as your cue to look at your expectations and ask yourself if you take advantage of your child’s willingness to back down or give in.
Problem: Because Harmony kids want to please and gain the approval of others, they can become people pleasers by trying to be the person they think they are expected to be. Pressure is on to get approval and look outside themselves for value. Whether it is the approval of parents, peers, or authority figures, seeking outside validation can become a debilitating endeavor. They can get into trouble when influenced by tempting peers to do what they know isn’t right.
Key: Put effort into allowing this child to speak her mind. Never get anger if she argues with you or raises her voice. If you don’t allow her to say/scream ‘no’ to you, how will she learn to say it to her peers? It’s so easy to shut her up because she can. It’s not so easy to shut yourself up when she needs to yell.
Problem: You have less opportunity with your Harmony child to be held accountable for irresponsible parenting. You can use authoritarian tactics you may have been brought up on to get the obedience you want without the push back from an Integrity child. It’s easy to shame Harmony kids for their emotions with gaslighting, guilt-tripping them to do your bidding by playing the martyr or the victim, tiger-parenting them to prove your worth as a parent, fixing and controlling so they remain dependent, and preventing their natural drive toward independence.
Key: Make sure you never expect your Harmony child to make life easier for you. Take full responsibility for your own emotions and behavior and never blame them on anyone else. Use your children as mirrors to look at yourself and what you are bringing to parenting from your past. Choose what is best for each child rather than being persuaded by others.
Problem: Harmony kids can easily give in to a strong-willed sibling to avoid arguments and fights, especially if he sees tension between his Integrity sibling and his parents. He does not want to add more conflict and can remain quietly in the shadows to protect himself from more discord or do what he thinks will make his upset parent happier.
Key: Never praise your child for keeping quiet or backing down to make your life easier. Instead talk to him separately to find out what it’s like when his sibling grabs from him or yells and screams. An Integrity child can take up a lot of space. It’s important to provide space for your quieter child. Give every opportunity for him to complain. Never ask him to compensate for your Integrity child by asking him to just let her have it to avoid a meltdown. He will learn to resent his sibling and find ways to get back.
Your Harmony child is most capable of rolling along through life quite smoothly and is great at getting along with others. Once you ensure she knows how to be heard and go after what she wants, you can sit back and enjoy.
*Integrity and Harmony are my terms. They are based on the 30 years of scientific research done by Dr. Thomas Boyce and many colleagues culminating in his book, The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. The Orchid is 1 in 5 children. The Integrity child is not quite as extreme and is more common. The Harmony child is similar to the Dandelion.
Read about the Integrity child here.