Dealing with Parents

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When you write kids’ books, there’s often a parent component. Duh. Kids have parents. So what?

Get Rid of Adults

One recommendation for dealing with parents is to get rid of them. Send them out of town for work; get rid of at least one parent through death, divorce or neglect; stick them in the background and barely mention them. There’s good reason to suggest getting rid of parents. After all, a main character MUST solve his/her own problems and a well-meaning parent could ruin your story.

Family Stories

MotherChildBut what if this is a family story? As I said last week, I’m reading through Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, a book about the Briggs-Meyers types of personalities and Chapter 8 was an amazing revelation. It’s about Parenting!

Personality Type as a Child. It goes through an explanation of how a basic personality type would be played out as a child. An Idealist Child (NF, including INFT, INFP, ENFT, ENFP) would be soulful, emotional and self-examining.

Personality Type as a Parent. Likewise, the parenting style of the different types is explained. An Artisan Parent (SP, including ISPN, ESPN, ISPT, ESPT) has a hands-off style, letting kids learn lessons on their own.

Combination of Parent-Child. What happens when one personality style is in charge of another, like in the parent-child relationship? They might clash, or they might bring out the best in each other. For example an Artisan Parent (SP) and an Idealist (NF) kid is explained like this:

Although they can have some trouble understanding each other, Artisan parents can be valuable models for their Idealist children. NF kids tend to get lost in abstraction and a self-absorbed search for meanings and portents , and the SP’s warm embrace of immediacy can be an important lesson for them. p.277

You may not want to be so strict in figuring out what personality type the parents and kids actually are (though it does help with character development). But it’s interesting reading through the different types of interaction between kids/parents. Of course, this is the “nature” part of the equation and you’ll want to add the “nurture” part through your story.

Personally, I try to get rid of parents. I agree that’s best. But sometimes–often, for me–the story is partly ABOUT that parent-child relationship. Especially for middle grade novels, parents and a kid’s relationship to them is extremely important. In those cases, this is a good resource for figuring out where the conflicts might lie and how to exploit the conflict for an exciting story.

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2 Comments
  • KC Frantzen
    January 29, 2011

    Thanks for an insightful post! Useful when preparing any character sheets I’d think. :)

    I’m about to publish debut novel – YAY – after 4 years… So I’m certainly no expert.

    But I should think there would be a market for a novel that had thoughtful interaction with a parent(s) and a child.

    Parents are so absent from children’s lives, it would be a GREAT thing if we could write stories that somehow restored proper parent/child relationship. Still have the kids solve on their own, still have the conflict, but show this relationship in a positive light.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Ruth Donnelly
    January 29, 2011

    This book sounds like a great resource! Thanks for sharing.