. . . and it's not their genes either. – Dr. C

Posts tagged ‘David Keirsey’

Children’s Temperament Traits: STARS

Star Shape

Do Your Own Thing

The STAR child stands alone in the lifelong quest for adventure and freedom. Not the simple freedom of choice, for that would only tease this youngster. The STAR chooses to act on a whim, to spend the most recent impulse, to revel in spontaneity in order to achieve their unique sense of self-esteem. “Do your own thing” is a command, not an option, for the fun-first STAR.

STAR children are fine-tuned to their senses and inner workings of their bodies.  They seek pleasure through sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. They can be “good-eaters,” as they expend an enormous amount of energy in a day. They enjoy textures, colors, and tones as they seek to play and manipulate them. Like no other shapes, STARS are at their best as they go about flipping, jumping, and hopping through space looking for opportunities to play. They enjoy these activities even more if others are watching.

STARS can be burgeoning brain surgeons or high wire acrobats or Generals or gamblers or dancers or glass blowers or Wall Street investors – or presidents. About a third of our presidents have been STARS, from both sides of the political spectrum, including Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. (You can read more about presidential temperaments at: http://keirsey.com/presidents.aspx.)

STARS may throw themselves completely into today’s activity, only to lose interest the next. Maybe something else caught their eye, maybe not, frustrating parents and supervisors of these youngsters. Adults often make a mistake when they insist the STAR “re-ignite” their lost interest. Impulses are, well, impulsive, not to be “prodded” by even the most caring – or authoritative – adults. Especially authoritative adults.

The most physically expressive of the four shapes, most STARS love a challenge. Tell them you bet they can’t climb that tree over there, and watch them sprint to be the first to try. Unlike the SPHERE, who avoids competition, for the majority of STARS, competition is their life-blood. Winning and losing – the game or the job – and the excitement of the contest creates motivation in the STAR.  This is a key to effective education, training and counseling – and parenting too.

STAR children can be charming and are usually well liked by their peers. They are fiercely loyal, and expect the same. They desire an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” relationship with friends – and adults too — when they can find it. In the company of other STAR friends each tends to encourage the other’s nature, with the consequences of their behavior receding into the background as excitement increases.

While we all experience to some degree the SQUARES need for belonging, the SPHERE’S search for authenticity, and the CUBE’S yearning for competency, action without forethought or purpose – action for action’s sake – is usually to be avoided. Social conventions require preparation, practice, and storage of impulses “until the proper time,” something the STAR finds wholly unsatisfactory.

STARS can be difficult to manage, if the goal is simply to manage them. As a result, the STAR is a constant source of frustration for child managers and parents as traditional means of intervention have little effect, other than confinement or exclusion, for the freedom-seeking STAR.

If the SQUARE is the “rule-maker” then the STAR by contrast is the “rule-breaker.” Even though directives may eventually be followed, it won’t be without many arguments and confrontations. Parents, teachers, and counselors of all kinds will say, “these kids take up most of my time!

There are numerous directives and re-directives given, even for daily routines. Too often, compliance becomes secondary to supervising adults. Whether the task is completed or not, the STAR tends to be confronted, but not for his performance. More often than not adults will state: “His attitude is the problem!

These youngsters may be especially adept at recess, athletics, art, music, manipulating tools, crafts, and any activity that allows for unrehearsed movement. As adults, these children gravitate to professions encouraging spontaneous action. Whether it’s hours on the basketball court or at the piano, the STAR is engaged in an activity. If they happen to become very good at the activity, even better. That’s a second or third goal, if at all. Spending the impulse, at the moment, is the goal. Moreover, once the impulse is spent it is spent, not to be “stimulated” by others’ insistance – or threats.

The STAR child needs a stage, and an audience to show their talents. Whether a one-person audience or a thousand, abilities are on display in need of applause and applause and applause. The STAR seeks recognition for their unique artistic skills, and unless others notice, they will seek an “audience” in other ways. For the shame filled STAR, if applause is not forthcoming, scorn from their supervisors will do.

School can be a place where a handful of STARS can shine. Young athletes, musicians, and dancers can find a way to express their energy in organized school activities.  They are routinely “on stage,” their talents on display for everyone to see. Regrettably, for the non-athlete, musician or dancer, there is little at school to hold their attention. This is a matter of poor teaching skills, not “poor learning skills,” as modern educators have little understanding how STARS learn. Instead, STARS are constantly told to “sit still, keep your eyes forward, and do your work!” Frustrated educators and psychologists will officially declare the STAR as “educationally handicapped,” in need of special education.

STAR children are, regrettably, relentlessly given stimulants by ill-informed medics for ADD, ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and other false diseases, generally a result of being tagged as “inattentive” by the frustrated teacher. In fact, the STAR is stimulated by many activities. They simply “attend” to whatever catches their interest at the moment. If the teacher or schoolwork is not doing the trick, it could be the ruckus in the schoolyard, the birds flying outside, or the pigtails of the girl in front of him.

Rather than “inattentive,” just the opposite is true for many STARS. Place a STAR in a room with something they like to manipulate, and see how focused their attention becomes. Whether alone with the flute, or with a coach at the gymnasium, or with a group in a dance studio – or concentrating for hours at a time at their game console – the STAR can focus like few others can.

The STAR is pegged as “inattentive” in as much as “he doesn’t stay on task,” so say their teachers, therapists, and counselors. From the view of the STAR, tasks are to be avoided in direct relation to the amount of boredom and drudgery that accompanies them. Structure and routine, intended to be a source of safety and security for children, are the very attributes from which the STAR flees.

All children get bored, no doubt. However, boredom is as unbearable to the STAR as sorrow is to the SQUARE, self-doubt is to the CUBE, and detachment is to the CIRCLE. Note that the latter three – sorrow, self-doubt, detachment – will often find a sympathetic ear from concerned adults. After all, we often commiserate with children who are too sad, too insecure, and too alone. Not so with boredom. Adults have little patience with boredom, most often coming up with a “find something to do!” or “do it anyway!” solution.

When their life-impulse is suppressed by design or necessity over time, and a crisis of esteem is apparent, like all four shapes, behavior changes from productive to protective. The primary means with which the STAR attempts to protect themselves from the lost excitement they yearn is through retribution. Now the attempt is to “even the score” with those people thought to be responsible for their lost impulses, to “pay back” in harmful ways by desecrating themselves, or others.

All rules and norms, even if previously complied with, can come into question. Adults may refer to them as a “hot head,” seemingly defiant and disruptive for no visible purpose. The purpose, of course, is to again find the lost excitement they seek, even if the cost is the many real or threatened consequences that forever follow these children.

The frustrations, admonishments, worry, and reprimands offered by others in order to “make sure he doesn’t get away with it” have almost no effect in stopping unwanted behaviors. Too often the adults spend an enormous amount of energy devising strategies to stop behaviors, and is a joyous source of fun and excitement to this natural “resistor.”

Illogical restrictions, punishments, long-term consequences, threats, and traditional therapeutic means often have little effect. Continued failure by professionals will have them assert, “before we can help him, he has to help himself,” thus formally relegating responsibility for failure to their student. Nonetheless, the STAR child can take satisfaction in accomplishing their goal of frustrating the best efforts of those responsible to care for them.

Action is their master” states Keirsey, and the insightful practitioner uses this natural performers talents as a means to offer change. Not a saver like the SQUARE, the STAR is the spender: of impulses, time, money, and excitement.

Like no other child, encouragement of new or present behaviors, with tangible and immediate rewards, insuring they “spend” in appropriate ways, is more likely to aid these young artisans in the pursuit of their special road to self-esteem.

• Following the rules • Saving: time, money, impulses • Restrictions
• Others “making me do x!” • Boredom/ennui • Repetition and routine
• Work first, then play  • “Get in line” • “Wait your turn”   • “Do as I say”

• “Getting even” • Defames and devalues others • Impulsivity
• Addictive behavior • Narcissism • Poor school performance
• “Anti-social” •  “Chip on shoulder” • “Cocky”
•  Aggressive • Pain-resistant • “Can’t sit still”

• Freedom •  Activities/action • Variety
• Living for the moment  • The physical world • Nature lovers
• Excitement • Pay-off (“what do I get”) • Being different/rebel
• Spending: time, money, impulses • “Showing off”
• Working with tools, instruments, art and crafts, athletics, music


• Logical consequences (for a stipulated time period) • Blackmail
• Rehearsal • Bribery • Vacuum
• Defusing • Distraction • Decommercializing

• Psychodrama • Gestalt • Symbolic Projection

• Music/Art Therapy • Reality Therapy • Relaxation techniques

• Strict behavior-modification (i.e., reward good behavior and ignore poor behavior)

Encouraging a STAR to do something (action), rather than NOT to do something (inaction) is a key to success for insightful parents and practitioners.






Children’s Temperament Traits

“Human action can be modified to some extent,
but human nature cannot be changed.”    – Abraham Lincoln

Medium Shapes

I developed Children’s Temperament Traits (CTT) in the mid-1980’s.  By then I was completing my doctoral dissertation.  I was also running the first of three different treatment facilities for children and I was training my staff in temperaments and techniques.  I’ve also used this material to train thousands of professionals and parents in workshops throughout California.  Most of the professionals were licensed therapists, interns, school teachers and aides, and child-care counselors.

Though I knew he wouldn’t remember me – I had one class from him while I was a student at Cal State Fullerton – on the outside chance I might hear back, I mailed CTT to David Keirsey for his critique, sometime in the late 1980’s.  He was long retired by then, and I hadn’t seen him in several years.  I wasn’t sure if he would reply.  Thankfully, he did, in a manner of speaking.

Dr. Keirsey sent back my entire essay, with edits hand-written in the margins, other words crossed out and replaced, and other changes.  He added no other comments, other than a “good job!” on the very bottom of the last page.  The edits he made were all gems, and I quickly made the changes.

I’ve made a few more since, though not too many.  Now that I have time, I’m primed to do some long overdue research, writing and lecturing about children, temperament, and techniques.  I also hope to find people who are adept, and so inclined, to take on this endeavor.  It’s never been done, as far as I know.

I experimented 30 years ago with a children’s “sorter” of my own.  I didn’t like it, and I don’t like children temperament sorters in general.  I’ve reviewed a few on different websites.  The ones I found seemed to “miniaturize” adult sorters.  It’s really not that simple.  Children aren’t merely smaller versions of their adult counterparts.  In Keirseyan temperament theory, children arrive whole, already equipped.  Our job then, as child managers, is to understand who they are and to help them unfold.

More important, a sorter for children relies on adults to give answers to the written questions, so it’s fraught with the bias – and temperament – of the adult.  Too much “mind-reading” occurs and, when discovering a person’s temperament, “mind-reading” is not allowed.  Observation – watching what children do – is, as far as I’m concerned, the most accurate way to understand what makes a child move.

Child Management Techniques
The specific techniques we choose as parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors to manage troubled or troublesome children is temperament dependent.  To follow is a list of techniques that I’ve collected, used, and trained on over the years.

The majority of the techniques (except for Amnesty) found in Reactive and Proactive sections are gleaned from Keirsey’s little known yet very useful work, Corrective Intervention:  A Manual for Casualty Reduction Specialists in Pupil Personnel Services, copyright, 1972.  Though I’ll write more about this later, this small, obscure handbook may have had the most impact on my career – and the children in my care.

After I post the four portraits – the next blog will be about the STARS –  I’ll provide a description of each technique, as well as how they are best used with STARS, SQUARES, SPHERES and CUBES.  For now, the list of techniques include:

1.  Therapy Techniques
Reflection (Client Centered Therapy):  Carl Rogers, Inventor
•  Psychodrama:  Jacob Moreno, Inventor
•  Rational-Emotive Therapy:  Albert Ellis, Inventor
•  Gestalt Therapy (NOT to be confused with Gestalt theory):  Fritz Perls, Inventor
•  Behavior Modification:  A generic term, behaviorism began with the writings of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner
•  Reality Therapy:  William Glasser, Inventor
•  Insight Therapy (Psychoanalysis):  Also a generic term and used by many, the inventor of this technique is Sigmund Freud.

2.  Reactive Techniques
•  Restriction         •  Abuse         •  Restitution        •  Deprivation      •  Amnesty

3.  Proactive Techniques
•  The Easy Task   •  Blackmail       •  Bribery        •  Defusing           •  Distraction
•  Frontloading     •  Moratorium  •  Rehearsal    •  Sidetracking     •  Signaling

4.  Group Techniques
•  Adolescent Interactive Group (AIG)       •  The Truth Chair           •  Challenge
•  GIDE (Group Interaction and Drug Education)
•  GIVE (Group Interaction and Violence Education)

5.  Other Techniques
•  The Baldy Maneuver•   Logical Consequences
•  Active Response Training (ART)  –
           ~  Regardless & Nevertheless                       ~  The Sponge
           ~  The “You Win” Proposition                         ~  The Takeover Maneuver
(ART is pre-esclation training for school, residential care, and other mental health facility personnel.  Considered “basic training” in my facilities, ART began in California as Alternatives to Restraint Training in 1989.)

CTT Portraits
Each of the four portraits will include a description of the four shapes.  In addition, each portrait will conclude with a section on:
(1) Dislikes/Complains About
(2) Worrisome Behaviors
(3) Enjoys
(4) Praise for/Responds to
(5)  Intervention Techniques, for each of the four shapes.

I’ll start with the STARS, the most troublesome of the four shapes.


Next Blog:  CTT Portrait:  STARS – “Do your own thing!”