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Improving family harmony


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Suzy Turner has lived in Portugal for 22 years and works as a freelance writer. As well as putting pen to paper for our Beauty and Parenting pages, she also writes many articles on diverse subjects.

HAVE YOU ever felt like you’re living in a zoo? According to one of the latest theories in parenting, zoos are where we can get an insight into domestic harmony.

Allison Mitchell, author of Time Management for Manic Mums and founder of, believes that by understanding

the innate character traits of ourselves and our children, we can gain a psychological insight to what motivates to bring out the best in them.

There are four key ‘creatures’: owls, elephants, lions and monkeys.

Owls are perfectionists who are thoughtful and mature that like rules, routine and time to think.

Elephants are reliable, methodical, stable, friendly and relaxed. They

like harmony, to be included and to be appreciated.

Lions have a great sense of drive, are demanding, challenging, competitive and adventurous. They like freedom, prestige and being in charge.

Monkeys are charming, inspiring, popular and trusting but are also great fun and love company.

“These animal behavioural profiles have been applied in business for years”, says

Mitchell who is also a former management consultant.

“It’s a tool organisations use for recruitment and team-building as well personal development. In a work situation, you don’t expect your colleagues all to behave in the same way, or to be motivated by the same things.”

“So why expect your children to respond in the same way to any given situation?”

Mitchell’s theory starts with the parents scrutinising themselves and once they know what category they fall into, can they really start to understand where their children are coming from.

You are likely to suddenly comprehend why your daughter gets angry if you are late dropping her at school. She is a rule-loving owl, you know!

However, be careful not to pigeon-hole your children as most of us are a mix of animal types.

“I’ve had parents admit to me that they had secretly had a favourite child, simply because they just didn’t understand how the others ticked.”

“But once you become more objective about your children’s characters, you can empathise with them much better and develop more effective strategies for encouraging good behaviour”.

Parents should always remember their own ‘creature’ type though.

Monkeys are very entertaining but aren’t very good at discipline.

Lions should relax their desire to win and let their kids beat them every now and again.

Owls need to lighten up as they can be a little stiff sometimes and elephants shouldn’t forget that children don’t always show their true feelings and need to dig a little deeper to get to the root of the problem.

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