Task Orientated or People Orientated?

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I am a task-orientated person. As a choleric/melancholy I can fairly easily get this family vehicle going and keep it going. I enjoy planning and schedules and all the tools and techniques that make life run more smoothly. The danger however lies in my focus becoming all about getting “stuff” done (organizing my vehicle and making it run more smoothly) while neglecting to fill up the tank – the love tanks of my children that is.

The concept of the 5 love languages in brief is that we each give and receive love in 5 ways; quality time, acts of service, words of encouragement, physical touch and gift giving. Each time we do or say something that meets one of these areas we are giving our children a love tank top-up.

As the children come to ask me questions, show me their latest creation or tell me their latest dream in every miniscule detail it can be easy to see these interruptions as things that slow down my vehicle (interrupting my plan for the day) and react by brushing them aside, missing an opportunity to add a little top up to their love tank.

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Instead of listening with my full attention, I might keep my eyes on the computer and make vague listening noises in their general direction, or perhaps tell them to come back and tell me at the end of room time, or to save it for their evening “talking time” around the dinner table. In the end it all amounts to the same message; what I am doing is more important than you.

If I keep neglecting to top up their tanks they will get emptier and emptier and eventually this usually leads to a major catastrophe. This equivalent of a tire blow-out or radiator overheating brings the family vehicle to a violent stop and requires lots of time and attention to get things moving again.

In the end, if I take a look at the time involved, it would have been far quicker and a lot easier for everyone if I had used those few minutes along the way to give a little love. Five minutes to hear their dream retell, 2 minutes to listen attentively and admire the latest creation, seconds to notice the job well done that they are desiring to show me. What it takes is for me to slow it down a gear and cruise along in 4th instead of tear along in 5th being too busy to notice the needs. The vehicle keeps moving, everything eventually gets done and life is happier for everyone. Instead, the tanks are empty and we are stranded on the side of the road trying to fill up an empty and leaking tank.

Ensuring you have a special date or another event planned on a regular basis will take care of filling the love tank to some extent, but one burst of filling doesn’t make up for the continual lack of filling that has gone on all through the week. It’s like pouring in premium oil but forgetting the fuel.

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Of course different children have different needs and some require less time that others. A quick tank top-up for one may be as simple as spending 10 minutes tidying out the drawers of their desk for them; an act of service. For another, bringing home a new pink toothbrush tops them up; gift giving. Making sure I start my 4 year old’s day with a cuddle, give him a piggy-back to nap time, tickle him on the way past in the afternoon and have a quick rock on the rocking chair before bed is the continual topping up he needs as a physical touch boy. Writing a ‘well done, I see you are working very hard’ message as I correct another child’s maths for the day gives them the words of encouragement boost they are needing. All of these things take mere minutes and don’t stop the vehicle from ticking along nicely.

The quality time children are the ones that do take time. They need the little top-ups along the way plus MORE. But if you are continually topping up then it reduces the need for the huge fill-up of a bottomless tank that seems to leak right on out again as soon as you finish.

I often get asked how I manage 7 children. This sums up the danger – I could easily become nothing but a manager. I need to proactively set myself into relational mode, change down a gear and use the little moments to keep topping up along the way.

A couple of strategies for task orientated personalities:

  • Write focus time and planned extra minutes into your routine so that it becomes a task. You are less likely to feel like you are wasting time that you should be spending doing something else. Plan extra moments at transition periods so that you have the few minutes here and there to give a little top-up.
  • Ensure that you have focus time with your toddlers early in the day. You might sit them on your lap for a story, have a cuddle in the rocking chair or do a puzzle together to top them up before expecting them to do a long alone period like playpen time. Several smaller timeslots through the day is often more effective than one marathon session for little ones. Older children will wait if they know their time is coming.
  • Deal with the heart needs as they arise rather than waiting for the engine to overheat later. Sometimes you will need to pull the vehicle over, come to a complete stop and deal with the issues.
  • Give full eye contact – you’ll be surprised at how little time it actually takes to hear the interruption in full when you stop and focus.
  • If you really can’t stop, ask them to put the timer on for 20 minutes (or whatever time will work) and come back to you when they hear it beep. They know you won’t forget and you can’t make an excuse the next time.
  • Give the child who constantly interrupts during room time (or any other period when they should be alone) 3 interrupt tokens – after they use up their 3 chances there is no coming back unless it is an emergency.
  • Find activities that you like to do with the children and use them as one-on-one time. I like to sew, bake, build a Duplo house or other tasks that feel like we are getting somewhere. I can’t stand playing cars on the floor! It’s got to be something the child enjoys too of course.
  • Special dates on planned occasions. There are many ways to do these that do not have to be too expensive or difficult to put together. I have a post on that here.
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7 Responses

  1. This was an amazing read Ange.. Thank you! I am also highly a task oriented person and have recently been really noticing it as we have a 5mo bubba and our eldest recently turned 2.. As a relatively new mummy I have been focusing so much on getting us into routine, creating new activities , working on discipline and 2 year old issues and I feel like it’s so hard to just stop and take time when I really want to be ‘doing’ all the other things.. I have been feeling so guilty and quite alone with all the other mummies around me being much more people oriented and just seeming to be able to stop and enjoy playing with their little ones (feeling like I should be doing this for hours at a time – or even just for 20-30mins drives me crazy and I really have to try so hard to make it happen)..

    Anyway just wanted to say thanks. It was such a timely read i found it so so relatable … I feel very hopeful for me and my girls that I don’t have to completely change my personality in order to be a good mummy to them and give them the love and time that they need

    You are such an inspiration.. Thanks for all you do and the example you are to so many of us mums out there 😊😊 Bless you heaps

    Claire Jenkins

  2. This post was exactly what I needed to read this week! I am definitely more task orientated and have been particularly more so as we have recently moved house and country (just soooo much to organise and sort). My kids have been operating on empty especially my middle child(5yr old girl) whose love language is quality time and who enjoys playing imaginative games like cars on the floor (had a chuckle at your comment as I also dislike this game) and stuffed animals and wld be quite happy if I told you made-up stories the whole day (all very time and energy consuming for me).I am trying really hard to slow down and take the time to fill my children with the love they need. It is tough, but so worth it. Thanks for the post!

    • Yes, the quality time children are the ones that seem the most “needy” to us task orientated people but sometimes it’s just that we don’t naturally fill their tanks. When we push them away (with words, a look, our actions)it puts more and more holes in their tank which makes them more and more needy and round and round it goes. It is my quality time daughter I had in mind when I wrote this post. Going on a wonderful Mother/daughter date fills her love tank for what seems to be about a day and 5 minutes before it is empty again! I am looking for ways to make sure it isn’t on rock bottom all the time. Another thing I find helpful when trying to come up with alternatives to the activities I don’t enjoy (like cars) is to ask the children to brainstorm and write down lists of things that they would like me to do for them or with them, or things they would like to hear me say. I can then look through and pick the ones that I want to do, rather than feeling guilty because I’m saying no to their requests for activities that will make me go crazy 🙂 If there are any tasks that need to be done such as buying new shoes then that becomes the basis for some time together as well.

  3. Loved all the illustrations here Ange with the vehicle. Really hit home for me being a task orientated person. I love seeing order and everything accomplished in a day- but what’s the point if the children are not being “filled up”. So important. Thanks Ange!

  4. Thanks for this Ang. Do you find that certain love languages go with certain temperament types? My 6yo daughter’s love language is quality time and she is mostly Sanguine in her temperament. I find as a mostly Melancholy mum this combination is not the easiest to understand and enjoy spending time with (constant chatter is her default and she needs/wants me to be fully engaged all-the-time!) Thanks for the idea regarding little top-ups of their love tanks.

    • There’s no hard and fast rules but I guess you could generalise and say that the phlegmatic/sanguine temperaments are the people orientated ones so naturally tend to need more quality time than others. It’s good to understand the temperaments and personality types of both yourself and the children so that you can understand why certain children do what they do and why we react as we do. I do find that my constant chatterers do relax a bit when they are one-on-one with me because they are not competing with their siblings for my attention. I also find that I don’t mind purposeful talk so when they are dribbling anything that comes into their head I sometimes cut across with a question and try to get a decent conversation going on a topic of my choice.

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