Advice & Features Articles

Family Stressed to Family Best

By Professor Jeff Willie | Contributor

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now with the flare-up of racial unrest that is plaguing our nation—and by some accounts, racial unrest is considered a pandemic due to its global significance—we have seen more stress in the home. It is highly likely the initial barrage of day-to-day, back-to-back virtual meetings presented a personal challenge for many, especially those who had previously not experienced this type of work-from-home environment. The constant engagement through audio and visual means can contribute to an increase in stress, leading to burnout if not carefully managed. As adults, we faced the added responsibility of ensuring school-aged children were completing their schoolwork from home, which required a substantial amount of time and attention during regular business hours, as we also tried to grasp an understanding of the racial divide in our country.

What an extremely stressful time for many, especially our kids who are missing their friends, social events, high school proms, graduations, and who are trying to have difficult, controversial, and maybe divisive conversations with their family and friends. Despite your best efforts in establishing a regular routine, structure, predictability, while still giving your kids choices and allowing them the flexibility to stay connected with their friends, stress related responses and actions are apparent.

A DISC assessment is a powerful tool to help individuals recognize characteristics in their children that exhibit stress and others that can be used to alleviate it. It allows parents to see their strengths, communication style, learning styles, how they respond to conflict and stress, and the DISC assessment can be a guide for strategies to improve interaction with others. During my “Family Stressed to Family Best” seminars, I share with parents recognizable behavior characteristics in their child:  traits that are areas of strength, characteristics that could indicate they are under pressure, others that could be a great motivator, and my favorite part—a way to connect with their children using loving statements that speak to an area of their giftedness.

If your child is great at organization, innovative, dynamic, decisive, goal-oriented, seeks practical solutions, an activator and born leader, and excels in emergencies, then according to the DISC assessment, your child has “D,” DOMINANCE characteristics. When “D” characteristics are exhibiting signals of stress, you may witness resistance, strong-willed behavior, rebelliousness, anger, very demanding and controlling actions.  They are still responding out of their giftedness, just in a negative way.  How can we, as adults, parents, teachers, and coaches speak to their giftedness in a positive way?  My hope and desire is that we can respond in a way to lift our children’s spirits and model expected behaviors.  My caution to anyone who’s witnessing stressful behaviors and dealing with conflict…please do not tell someone they shouldn’t feel the way they are feeling.  I feel the way I am feeling, and I own my feelings.  By listening with your heart, you can help your child understand and gain a better understanding of the cause of their feelings.

So, when your child is displaying their “D” Dominance characteristics is a stressful way, respond by being specific to honor their gifts. Some typical responses to speak to their giftedness could be, (1) I like that you are confident in yourself, (2) I like that you set your mind to something and go after it, (3) I like that you are committed and decisive.

If your son/daughter is outgoing, emotional, inspirational, creative, or talkative, volunteers for jobs, makes friends easily, and has high energy, then according to the DISC assessment, your child is gifted with “I” INFLUENTIAL characteristics.  They are creative problem solvers and encouragers. They are natural motivators who operate by communicating with a sense of humor. They value social interaction and connection with others. What behaviors are they displaying when under stress? You may notice your child is being overly active, impatient, excessively loud, seeking attention in a negative way, and/or has exaggerated outbursts of emotion.  How do you respond? Certainly, give them an opportunity to socialize and talk. And most importantly, I want you to respond in ways to honor their giftedness, (1) I like that you are fun to be with, (2) I like that you are a friendly person, (3) I like your enthusiasm…it’s contagious.

“S” characteristics or STEADINESS are that your child is reliable, dependable, detail-oriented, compliant with guidelines and instructions, easygoing, well-balanced, quiet but witty, helpful, a good listener, and looks out for others. However, adjusting to our current environment has likely increased their stress levels, perhaps demonstrated by a decrease in motivation, indecisiveness, avoidance of responsibilities, submissive or stubborn behavior, or seeking relationships with strong personalities, such as bullies. One way to move from stress to motivation would be to emphasize your need of their help and to give them an additional boost of confidence by ensuring they have what they need to succeed.  Then connect to their sweet spot, their areas of giftedness with statements such as (1) I like that you are a caring person, (2) I like that you try and get along with others, (3) I like that you are compassionate.

“C” characteristics or CAUTIOUS are that your child is thorough, detail-oriented, information-seeking, analytical and logical, neat and organized, creative, conscientious, seeks perfection, a deep thinker, and easily sees problems or errors.  When frustrated or stressed, they may become critical of others, be unwilling to socialize, reluctant to work on projects, extremely pessimistic, overly cautious, and may blame others for their frustration. How do we connect and speak to their giftedness? Certainly, they typically love the opportunity to research and analyze to discover something by asking questions. Try using some of these statements (1) I like how you always try to do your best, (2) I like that you like things to be organized, (2) I like that you listen to what others say and feel.

Change is hard, especially the rapid change caused by COVID-19.  We’ve seen non-traditional learning, missing friends, and canceled special traditions like prom and graduation. There’s no sugar coating it—this is a difficult time. Using the DISC assessment can help you begin to address these extra stressors in your home and your child.

Editor’s Note: Jeff Willie is the CEO/Founder of Jeff Willie Leadership. Visit his website at jeffwillie.com to access the Student Success Report, which profiles your child’s strengths, personality styles, ideal environment, fears, motivators, learning styles, and much more. There is even a section of the report to share with teachers. For inquiries on booking a free “Family Stressed to Family Best” seminar for your church, school, or community organization, contact jeff@jeffwillie.com.



Jeff Willie is the CEO/Founder of Jeff Willie Leadership and Executive Director of The John Maxwell Team. He is a keynote/motivational speaker, and is certified to consult, facilitate, train and coach individuals and groups in the areas of leadership development, professional skills, career growth, and personal growth.

He grew up in East Texas in a home with 11 siblings and without electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, television, or a telephone. His father was illiterate and his mother completed the third grade.  Mr. Willie attended segregated schools until the seventh grade, graduated high school in May 1976, and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977 until 2002.

Currently, he is an Associate Professor, a High School Air Force Junior ROTC Teacher, and is a tenured Conflict Mediator/Family Mediator. He is a Certified Arkansas Law Enforcement Instructor in Rapid Response Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT), an Honorary Colonel of Arkansas State Police and an Honorary Member of Arkansas Highway Police.

He earned three Associate Degrees from Community College of the Air Force, Bachelors in Corporate Training and Development, Master’s in Organizational and Human Resources Development and a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Mediation from Abilene Christian University.

He is pursuing his doctorate in Educational Leadership, concentrating on socio-economic resiliency factors, risk factors, protective factors, and shared factors to produce high academic achievement among students of color. He and his wife, Pat, are proud parents of Katrina (a pediatrician) and Ursurla (an attorney).

Mr. Willie received Good Life Family’s VIP (Very Inspiring Parent) Award in March 2018. Click here to read more.

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