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Otter, Beaver, Lion, Retriever…Understanding Your Child’s Personality

Are you an Otter, Beaver, Lion or Retriever? I went along to one of the fabulous workshops at the Parenting Place and had a real ‘Ah ha’ moment.  The topic was Understanding Your Child’s Personality and I was so inspired that I asked the workshop presenter Sue Blair to be interviewed for our If Only They’d Told Me Podcast. Have a listen to our 15 minute free chat where she explains the 4 ‘Personality Types’ (click the player at the top of this post, or download episode from iTunes). You can try to figure out what ‘animal’ you are and what your partner and kids are as well!  Here are some of the gems that I got from Sue’s workshop:

Animal Types

The ‘animal types’ are based on the Myers-Briggs personality model but is simplified (and easier to remember). Sue has great tools and articles on her websites: Personality Dynamics and Personality Puzzles. Understanding your child’s personality is such a classic ‘If Only They’d Told Me’ topic as it is valuable information that helps you to understand and parent according to your child’s particular style.

For example, if you’re an Otter (like me) and you’re creative and spontaneous and you often make a sudden change of plans but you have a Beaver child (who likes the security of a routine) you may be creating a situation in which your child is not comfortable. Once you understand their preferred way of being, you can appreciate them more too.

If your child is not listening to your authority and demands for example, it may not that they are misbehaving or being difficult, it’s possible that they are a Lion and they don’t understand hierarchy so you need to try a different approach. Instead of saying in a commanding tone: ‘this is how we do things in this house…’ you could try ‘hey, this isn’t working, what should WE do to fix it?’ as Lion’s like to solve problems and be treated as an equal and involved in finding a solution.

The workshop had a lot of extra information on ‘how to spot them’, ‘what they like’ and ‘what they need’ and we go into more detail in the Podcast but in general here are the 4 Animal Types:


Imaginative, easily distracted, creative, dramatic, ideas, spontaneous, entertainers… these are often the children with ‘imaginary friends’ or who you see in superman suit at the grocery store!  Putting them in ‘time out’ often not effective as they really don’t care that much. Reward them with fun and praise them for originality.


Practical, punctual, precise. Like rules, lists and step-by-step instructions. Like structure and to get things right the first time. Children will often play ‘real’ games like shop, restaurant… and aim to draw pictures realistically rather than imaginatively.


Competitive, strong-willed, bossy. Like to be treated as equal, don’t like authority. Yelling and putting them in ‘time out’ won’t work. You need to stay calm, involve them in decision making and give them some responsibility.


Caring, affectionate and empathetic. Like to keep everyone happy (sometimes at the expense of themselves) the ‘disease to please’, like to follow the rules and be ‘good’, need praise and encouragement and to feel special.  Just the mention of being put in ‘time out’ will often result in good behaviour as they don’t like to be separated from the group or to be ‘bad’.

Who are You?

Do these traits sound like you, your partner or any of your children? It’s important to realise it’s not trying to ‘box’ people but rather to understand their preferred way of being or their blueprint. Of course we can all probably relate to characteristics of each of the 4 animal types but Sue highlights that one will be your ‘driver’ (the one most like you) and one will be your ‘passenger’ while another will be your boot/trunk (least like you). On top of that is a layer of Extravert or Introvert.

While I am an Extraverted Otter-Retriever, my husband is an Introverted Beaver-Retriever.  It can be quite insightful and beneficial to your relationship when you figure out what ‘animal’ you are and what your partner is.  Now I understand why my husband shakes his head in dismay when we arrive home from grocery shopping and I open up a new box of exciting cereal and he’s thinking no…we finish one thing and then we move onto another. Classic Otter vs Beaver behavior!

Find out More

Check out Sue’s website: Personality Dynamics. I love the selection of articles from ‘Parenting the Perfectionist’ to ‘You’re Not the Boss of Me’.  Add your comments or questions below and Sue will be happy to answer or you can contact her directly at:

Understanding Personality Types can help our family in so many ways -not to mention your relationships with friends, siblings and work colleagues.  It’s also interesting to look back at your childhood and figure out what your parents are/were as well as your siblings.

We would love to hear whether you find this valuable, what type of ‘animal’ you are or whether you disagree with the concept of ‘personality types’.


Written by

Raised in Toronto Canada, Nat received the 'enthusiasm award' in Grade 7 and not much has changed. She has always loved bringing people together and challenging them to be more than they thought possible. Her background includes Personal Development, Corporate Team Building and Environmental Education. She now lives in Auckland New Zealand with her husband Matt (Nat & Matt) and their 3 children Ruby, Jonah and Xavier. Nat's excited to be blogging again (previously blogged for 'Eco Centric') and sharing parenting and relationship stories with others around the world.
  • Ellen

    This is a very interesting way to consider personality types in children and adults.

  • Cat

    Where are the stars? How do we rate the podcast? I REALLY enjoyed it.

    • Jacqui Lockington

      Hi Cat,
      Click on the podcast tab/ page at the top of this website then click on the itunes link.
      Step-by-step details on our podcast menu. Let us know if you have any problems and thanks for voting!

  • Vicki Stoner

    Hi Nat,

    Finally found the working link:-) Great article and pod cast. You are right – I am an Otter not sure who is in my passenger seat though, probably a Lion – I hated being told as a kid “these are the rules” always felt like it was a challenge to break them! Lol.

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