Everyone’s favourite childhood toy can actually reveal a lot about your personality, says Material Mom Cherie Tseng. Read more about it and find out the interesting link between how you treat LEGO and your parenting style.
For our anniversary this year, my husband bought me a VW camper van.
Well, not the real thing (I wish!), but the LEGO version of one of my favourite vehicles. That sort of opened the floodgates to my resurgent love (read: mild obsession) of my favourite childhood toy. A single piece of LEGO could be part of my pretend pasta dish, a clutch for my Barbie dolls, a collar tag for my pound puppy, or the flag to my Castle Grayskull. Oh, the versatility!
So, since our anniversary, we have expanded our LEGO stash to some 500%. My two-and-a-half year-old son no longer attempts to eat or stuff small bits up his nose so I had no qualms indulging in my pent-up LEGO cravings at home. Of course, some of that has spilled over to my work since, well, we preach work-life balance. We expanded our LEGO-based training games at my training consultancy, and now I get to actually justify some of my LEGO buying as “work”.
Part of our stable of offerings is profiling programs. Besides the usual ones, we have some less serious but still very illuminating profiling experiences, like our art-jamming based one. More recently, I’ve begun using LEGO as a tool in my pre-hiring process. After all, LEGO, in all its versatility, can reveal more than you think – including your parenting style.
The “read the LEGO instruction book prior to embarking and following steps 1-2-3!” Parent
LEGO style: This is the person who thrives on method and protocol; when she gets a new LEGO set, she has to at least skim through the instruction book, sort out the pieces by colour, type and size, and find a designated space within which to work.
Parenting style: I call this the Disciplined Parent. My homeschooling friend S, an uber mum of four kids, is a classic example. Sure, she has her slack days and it’s not like she is a stickler in the mud, but she is the queen of order and is generally always on top of things. She is the parent who would do research on whatever she needs to know to death and, while kids can sometimes throw her a curve ball, she never stops figuring out new ways to become a better mum. She believes that parenting is a journey and that there has to a system to the inevitable madness, even if she has to invent a new way of doing things by simply learning more and becoming better equipped.
The “must sort out all the pieces right from the start … deep breath … let’s start!” Parent
LEGO style: This is a person whose first act after opening a LEGO set – whether it’s a themed set or a creative one – is to separate the pieces at least by colour. Sometimes she would find herself surrounded my many trays to better contain the varied pieces, and she often needs a prescribed (read: kid-free) zone to work through her LEGO because heaven forbid if she loses a piece. She is usually only concerned with the journey and less so with the finished product, often happy to dismantle and store away even a complex build.
Parenting style: This parent has a strong sense of occasion, believing that everything has its place and time. I am fairly familiar with this parent type since, well, my husband is a prime example. He adores our kids and holds them to a fairly high standard. He expects kids to sit still at dinners, stay quiet on flights, and take adult care of the things they own. Clearly, he faces a lot of, ahem, frustration but he is constant in his own behaviour, steady in his interactions with his kids and is often a steadying force for his kids. And more often than not, because he treats his kids with a lot of respect, preferring, for example, talking to rather than talking at; his kids are better for it.
The “let’s free play with the LEGO creative builder box” Parent
LEGO style: This is a person who loves making things up as she goes. Even if she starts on a LEGO set, her building process is probably marred with many starts and stops and zero planning. And if there is a missing piece? She’d just make it up as she goes along.
Parenting style: Society probably calls this the hipster parent, and my friend A is a classic example. She has some, but not many, parenting rules. She is adventurous with the kids and often does things that are not the norm, like taking her kids lindy hopping, visiting weird places, or eating at off-the-beaten-path places. She may often seem out-of-sync with modern parenting – from maybe being an anti-vaxxer to letting her kids wear androgynous clothes. She is always fun, quirky, and takes life and parenting as it comes.
The “I hate LEGO” Parent
LEGO style: This is a person who simply doesn’t quite get the hoopla about LEGO and would often rather buy less fiddly toys for her kids and herself. Minimal assembly required, thanks.
Parenting style: I call this the Get to the Chase Parent. My friend H is just like that and while she had a great time at the recent LEGO exhibition, The Art of the Brick, she treated it more like a visit to a museum. You could say there is a slight inclination to some measure of Tiger Mummying with this type. Her kids would boast a pretty tight schedule and everything in their lives gleams and sheens and are often the object of some mummy envy. Birthday parties might boast a pretty fancy cake with just the right decorations, at just the right location with always-glamorous people.
The “I am not really much of a LEGO fan but I think LEGO is an awesome educational toy” Parent
LEGO style: This is a person is kind of impassive about LEGO. She finds LEGO a nice-to-have kind of toy and is most glad to buy LEGO sets for others and her own kids since she is mainly sold on the educational value of the toy.
Parenting style: My friend S is one such parent. She has a great sense of responsibility to her kids and has a tendency to always find the best array of programs for them. Her kids attend an array of classes and workshops not because she is a traditional tiger mum but simply because it’s a learning tool that would enrich her kids’ lives. New pedagogies, new water filter, new school, new holiday program, new health thing … she would have her hands in that pie – often at the expense of her own schedule.
The “whatever you make should at least make some sense” Parent
LEGO style: This is a person who is happy to free play when the occasion arises, even if she likes following LEGO instruction books better. She has a healthy mix of creative sets and instructional sets, and will usually have many how-to LEGO books to better use her free play LEGO pieces.
Parenting style: I like to call this parent the progressive parent. My BFF and fellow Material Mom Joan is a classic example. She tends to have fewer rules than the norm and is fairly liberal and open in her parenting methods. Having said that, she is a real stickler for the few rules she has and can get disproportionately upset when those rules are flouted. She treats her kids like her friends and sometimes forgets that her child needs top-down parenting but is quick to catch herself and rectify when that happens.
The “must buy all the LEGO sets in a series type but have starting and finishing issues” Parent
LEGO style: This is a person who loves collecting all the LEGO sets in a given series and might spend copious amounts of time trawling the net searching for hard-to-find sets. She is highly excited to buy or receive a LEGO gift but might find it hard to start a LEGO project or even finish one. Sometimes, when in the mood, she finds herself in a blitz LEGO-making mood. But that burns out after a while.
Parenting style: This is classically me and, as I write this, I have three hard-sourced Harry Potter LEGO sets sitting in the corner waiting for me to find time to get to them. Parents like me find themselves constantly pulled in a million and one directions at any given time and it shows in how they raise their kids. There is a schedule but it’s always fluid. There is a plan but it might and usually change. They are most definitely parents who do not have a carved-in-stone bedtime or a real parenting plan, preferring to learn and adapt as they go. After all, change is the only constant. Right?
Cherie Tseng is mum to two little boys: Quentin, four, and Evan, two. They love superheroes, pizza and going on pretend adventures with mummy and daddy to save the world. She runs a regional training consultancy, co-owns a Singapore-Myanmar business brokerage outfit and is an essential oil enthusiast. In her spare time, she crafts, makes diaper cakes and practices aerial circus arts. Cherie occasionally blogs at The Growing Tree Project.