Family Character Definitions
We all play a role in our family of origin-the family we were born into and/or the family we grew up in.
Family roles shape how we interact with each other in the family system.
At times, these roles function to create and maintain a balance in the family system. Other times we have to navigate our way through complex family dynamics and role-playing. This is particularly true when families are in a position of caring for a frail, ill and/or aging family member.
Three decades of working with families in transition has shown us consistent behaviors between and among family members. So consistent, that Craft LifeStyle Management has given names to the behaviors.
Which one do you see yourself as?
Dictator. This person thinks they are in charge. All of their answers are correct and the best. They talk over everyone. Most of the time this person is clueless about the reality of the situation.
Seagull. Seagulls are less informed than dictators. They fly in and crap over everything and quickly fly back out leaving nothing but a mess and a lot of hurt feelings.
Eeyore. This character is a miserable, pessimistic and gloomy old stuffed donkey belonging to Christopher Robin. His closest friend is Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore’s wallow and complain. Their general attitude is “woe is me” and everything is always bad.
Geographically challenged. They get to do everything because they live closest to mom and dad. Every day they’re challenged with balancing care of their loved ones with care of their own family while likely also working. They are challenged with scheduling medical appointments and getting parents to them. Family living out of the area are often unaware of what they are going through and how time-consuming caregiving is. “I know you’re busy but Mom called and said she needs groceries. Can you go get them since you live nearby?” The personality of this person often dictates the rest of the family dynamics.
Entitled. It’s all about me. “I should get it.” “I deserve to have it.” “I did this.” “I did that.” Entitled’s should ask themselves, “If I have to tell everyone what I deserve and how much I have done, have I really done anything?”
Golden child. Generational favoritisms are hard to break. The majority of time, the golden child is either the oldest or youngest son. In large families it could be both.
Smooshed Cream in the Middle of an Ice Cream Sandwich Cookie. Imagine a hot summer day where you are enjoying an ice cream sandwich cookie. You repeatedly squish it down and lick around the edges until it’s two messy cookies pressed together. This is when Craft LifeStyle Management receives the call from a family member. There is absolutely nothing else to lick away and you’re smashed together. That ice cream filling is parental care, family life, child activities, jobs, marriages, homes, outside commitments, etc. Pile on deteriorating parental health or a medical crisis like a fall, requiring hospitalization. No one has any more ice cream filling to give. The gooey middle has met the crisis cookie.
Ostrich. Self-explanatory. Ostriches stick their heads in the ground. They are in total denial.
Donkey. Donkeys are generally harmless. Everyone knows what the slang for donkey is-the ass of the family. Mostly the dumb things the ass has done are not out of malice. It is just out of stupidity. Donkeys are usually likeable and easy to get along with.
Rooster. Roosters puff up their chests. They cross their arms and do not need any help handling matters. They raise their voices and have an attitude from the first “hello my name is.” Over time, Craft LifeStyle Management has learned roosters are usually the ones who have sucked Mom and Dad dry. Often, they’ve been sponging off of them forever.
Roach. Roaches come out at night; therefore, they’re a little under the radar picking at all the pieces left to fall on the ground. They think everything has a ridiculously high value. They don’t tell you they want all the items even if other siblings want them. Mediation generally has to happen between roosters and roaches.
Clergy or Keeper of the Cloth. This character ranks right up there with the Roach and the Rooster. However, they disguise their approach using faith-based lines. “God bless you,” or “God keep you.” “I want nothing just for God to watch down on me and know I’m doing the right thing.” “Bless you.” “Shall we pray?”
They claim they want the high-priced items like wedding and engagement rings not for the monetary value but rather sentimental value. It meant so much to whoever the deceased is (Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle, etc.) Usually, the clergy or keeper of the cloth hasn’t been around to help. They’ve been very busy helping so many others due to their serious faith commitments.
CAUTION: It’s proven that the rooster, the roach and the clergy always despise each other.
The following list of family roles was published by Our Programs | (innerchange.com).
Consider the above roles and these.
Which role do you play?
Which role do you want to play?
- Hero: This is the “good” and “responsible” child. This person is a high achiever, carries the pride of the family, and he/she overcompensates to avoid looking or feeling inadequate. He/she is often a good leader and organizer and is goal-oriented and self-disciplined. Sometimes the hero lacks the ability to play, relax, follow others, or allow others to be right.
- Rescuer: The rescuer takes care of others’ needs and emotions and problem-solves for others in the family. The rescuer might have difficulty with conflict. He/she takes on the role of rescuer in the name of helping others, though it is often to meet his/her own needs, such as relieving anxiety. This person doesn’t realize that sometimes helping hurts. He/she also lives with a lot of guilt and finds it challenging to focus on him/herself.
- Mediator: The mediator can be a rescuer-type although he/she works to keep peace in the family system. This person does the emotional work of the family to avoid conflict. He/she acts as a buffer, and does it in the name of helping others, although it may be for his/her needs. This can be a healthy role depending on how the person mediates.
- Scapegoat/Black sheep: This is the person the other family members feel needs the most help. Usually this is the family member in need of treatment or in treatment. This person often shows the obvious symptoms of the family being unable to work through problems. The person may have strengths such as a sense of humor, a greater level of honesty, and the willingness to be close to his/her feelings. Yet there can also be an inappropriate expression of feelings, and the person may experience social or emotional problems.
- Switchboard: This person is the central information center in the family. He/she keeps track of what’s going on by being aware of who is doing what and when. This person has strength in being the central person to go to and understanding how the family is doing. However, this person focuses on everyone else’s issues rather than his/her own.
- Power broker: This person works at maintaining a hierarchy in the family with him/herself at the top. His/her safety and security with life depends on feeling in control of the environment around him/her.
- Lost child: The lost child is the subservient good child. He/she is obedient, passive, and hidden in the family trauma. He/she stays hidden to avoid being a problem. Generally, this person is flexible and easygoing. However, he/she lacks direction, is fearful in making decisions, and follows without questioning.
- Clown: The clown uses humor to offset the family conflict and to create a sense that things are okay. This person has a talent to readily lighten the moment, but he/she hides his/her true feelings.
- Cheerleader: The cheerleader provides support and encouragement to others. There is usually balance in taking care of his/her own needs while providing a positive influence on those around him/her.
- Nurturer: This person provides emotional support, creates safety, is available to others, and can be a mediator. He/she focuses on having and meeting emotional needs, usually in a balanced manner.
- Thinker: The thinker provides the objective, reasoning focus. His/her strength is being able to see situations in a logical, objective manner. However, he/she may find it difficult to connect emotionally with others.
- Truthteller: This person reflects the system as it is. At times the challenge is how that information is relayed. Other members in the family might be offended or avoid the truthteller because of the power of the truth he/she holds. Strength occurs when this person is coupled with another positive role, such as a nurturer or cheerleader.
If Craft LifeStyle Management can assist you and your family during times of transition, please contact us. We’ve been serving older Americans and their families for over three decades and are ready to assist you in your time of transition.
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