Parentingideas Blog

Becoming better parents

Written & curated for parents by the Parentingideas team

Is your child a plunger or a dripper?

Blog Post Teaser Image Until recently, my adult son wore a Ned Kelly beard. It was one of those long, thick manes that adorn the chins of young urban males of a particular ilk. It had been a strong part of his identity for a number of years.

Now it’s gone. But it didn’t go in one cut.

First, he started removing the unruliness of it. He became Ned Kelly with style.

Then he trimmed it back to a style where you couldn’t tell if he was wearing a beard or just a seven day growth.

Then, it was gone. Ned Kelly had become a clean chin.

I found this beard removal thing fascinating as it was typical of my son’s approach to change, that was evident when young.

As a boy he didn’t like radical changes. He felt like he was losing control. He was much happier with incremental changes. Not too many surprises. He preferred his change ‘drip fed’, little by little. Obviously, he still does.

On the other hand, one of his sisters prefers to plunge right in with change. As a teenager her hair went from almost waist length to a bob-like length in one sitting. She’s more of a ‘plunge right in’, sink-or-swim type. Still is. As an adult she moved from one side of the country to the other for work. Although initially homesick, she could cope with the full on change. Always could. Always will as long as she is well supported.

So what type of child do you have? Do you have a plunger or a dripper? Perhaps, you have a child with a foot in both camps?

Knowing helps you approach your child accordingly. Plungers cope easily with change and new circumstances, whereas drippers get anxious and feel unsure.

Some time ago I introduced regular family meetings to my family, which meant quite a change in the way we operated. Chores were discussed rather than assigned; decision-making became more democratic and we attempted to resolve sibling relationship problems in this forum, rather than on the spot.

My daughter, the plunger, loved the meetings concept. She adapted to the changes straight away. My son, the dripper, wasn’t quite so enthusiastic. He didn’t so much rebel, as resist the meetings until he got the hang of the new way of working. “Just tell me the jobs you want and I’ll be happy” was his inital attitude to our new way of assigning chores.

If I’d had my time again I would have introduced the idea of family meetings more slowly, giving everyone time to adjust. One change at a time over five or six weeks would have allowed the dripper to get used to the changes.

My experience tells me that more children are drippers than plungers, perhaps the ratio is as high as 80% drippers to 20% plungers. (I suspect that plungers are more likely to be second or middle children, as flexibility is often their natural calling card, but this theory needs some testing!!!)

Regardless of the numbers or causes as a parent you need to adjust your style according to their preferences.

Drippers need more coaxing, scaffolding and explaining from parents (before the event about how to go about it).

Plungers need more teaching, letting go and explaining from parents (after the event about what may have gone wrong and how to go about it next time).

Which style are you?

It’s helpful to consider if you are a plunger or a dripper. Your preferred style affects how you parent. Parents who are natural drippers often view children who plunge right into new situations as reckless or risk takers, when in fact, they are just ‘having a go’.

Parents who are natural plungers can become frustrated with children who are drippers, and forget to teach them to cope or neglect to bring on change more slowly so they can adjust, and feel less anxious.

So plunger, dripper or a foot in both camps? You and each child? It may be obvious, or you may have to spend some time observing their reaction to change.

Plungers jump right in. Enthusiasm is a key emotion in new situations. Drippers take their time. Anxiousness is a key emotion in new situations. It helps to know.

For more Parenting Gold, you can find my Family Meetings Guide and articles and books on Birth Order in Parentingideas Club.

Subscribe for Blog updates